DeSales Media designer Mark Steele brings his craft to many diocesan events
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Months before the calendars read “December” and pink and purple Advent candles were placed on altars in preparation for Jesus’ birth, one man was tasked with configuring how many tiny red fluorescent lights would complement hundreds of yards of red ribbon on a Christmas tree to bring awareness to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. Enter the world of Mark Steele.
Steele is lead designer for DeSales Media Group, the media and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn and parent company of The Tablet. He designs sets for the diocese and for NET-TV, the TV station operated by DeSales Media.
Since 2014, he has designed the diocese’s Christmas tree in Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights. His job this year: proclaim the message of Christian martyrs through decoration.
“You want people to experience it, you want people to have a relationship with it or to invoke something, even though right now they have no idea that it means Christian persecution,” Steele said. “But even just visually red isn’t going to say anything.”
Understanding the job’s scope, Steele realized he had some background work to do.
“I also researched other trees in Brooklyn,” he said. “Knowing that we didn’t have the largest tree in Brooklyn — the largest tree is 55 feet at MetroTech — but they only have 10,000 lights. So what could be our tree’s story? It was not necessarily the size of it, but the shape of it, and it would have more lights than the other trees. We would work on a design within the tree that would be immersive, and then we added the red ribbons.”
Steele picked the tree himself and spent countless hours researching details before he created the final product. The tree has 17,000 lights and 2,500 ribbons. Steele’s vision especially comes to life when the dark sky in Prospect Heights lights up because of a symbol of solidarity — a red tree blazoned like the blood of Christians who have been persecuted for their beliefs.
Steele isn’t taking bows for his work; he prefers to remain incognito. He said when it comes to creativity, to no discredit yourself.
“My hope is that ultimately, as flawed as I am, the one thing I’ve been taught as a Christian is that you do all your work for the glory of God,” he said. “Who are you doing it for?”