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M. Leary

Art and the Resurrection - A New Direction In Christian Aesthetics?

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The Visual Arts section hasn't been all that exciting lately, I thought I would toss this out as a point of interesting discussion in this under-used section of the board.

For Easter I wrote a short column on something that has been gnawing at me for quite some time and that I would enjoy turning into a book length discussion when I finish up with my PhD research. The short column can be read here.

In it I basically argue that Christian aesthetics has used a number of starting points, none of which have seemed to provide an adequate theological perspective on what Christians can do with art. A great example is the often recycled point made by Schaeffer in Art and the Bible about how God specifically called for skilled craftsmen to work on the tabernacle. I do think that is an important spot in the Judeo-Christian tradition for re-thinking art and worship. But I have always had the sneaking suspicion that there has to be more than this in the Bible that we can use to talk about art.

My eureka experience in this regard has been the farewell discourse (14-16) and resurrection narrative in the Gospel of John. I think we can work through these sections in John to develop a fairly profound perspective on what Christian art can be. In a nutshell, the resurrection in John can be read as an incredibly creative act, in the strictest sense of the term, that leads the reader to new vistas on the presence of God in the world. And leading up to this rich vision of the resurrection are a number of places in which we find Jesus' followers confused, somewhat frightened, and then eventually in complete despair at the absence of Jesus after his death.

It is interesting to think that this complex of events exhibits two things:

1. It features the range of emotions that art is especially suited to address: doubt, despair, wonder, and then complete joy.

2. Then we have the actual creative act of God in the resurrection that responds to and evokes all of these emotions in a public, multi-faceted way. One of the things that really got me thinking this direction is that the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus at the end of John are borderline abstract, so much so that in John 21:12 we have the picture of these disciples sitting around the fire looking at the Jesus they had physically spent the last few years with and they are really confused as to who he is. ("But none of the disciples dared to ask him,

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But I have always had the sneaking suspicion that there has to be more than this in the Bible that we can use to talk about art.

Glad to see a new post in this section; I've only just joined Arts and Faith, and the visual arts are really my forte and passion.

I've attached a document in response to your suspicion that there is more in the Bible to talk about than the references in Exodus to Bezalel and Aholiab. It is not a complete document, but it's what I've been able to do so far, off and on for the last 5 years or so. Sadly, most of it deals with the old testament. Your "What Does the Garden Have to Do With the Gallery?" is wonderful reading and a fabulous new idea for me to chew on. At times I felt it may have been a bit of a stretch, but that is part of why it was such a good read. And it draws from the New Testament.

The book of Revelation has a lot, a myriad of visual imagery. It is a book I have not yet taken apart in this manner, but need to.

In your article, you invite people to ask where all these inroads into film criticism, literary theory, theatrical performance, and deeper appreciations of classic and contemporary are being made. I have a feeling I'm already aware of some of them, but I'd still like to see your resources--and be surprised--and perhaps help you add to the list.

A_Biblical_Theology_of_the_Creative_Arts.xls

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Thanks for your essay about the resurrection and art. Your idea of art embodying the emotions surrounding the disciples response to the resurrection is good for getting the creative juices flowing. So often we as humans think we know what we are looking at, are convinced that we are seeing what is important and have life figured out. Or we are so busy pursuing what we think is important that we do not even stop to look around us. Sometimes art can cause us to see the things around us more clearly. A Cezanne still life helps me understand the appleness of apples more clearly just as a Bellini painting of the Madonna and Child helps me understand the incarnation in more profound ways. If we are willing to slow down, look at art and let ourselves in a sense look through the eyes of the artist, perhaps our vision will become clearer and our confusion lessened. Of course I am assuming that the artist himself is seeing the world clearly; there are many who do not.

I cannot help but think of the scripture from Revelation 21 "I make all things new" when I contemplate the resurrection. Jesus did not say "I make all new things". The resurrected Jesus was not brand new as in started from scratch but new in the sense of being transformed. Isn't that an artistic principle? We are not making all new things but making all things new in the way we re-present them using our unique vision; not starting from scratch but building on nature and revelation and experience.

I did an Easter painting based on that scripture a year ago for a church here in Austin. My idea was to show that ALL things will be made new so I had not only people rising in the last resurrection but houses, trees, pets, bicycles, swingsets and bbq pits (what would heaven be like without bbq??!!)

Here is a link to the painting: Easter Painting

It is about 12x20' acrylic on canvas and it hangs so it can be up just for Easter.

Edited by Jim Janknegt

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A Cezanne still life helps me understand the appleness of apples more clearly just as a Bellini painting of the Madonna and Child helps me understand the incarnation in more profound ways.

I'm in the midst of reading Redeeming the Arts, a paper commissioned by the The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, for their 2004 gathering in Thailand. Hopefully some of the posters here know of it; in fact, I can't remember if it wasn't by some post or profile here than I happened acrossed it. Not sure, but doesn't matter really.

It's long, appropriately. Forty-two pages. And I'm only about a third of the way through it. But it speaks in part to the art's ability to re-represent the appleness of apples and so on, as you've noted. To quote a portion of what I've read so far,

"Art at its best always invites us to see things in fresh ways and is able to move us to the truth about things. It can also have great value in bringing order to the chaos of life, and helping us understand our own humanity and the world around us."

Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible expressed fear that the majority of evangelicals have reduced Art to a tract. That is, the only usefulness of Art is for pious activities. I've run across this attitude in the church many times, both in the institution and in individuals. It's born out of ignorance; the people don't realize they are reducing a gift to humanity; reducing to a platitude, in a sense, a part of humanity which directly corresponds to our being created in the image of God. (Hope that's not too wordy; I'm sure there's a better way to put it but I'll have to come up with it later!)

I love the idea of Golgotha as a gallery, but what I wish is for more, and most, Christians to respond favorably to it. To involve themselves in the discussion, in the thought, whether agreeing, disagreeing or just pondering. In our current Christian sub-culture, the reaction is more of an indifferent shrug with a euphemistic grin to hide the actual disinterest.

People who have non gifting or interest in the arts (arts of any type) seem to perceive the arts as being "over my head." They think in order to appreciate it, in order to get anything out of it, they must delve into some deep and abstract philosophical aura.

We know this isn't the case, although artists and culture are to blame for this sentiment as much as the disinterest of the Church. So how do we reconcile this? The aforementioned article sets out to answer this question. And I'm very eager to finish it!

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Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible expressed fear that the majority of evangelicals have reduced Art to a tract. That is, the only usefulness of Art is for pious activities.

I honestly wouldn't mind if evangelicals, or all Christians for that matter, only used art for pious activities if they did it well. That seemed to work pretty well for 1500 years. If someone offered to pay me an adequate salary for painting devotional paintings, or altarpieces, or illustrating scenes from the bible but let me do it in my own stlye of painting I would jump at the chance.

How about you other artists out there. If someone made you an offer of monetary support for your painting religious art work would you do it?

Edited by Jim Janknegt

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It really is a pleasure to have two practing artists here to interact with, I have looked at both of your portfolios online. Jim, I wish I had money to cover my walls with your work. I would like for the children in my house to grow up with such provocatively uplifting work around. And Chashab, I really appreciate the material driven nature of your sculpture, you are a great example of what I was trying to get at about how some Christian art needs to turn towards material. The rote manipulation of wood, stone, etc...

In response to your question Jim, of course we should accept funding from Christians. More churches need to be proactive in actually offering funding to local Christian artists AND providing gallery and studio space. In the far future, I hope to see whatever church we end up in starting up an annual program in which we fund an artist in residence that will produce artwork related to the church calendar. This could be such a profound addition to that worship cycle. If a few churches in an area could do this together, then bada-bing, there is an automatic gallery right there with a built in audience.

In the last church I was in there were two full-time artists, one glass-blower and on installation/video artist. Along with this there were four part-time artists, two painters, one mixed-media, and I was active at the time in the Book Arts scene in Chicago. We would host quarterly arts shows at the church, at times with some fairly large audiences. (Stef would even come and play a few songs.) Actually seeing this in action caused us all to rethink what the artist can do in the church, and helped us to deal with this "money" issue. The consensus was that full-time Christian artists need to be producing artwork for sale in the public market, whether it is primarily in a Christian market, whether it is in commercial galleries, whatever. There art needs to be geared towards participation in the public square and available to the same critics who critique any local art. On the other side of this though, the church community to which a particular Christian belongs needs to reciprocate by supporting the artist through using their art in the church, actually buying their artwork, and basically providing a space for their gifts to grow and be used. Idyllic, I know. But this seems to be the only way that the Church can support full-time artists.

I don't know if this answers your question, just wanted to toss that out.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. Part of the problem is that the church just doesn't "get art." But educating the masses as to how the arts are part and parcel of the resurrection could help them locate the importance of art in Christian practice.

Edited by MLeary

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How about you other artists out there. If someone made you an offer of monetary support for your painting religious art work would you do it?

Very interesting proposal. And you're correct about the history, even if I might disagree with--in some instances--how the church spent the money.

There are certain circumstances in which I would accept such an offer. But not all. I'm sure there a lot of other people who are trying to balance more than one passion in life, but because I have more than one (hence I'm not pursuing art full-time at this point in my life) my considering and answering such an offer seems very complicated to me.

(My two passions are this: Art and Missions. There aren't really any formal opportunities for artists in missions presently (most of what I know about I've documented here: www.Squidoo.com/VisualArtsandMissions).)

Hmmm. Still thinking about what you said . . .

I resonate more with what MLeary said, being an "artist in residence." Though this isn't really far from what you suggest. I have been in a large church with a visual arts department, that put art on the walls and held classes and openings. I enjoyed it, but it was a fledgling effort and the lady heading it up didn't have the time to put into it in order to really get it going. Another large church in our area (we've since moved) has a similar program but nothing for visual artists presently. Just music and drama--which seems to be the case almost everywhere. I have been in communication with them and they would be eager for me to teach a class on (my suggestion) theology and the arts. And I would absolutely love doing this. But *sigh* have to make priorities, and don't really have the time now.

My brother is also graduating with a studio arts degree. Sometime soon. Hopefully. He's a believer, but has no encouragement from the church. No other Christian artists to fellowship with and bounce ideas off of and maybe create a local guild with. And though we have a good relationship, we live 9 hours apart and I can't be there to encourage him to think about how his faith and craft work together (OK, I could do it via email, but I'm just realizing this as I type!).

Edited by Chashab

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Re: How about you other artists out there. If someone made you an offer of monetary support for your painting religious art work would you do it?

well, the short answer is, yes. but then i would probably argue as to what consitutes 'religious work'. i know you're talking about more or less obviously christian themes within the liturgical context - basically bible scenes. i would argue there's more available to artists even within that context. i do have several people who are supporting me in some way. one runs a cabinetry business and gives me any wooden boards (i work with collage, drawing and encaustic on wood) i need, as well as constructing more elaborate stands for installation work. another has helped me with purchasing paints as well as a (hard to find) opaque projector. that's just as good in some ways. it's an interesting question that: the patronage of the arts, especially within the context of our christian traditions and heritage. simply put, we need patrons willing to invest in artists whose vision excites and intrigues them.

in response to some of the other responses:

civa has a really great booklet on church galleries, but that isn't the only option available either. i have been a part of an multidisciplinary creative team (drama, writing, visual art, multimeida, music) at a church and the issue is a larger one involving collaboration and trust. and release. it would, of course, be wonderful for patrons to fund projects within chruches as well as opportunities for artists to grow in their craft outside it as artists. so i absolutely love mleary's idea. dream. plan. i don't believe the church is obligated to support just anyone, but there is, i would argue, the responsibility to bless and train those who seek to walk in their calling - whatever that calling is. and that calling is to be walked out in more than just the white cube of the church building. like any calling, i would think.

and, having worked as an education curator in a public art gallery for a number of years as well as worship leader/ creative arts director i would say that much of the general public 'just doesn't "get art." ' this could lead us into any number of digressions but i think it is indicative of a general distrust (fear?) of art, due in part to its increasing separation from people's experience(s) as well as the growing inability (willingness?) of people to 'read' art (or perhaps one should say 'visual culture'?). i think would agree, no, strongly affirm , no, vociferously demand that the whole artistic enterprise must contain an educational component. not that the art must be plain and didactic and flat and heavy-handed, but that the artist (whatever the species) must be actively involved in equipping people to understand and interpret both their art and art in general. which also means some work on their part.

(unfortunately, i have no website as yet, though if someone will tell me how and where i can post stuff i will.)

chashab:

i will certainly peruse your link. perhaps the formal opportunities are available. i think the wise as serpents thing is useful... as in many nonprofit ventures the trick is sliding/ sneaking in the arts in larger projects. a friend of mine feels called both as a missionary and artists and often struggled how to marry the two, feeling there was a choice to be made. why not simply go on missions but then make something while there as part of a teaching program, or as a gift to the people there? murals, portraits, altars, tshirt designs...it's one more way to serve. buy materials there or bring your own. the art can be an encouragement - it just may not be the primary focus of the specific enterprise. just a thought.

i know there is a huge amount of work being done with the ameliorative and empowering qualities of the arts in hospitals, with adults as well as children. ireland has many programs, and so has australia. the states also has a lot of similar projects on the go. it's kind of the new wave in hospital care. i was at an arts in healthcare conference last year in which one session was by a woman who went to do art-triage with tsunami victims in sri lanka. powerful stuff.

finally, re: My brother is also graduating with a studio arts degree. Sometime soon. Hopefully. He's a believer, but has no encouragement from the church. No other Christian artists to fellowship with and bounce ideas off of and maybe create a local guild with. And though we have a good relationship, we live 9 hours apart and I can't be there to encourage him to think about how his faith and craft work together (OK, I could do it via email, but I'm just realizing this as I type!). there are so many ways to do this. it might just take some legwork and discovery, but there are still at least 6000 artists in the land. it often seems an uphill struggle to find other artists of christian faith, but i am always surprised how many there actually are. they just might not be running in the same circles. i have also found that if your work has something to it, non-christians are often encouraging and challenging (they are, after all, like you, artists wanting to move and impact people) and are willing to embrace your subject matter and content if it is good art and you are serious about becoming a (better) artist.

pax.

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MLeary: Thanks for your kind words about my work. I do have a Layaway plan :)

As far as making work for the public square: I agree with you although it is a challange. A Christian artists (I know some folks don't like that terminology but for brevity sake I use it instead of saying a Christian who makes art) work has to be judged on the same level as his or her peers. I have painted work that avoids overt religious symbolism but retains a spiritual narrative. I have been with three different galleries in Austin with varying degrees of success, mostly pretty successful. I realized that Jesus art form, the parables, did not contain much overt religious imagery. He spoke about agriculture, animals, banking, work etc. There is always the notion of he who has ears let him hear. Different people got very different messages from him because of this. My paintings function much the same way. So in a gallery context most people see them one way but in a church context a totally different way.

But when it comes to making devotional work, paintings that attempt to bring people into a deeper place of worship or relationship with Jesus that approach doesn't seem to work. The work has to be clear and unambiguous. Viewers need to be able to recognize that the subject of the painting is Jesus not Buddha. This type of work is much more difficult to place in the public square although in Europe you can't swing a dead cat without hitting some religious art in the public square.

I actually was talking to a friend of mine the other day about making stealth shrines: prefabricated shrines that one could, undercover of night, go install in public, maybe a park or a hiking trail or parking lot. People would discover these by surprise. I think it would be pretty cool to blanket your city with stealth shrines!!

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Chassab: Your sculpture is very beautiful. The combination of the various woods inlaiid is a powerful metaphor. A side note: my brother-in-law has a saw mill in south Texas. He mainly deals with mesquite. If ever have a hard time finding big pieces of mesquite let me know and I'll hook you up with him.

I have never done art full time although I have always considered it my vocation. I consider that lack of success has saved me from having to paint the same thing over and over again :)

I hope your brother can find womeone to walk with him in his art and faith. Being an artist is a lonely profession to start with. Adding the component of being a faithful Christian into the mix only makes it more challanging.

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Chassab: Your sculpture is very beautiful. The combination of the various woods inlaiid is a powerful metaphor. A side note: my brother-in-law has a saw mill in south Texas. He mainly deals with mesquite. If ever have a hard time finding big pieces of mesquite let me know and I'll hook you up with him.

Wow. I've not realized until this year how much I've missed out on such wonderful critique of my work. I've gotten a little from the Image Journal forums recently. Wow. I'm not certain (to my own shame) if I've ever thought of the use of metaphor in my work . . . and your statement (I hope this doesn't sound overdone, because I'm really being sincere) takes my breath away. It's making me think in new ways--as the original post in this thread did--and I really love that.

I had a group of Christain artists before we moved that I met with regularly, although even then we didn't engage in this type of conversation. It was administrative (organizing the arts in our church), although they had before I joined them created opportunities to gather and critique.

Thank you for your comments. They with the others I mentioned are very appreciated and needed. I've only gotten back into my work in a concerted manner in the last year, after 2+ years which were more or less spent raising support to work in mission.

Mmmmm. Mesquite. I've used some, but haven't really worked it. I'm always collecting raw materials such as that, regardless of size. I can't get to my favorite outlet (store called Hardwood Heaven) more than once a year anymore (moved out of state).

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Good to see a lot of feedback here. Just a practical question: If churches were to start local christian artist "support" groups (a few versions of this were mentioned above), what sort of interaction would occur in these gatherings?

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Great thread, and some great art linked to it - thanks, all!

I am an art hobbyist - I do my artwork on the side, since though I do feel called to it, it is not my primary calling. My primary calling is to be a pastor.

Some good thoughts about the Resurrection as a starting point for thinking about the arts - I agree that the Resurrection and the Incarnation change everything, and that all Christian visual thinking (as all theological thinking) needs to be routed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But I am one of those who have been powerfully impacted by the Bezalel/Tabernacle/Temple line of thinking. I grew up Pentecostal, in a tradition that allowed Christian art as long as it was purely evangelistic. The Assemblies of God has a Fine Arts Festival as part of its Youth Convention activities, and for years I helped to judge and tutor young artists through their high school years at FAF. I had read J.I. Packer's anti-art chapter in "Knowing God," and felt that it was wrong, but had no idea how to counter it. When I read Gene E. Veith's "State of the Arts," and had my eyes opened to the Bezalel story in a fresh way, it blew my mind. For a Pentecostal to discover that the first time the Spirit empowered anyone in the Bible for a task, it was for the making of art, that was earth-shattering. To see Jakin and Boaz as abstract art, and to finally appreciate just how broad God's artistic mandate was in the Tabernacle, it brought tears to my eyes. And Veith balanced it out with a discussion of the very next chapter in Exodus - the Golden Calf incident. I am now shocked (unfortunately, regularly) to read theologies of art that do not even mention idolatry (caveat - I haven't yet read Chashab's piece, linked above, so I am not in any way making any slams - I have no idea if you deal with it or not) even though it is one of the Ten Commandments that most directly bears on this question.

The Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus changes everything, but not in a 180-degree way. God was pointing to it all through the Old Testament. And Bezalel was certainly one prime component in that direction.

As I head to my first church as pastor, it is in a city that (for Upstate New York) is a hub of artistic activity. Rochester is the home of Eastman School of Music, and tends to draw Central New York's artsy people. The city houses many fine museums. I am looking forward to starting to build bridges to the arts community there. I look forward to this ongoing thread, for advice and encouragement.

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Great points about the Spirit. I like to think of art in the context of the resurrection in John's account because the Spirit plays such an active role in that whole narrative. The resurrection is the event that makes the Garden a sort of gallery, but the Spirit then becomes docent, later leading the apostles around the scene and opening up their eyes to what has happened.

As far as building connections to the arts community, I always wondered how a quarterly "taking the church to a local museum" would work out. One could gather small interested groups and have a knowledgable leader serve as a tour guide through a current exhibition or gallery space.

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I am very blessed to live in a city (Austin) where there are a lot of excellent Christian artists, Ginger Geyer, Doug Jaques, Tim High, John Cobb and David Kroft to name some off the top of my head.

David Kroft runs the art Dept. at Concordia Lutheran College. He has been running an agressive exhibition program for many years with several competitions such as Arte Sagrado giving Chrisitians a venue to display their work.

Tim High is a printmaking faculty at the University of Texas and has started VAM, visual arts minsitry at his church (EV Free) They hosts rotating exhbits at their church.

Ginger Geyer is a wonderful cermaic sculptor and is the artistic consultant at Laity Lodge in the Texas Hill country. The have a an exhibition program as well as invite artist to be in residence for all of their retreats. They have a fully stocked painting and drawing studio and a spereate ceramic studio. My wife and I will be artists in residence there for a retreat this summer.

David Taylor is the local arts pastor at an independet church called Hope Chapel. He has a burning desire to see the arts restored to their proper role in the church. He has started small groups for artist. They regularly host exhibitions in their church. They have a three week art festival every two years with art exhibits, live music and theatre performances and dance as well as educational seminars. The used to do a film festival as well but have stopped doing that.

David recently had a meeting were he invited all of the Chrisitan artist and representatives from various arts organizations to come together. The goal was simply to be able to see face to face all of the various folks who are involved in the arts in Austin who are Christian. There were probably 60 people there. The hope is, that out of this, mutual collaborations and support could be developed outside of our individual churches or groups.

But for me the main problem continues to be a lack of a market. I have had many opportunities to exhibit my work in various local churches, seminaries and Christian colleges as well as speak about my work. But I almost never sell anything in any of these venues. I have sold the majority of my work through galleries. The biggest single encouragement for me would be for Christians to begin to buy original art. There is plenty of good art out there to buy. I do think it is a cultural issue within the church. People are alienated from the art world, feel it is elitist and has nothing to say to their lives or their faith. I can't say I blame them; as a rule I feel pretty much the same way. But as you can see from the examples given above (and that is just in Austin) that is not the reality. So I guess it is a matter of educationg Pastors, Priest and Ministers so they can educate their congregations and parishes. We need to be praying for art educators as well as artists.

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But for me the main problem continues to be a lack of a market. I have had many opportunities to exhibit my work in various local churches, seminaries and Christian colleges as well as speak about my work. But I almost never sell anything in any of these venues. I have sold the majority of my work through galleries. The biggest single encouragement for me would be for Christians to begin to buy original art. There is plenty of good art out there to buy. I do think it is a cultural issue within the church. People are alienated from the art world, feel it is elitist and has nothing to say to their lives or their faith. I can't say I blame them; as a rule I feel pretty much the same way. But as you can see from the examples given above (and that is just in Austin) that is not the reality. So I guess it is a matter of educationg Pastors, Priest and Ministers so they can educate their congregations and parishes. We need to be praying for art educators as well as artists.

You have a great network there, although I think Texas might be too hot for me;)

I hear you when you say you wish Christians would start buying work by Christian artists. The small gallery I'm now in in our small town is pretty much all Christians (and one Jewish lady, all of whom except for me have ties to Dayspring Cards.). But it isn't billed as Christian work, and the only indicator of such are some of the titles.

And of these I think I'm the only one who does it as more than a hobby (although I haven't met one of the ladies, and the Jewish brush artist turns out an AMAZING quantity of work--and it's good stuff). And even I wasn't doing that until last year, as I mentioned. There is a Christian liberal arts school in our little town of Siloam Springs, and I'm getting to know (all too slowly) the design/arts staff there. But it does have a very promising department and a renowned Digital Media emphasis. They have had some good work in their new gallery on campus.

But I'm also in a funny position: I work in missions and want to sell art. So I want people to both buy my work (which in essence will support my service in missions, and my art is on a website called Missionary Arts trying to do this) AND to support missions much more freely and sacrificially.

I'm a proponent of a "wartime lifestyle," that is, a lifestyle which sacrifices certain things in order to give more resources (money) to the fight (Great Commission). This also, at first glance, seems somewhat contridictory to Christians purchasing art.

So can Christians give more to missions (currrently only 2% of what's given to all Christian causes in America goes towards people who've never heard the Gospel, the unreached) and become avid patrons of the arts? I believe so, but I don't know how it will work. I know my wife and I, on her newspaper salary and my partially-supported missions salary, don't have enough play in our budget to start buying art (though both of us would love to do so). And our hope is by the end of this year she won't have to be working full-time any longer, if at all. And our budget is already very trim compared to a lot of our friends, who frankly could be buying some art if they had the interest.

Edited by Chashab

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re: If churches were to start local christian artist "support" groups, what sort of interaction would occur in these gatherings?

i would take our groups on a monthly tour of galleries - from public and commercial art galleries (both high end corporate and middle class couch matching shops) to artist run centres. we would discuss exhibitions or individual works, depending on the space. you know: fave and why? least fave and why? what would you edit? themes? etc.

we also worked on collaborative projects for the church, such as 64 panels on the fruits of the spirit. multimedia easter production with readings, dance, film, music, banners. workshops on techniques and meidia - project based (respond to a poem, a book, a word). movies about artists. sharing your fave artist nights. crits with more established artists.

i would also challenge a group to work towards developing an exhibition proposal for a gallery. this would necessitate connecting with and engaging with the larger art community. there is also the chance to develop a serving mentality by doing art camps instead of canned vbs programs, or even helping with sunday school (or whatever you call it) by developing art projects around curriculum (which we did as well). and the exhibit those projects in the church. please.

the main challenge (regardless of media) was to provoke each other to good works, as it were. the challenge i always put forward was to excel in the calling. don't dabble. increase your talent(s). i also proposed that we would work on our own projects before we worked on projects for the church. the reasoning was that if you weren't working on developing your skills, you weren't being responsible enough. perhaps that was harsh, but who wants someone who isn't at the top of their game? this didn't exclude less experienced or even less talented artists, only lazy artists. it was a small test of the heart.

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I'm a proponent of a "wartime lifestyle," that is, a lifestyle which sacrifices certain things in order to give more resources (money) to the fight (Great Commission). This also, at first glance, seems somewhat contridictory to Christians purchasing art.

I think you hit the nail on the head as to why Christian artists go underfunded. The current general Christian understanding of "Art" seems to seperate it as an activity from things like social justice, evangelism, church planting, and church building, which are counted as the "legitimate" uses of a tithe. It is an act of worship to give cash to your church, but not to your local Christian artist. This is a complete reversal of the situation with the tabernacle in which people did consider giving up valuable materials for the worship of God as a proper "tithe."

Is this because evangelicalism hasn't really considered "art" to be a useful part of the church's call to evangelism and worship? Probably. I bet if people could see the Christian arts in action, then more funding would occur. Things like CIVA and Image have helped a lot, but I wonder if a lot of Christians look at those organizations and think, "Okay, at least we have that age-old problem covered and all the 'artsy' Christians are happy. Now on to more important issues..."

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re: If churches were to start local christian artist "support" groups, what sort of interaction would occur in these gatherings?i would take our groups on a monthly tour of galleries - from public and commercial art galleries (both high end corporate and middle class couch matching shops) to artist run centres. we would discuss exhibitions or individual works, depending on the space. you know: fave and why? least fave and why? what would you edit? themes? etc.

This is the one thing you mentioned that the visual arts dept I was involved in our previous church didn't do. I like the idea a lot. One thing they did instead was have regular (monthly) critique evenings, which can foster some similar discussion but won't work to educuate ourselves on goings-on we need to be aware of in the profession.

re: If churches were to start local christian artist "support" groups, what sort of interaction would occur in these gatherings?we also worked on collaborative projects for the church, such as 64 panels on the fruits of the spirit. multimedia easter production with readings, dance, film, music, banners. workshops on techniques and meidia - project based (respond to a poem, a book, a word). movies about artists. sharing your fave artist nights. crits with more established artists.

We did this too. But it rubbed me wrong. I've cited before Schaeffer's suggestion that many or most evangelicals have reduced art to a tract. That is how I felt when the church would approach us with a project. I don't have a problem, at all, helping them out visually. In fact, I wish they would ask artists to be involved more often.

The problem was that they came to us with a preconceived idea. They only involved half of the artist in the process of the visual: their craft. The imagination and creative impulse were ignored. They had an idea (most often a cheesy one) of what they wanted and would come to us and say "Could you paint this?"

I volunteer doing graphic design in our present church, and it's not as much like this. Although the communications guy is developing standards (which has complicated things, because there were no standards when he took over and when he assigned projects to volunteers . . .). But it's also a much, much less structured and less organized church. Which we like about it. Some of the time.

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I think you hit the nail on the head as to why Christian artists go underfunded. The current general Christian understanding of "Art" seems to seperate it as an activity from things like social justice, evangelism, church planting, and church building, which are counted as the "legitimate" uses of a tithe. It is an act of worship to give cash to your church, but not to your local Christian artist. This is a complete reversal of the situation with the tabernacle in which people did consider giving up valuable materials for the worship of God as a proper "tithe."

Is this because evangelicalism hasn't really considered "art" to be a useful part of the church's call to evangelism and worship? Probably. I bet if people could see the Christian arts in action, then more funding would occur. Things like CIVA and Image have helped a lot, but I wonder if a lot of Christians look at those organizations and think, "Okay, at least we have that age-old problem covered and all the 'artsy' Christians are happy. Now on to more important issues..."

Hmmm. OK. My definition of "wartime lifestyle" was more narrow, but I think what you say is correct to some degree. Personally, building funds don't count--although this begs a different discussion (which I might should start if there hasn't been one here) which takes into account my own fervent interest in architecture. I started my college days as an architecture student, and though I changed major, my love for the profession and for the buildings and their environment has only deepened.

But your suggesting that the purchase of artwork not being a legitimate use of a tithe rings true, I believe. There seem to be, in my experience, two tithing philosophies (speaking in general terms): 1) You give 10% to your church, and give sacrificially above and beyond that to missions and other social causes. 2) You give a sum total of at least 10%, whether it's all to one ministry or to a variety. My wife and I, and most of our friends, follow model #2. Part of this is because: A) This method felt more natural to my wife and I. B) We don't think our church(es) allocate their funds very well (ie, Too much to buildings and frills, and too little to missions. And none to art *wink*). Although the church we're in now is moving in a much more "appropriate" financial direction in our humble opinion.

So, the church needs to have a "redeemed" view of the arts. The arts have been put into a box. All they are good for--as my previous post eludes to--are pious, tract-like activities. And for announcements. I'm approaching the end of the article I first mentioned in this thread, Redeeming the Arts, and it's gone through all of these types of things: Why the church considers the arts in the manner it does today; the repercussions of the church's ignorance; how to render the situation; how Christian's who are artists need to be re-employed in the task of world evangelization . . .

This is, however, a massive task. But if the Church comes around and views the arts from a theologically correct point of view, the purchase and commissioning of works of visual art should, hopefully, become a worthy part of a person's budget. Even if that isn't a part of their giving.

Taking a deep breath now . . . . hope that was coherant.

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Definitely coherent. After your first paragraph, I wonder how it would go over in a church if the purchase of artwork for the church from local artists would be considered part of the "building fund."

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Definitely coherent. After your first paragraph, I wonder how it would go over in a church if the purchase of artwork for the church from local artists would be considered part of the "building fund."

New federal construction by law, I've been told, MUST allocate 1% of the building cost to NEW art. I think some states also have similar laws for new state buildings. Considering the church's history

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The City of Austin has a similar policy regarding Art in Public Places. I think it is 2% of the hotel tax goes towards public art in new city projects. I suggested something similar for the Episcopal Church I used to attend when they were doing a major addition to the facility but no one went for it. The new worship space ended up having no vestige of art or symbolism at all until they added a cross. SAD : (

The lack of visual art in worship spaces emphasises the thinness of the contemporary world we live in. Without symbols we have no vehicle to make connections with the past, the future or any spiritual reality outside the physical materiality we are existentially experiencing. It makes for a shallow life.

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Thin and disposable. Part of the reason it was so hard for us to leave our last church when we moved is because the artwork had made it such a personal space. It was like leaving our own home.

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The City of Austin has a similar policy regarding Art in Public Places. I think it is 2% of the hotel tax goes towards public art in new city projects. I suggested something similar for the Episcopal Church I used to attend when they were doing a major addition to the facility but no one went for it.

That reaction is what I would expect, most of the time. Although I would expect it more from the churches I've been in, non-denominational, than more established denominations like the Episcopal.

Disposable is a good way to look at it, as MLeary has suggested. The whole culture is this way. My grandfather taught me to sharpen my handsaws when I was in Jr High. But why would I do this? It's so inexpensive to buy a new cross-cut saw; it's hardly worth the time it takes for me to sharpen the old one. And things aren't built to last anymore. When my wife and I needed a new washer and dryer a couple of years ago, the question I was asking the salesmen was "How long is it going to last." The answer I got was "They are only made to last 6 years or so anymore. They want to force you to come back and buy again after so long."

It does make for somewhat of an "artifical" existance. Thin, flimsy . . . bleh.

Does no one value the tactile anymore? Has our living is such a digitally saturated world caused us to, in a sense, "lose" our sense of touch? With the exception of the keys on a keyboard or a remote . . . in fact that thought just lent a possible title to a small sculpture I'm about to finish. Ha!

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