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Beyond the words to something deeper

Beyond the words to something deeper

Religion News has published a story on churches that are finding new ministries and theological expressions through art and gallery exhibits in spaces that range from Episcopal to Unitarian to Presbyterian and other denominations.

“Objectives can vary, even from one show to the next,” the story points out. Some of the examples:

Lincoln (Neb.) Berean Church, a megachurch with five art galleries and nearly 100 works on display, recently showcased the handiwork of 40 quilters in the congregation. The goal: let the world behold beautiful quilts before they’re given away.

Sometimes Lincoln Berean puts out a call for photographers or painters to capture a particular theme for an upcoming show. One photo show featured tattooed church members alongside placards explaining what their tattoos mean to them.

At Bethlehem Lutheran, Disney organizes five or six shows a year. For some, he seeks out local Christian artists who adorn the fellowship hall with images consistent with the liturgical season, such as Epiphany, Lent or Easter. The art enhances parishioners’ spiritual lives, Disney said, by giving them new ways to see and think about familiar subjects. For Easter, the gallery will host a traveling exhibit on the theme of joyful music.

The reasons are spiritual:

Some [artworks] complement lessons taught in worship (one church asked members to submit art pieces in response to a sermon series on thriving). Others bridge cultural divides with the secular world (such as a show at a Fort Wayne, Ind., church featuring local artists’ creations from discarded objects and materials).

as well as practical:

Churches have little trouble attracting quality artists for two big reasons: They offer visibility and financial opportunity. Unlike commercial galleries, most churches (including Grace) don’t broker sales and don’t charge commissions. Visitors buy directly from exhibiting artists, who can keep every penny but sometimes donate a portion to the host church.” That helps them pay the bills and ultimately makes art more accessible by holding prices down, according to Danvers, Mass., artist Susan Drennan.

Is your parish or diocese creating or adapting space for art? How is the art curated and exhibited, and when?

Image: Sculpture by Matthew Arehart, minister to youth, at Church of the Holy Communion (Episcopal) in Memphis, Tenn., exhibited during Lent in 2016. Photo by Cara Ellen Modisett.

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Paul Woodrum

As designers of contemporary, custom crafted church vestments and ornaments -- Challwood Studio -- I wonder why church sponsored art exhibits so seldom include art for churches. Such items seem to be second class citizens compared to paintings and photographs, etc. Even ECVA (Episcopal Church Visual Arts)
rarely sponsors an exhibit in which such items are recognized or included.

Yet altar frontals, banners and vestments are items that Sunday by Sunday, Holy Day by Holy Day, give visual expression to our worship that, in a highly visual age of film, television and selfies, may communicate the presence of God far more deeply and effectively than the words we speak.

Too often clergy and altar guilds just go to the catalog and select the most ordinary of appointments rather than seeking out artists (of which there are many) to give expression to the Spirit, enhance the liturgy and speak to the soul.

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