While searching for a new home church after we moved it was exciting to walk into the first congregation we visited to discover it had an art gallery. After fifteen years of volunteering in many different aspects of church life I am now preparing to become the new curator of this gallery space. It is not large, but it is at the main entrance of the building so it has the potential of impacting many people that walk through the doors. This gallery space should allow viewers to experience faith within a visual context.
I would love to hear from you if you have a gallery space in your church. Does it have a vision or mission statement? How do you find your artists? Do the artists display a written statement of faith or any other kind of written message about their connection between being and artist and being a Christian?
While doing prep work for this new task in my life I came across an article from a past issue of Presbyterians Today. I share with you a synopsis of the author, Danny Potts, ideas on how to incorporate the arts into your congregation’s life:
- Arrange museum trips to teach Bible study and Sunday School groups to look theologically at art. For example, how would a study of the Exodus story inform and critique an exhibit of American art of the Old West? You might even call the museum ahead of time to arrange for a docent to collaborate with you in your exploration.
- Set aside part of your church building as a gallery for changing exhibitions of work by artist in the congregation, community or a local college.
- Invite members and friends to bring a brown bag lunch to an “Art lunch” and 30 minute program. Food, fellowship and half-an-hour on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper or The Gleaners by Millet would make for a meaningful workday break.
- Invite interested persons to gather each week to hear the text for the upcoming Sunday sermon and respond to it creatively, as a way of beginning their preparation for worship. If the hymns coordinate with the sermon text or the celebration that Sunday (you’d think they always should, wouldn’t you) add another dimension to the creative response by playing the music in the background as you work.
- Plan a year with the Bible—in art. How have the stories of our faith been painted, drawn, sculpted, built? Spend a year studying art through the Bible and the Bible through art.
- Establish a one-year Artist-in-Residence program, so that your congregation, or a group of congregations, experiences the gifts and creative opportunities of artists working in a variety of media.
God and art are intrinsically connected and we celebrate that truth together. We must encourage the visual arts in the life of the church today!