Banks Do It, Coffee Shops Do It, Churches Can Do It Too!

What do banks, coffee shops and even libraries have in common with churches? They all have the ability to encourage the visual arts by hosting exhibits by local artists. Churches should find ways to embrace the visual arts and artists beyond Sunday worship. Reading For the Beauty of the Church this past summer reinforced to me the following stanza from the hymn "for the Beauty of the Earth". We sing....
For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind's delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

The art gallery at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Upper St. Clair, PA.
One way to include artists in your community is by welcoming their work into a church gallery. By sharing their work we are helping to complete their ability to be an artist by supplying an audience. Art needs to be viewed and considered! 

What would it take to have a gallery in your church?
  1. A space that has foot traffic preferably all week (not just on Sunday).
  2. A mean's of hanging the work. As seen in the photo above it's lovely to have a system that is permanent such as these fabric covered homasote boards but this certainly isn't required. There are plenty of affordable professional hanging systems.  Before diving into something permanent you might consider a temporary option such as folding screens covered in chicken wire that a hook on the back of a frame can latch onto. Or if you have art that is matted and not framed you can even use a cardboard refrigerator type box...paint it a solid neutral color and adhere the art with Command brand poster strips.
Things to think about...
  • who will be responsible for the space...one curator or a committee?
  • how often will the exhibits change?
  • how will you find the artists? will it be church members only? will the artists have to be Christians? or will you show Christian hopsitality by opening your doors for any artist in your neighborhood?
  • what will the guidelines for the artists be? 
  • will the art be for sale? if so, how will the sales be handled? 
  • how will the exhibits be publicized?
  • will you have artists receptions and/or invite the artists to teach a class or workshop in conjunction with the exhibit?
The galleries in my church aim to exhibit a diverse body of work from a variety of artists--young through the much older, professional and the amateur. As the curator I am overwhelmed with the possibilities and enjoy exploring unique exhibiting potential. For example we have twice hosted the work of our prayer shawl ministry by draping their "art" over dowel rods. This group also knits items that can be dispensed through our food pantry and the photo below shows how the "art" was displayed. The ministry that is usually a quiet behind the scenes group in our congregation received a bit of 'oohing' and 'awwing' over before the items were sent to those in need.
Knit in His Spirit exhibit, Westminster Presbyterian February 2010

We include the visual arts in worship with banners, vestments, paraments, bulletin covers and more. How can you and your congregation think beyond worship to involve and encourage the activity and God given gifts of artists? Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise. May the visual become a hymn of grateful praise.

*products referred to in this post are not necessarily an endorsement of that particular item....they are referred to specifically to encourage you that there are products readily available to aid your pursuits.