From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopal artists share creations in cyberspace

Date 16 Feb 2001 07:37:54


Episcopal artists share creations in cyberspace 

by Jan Nunley and Jerry Hames

     (ENS) A new online art gallery, designed to "stimulate, educate, challenge 
and give pleasure" as it explores "new possibilities within the relationship 
between the Church and the arts," has made its debut to rave reviews. The gallery 
is sponsored by a new churchwide arts group, Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts 

     The Web site,, premiered during Advent with a series of 
images of paintings, sculpture, textiles and photography by 11 artists entitled 
Substance of Things Hoped For, a title taken from Hebrews 11:1. It will be 
followed by In the Cross of Christ (Lent through Easter 2001); Beyond the Banner 
(the Season after Pentecost I 2001); and Praying With Icons (the Season after 
Pentecost II 2001).

     "Our gallery space will showcase the work of artists who are themselves 
Episcopalian and whose art explores the life of faith, and also the work of any 
artist who has had or is having an impact on Episcopalian spiritual and 
liturgical practice," says an introductory letter on the site from art historian 
and Web designer Dr. Susan R. Dixon of Ithaca, New York. "Our conversation space 
hosts discussions, both planned and spontaneous, of the roles of art in the 
spiritual and liturgical life of the Church and its people."

     Currently there are two online discussions in progress, focusing on two 
essays: a conversation between Brewster and Dixon entitled How Do Visual Arts 
Shape Spiritual Life? and an exploration of Anglican architecture entitled 
Building Anglican Liturgy, by John W. Dixon, Jr. professor emeritus at the 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Artists of faith

     "Over the last twenty years there has been a quiet renaissance slowly 
emerging in the recesses of the church. Many have been working, gathering, 
networking and struggling to be artists of faith," says a message from the online 
exhibition's curator, Sandra Bowden, an Episcopalian and president of the 2,000-
member Christians in the Visual Arts association. "For the most part the church 
has been unaware that so many fine artists are hiding in their midst. But the 
time is ripe for the artists to become visible, to have their creative offerings 
and insights used in the life of the church," she said.

     The site also features links to resources on religion and the arts and a 
suggested bibliography.

Conversations and connections

     The project was sparked by a conversation between Phoebe Griswold and the 
Rev. Gurdon Brewster, whose work as a university chaplain led him to explore the 
connections between the arts and theology. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and 
Phoebe have given Brewster's works as gifts on travels to the Vatican, Moscow, 
Turkey and Latin America.

     "Phoebe and I began to talk about the need for visual artists in the church 
and the contribution they make, how important that was," Brewster said in an 
interview with Episcopal Life. "In a subsequent conversation, she encouraged me 
to pull together a little team of people and talk with her."

     Brewster brought Bowden and Dixon to the meeting and "away we went."

     "There are different layers to this project," Dixon said. "Some are about to 
be realized, others are still a gleam in our eye at this point." Conferences and 
an arts symposium are on the horizon.

     Brewster says the project is much more than just displaying art. "We want to 
raise questions of the place of art in history, as well as the contemporary 
scene," he said. "Our culture seems to be going more toward the visual. What does 
that say about how we enhance our spiritual lives?"

     Bowden says that the increase in the number of artists expressing their 
faith through the visual arts suggests it is time to renew dialogue between the 
church and artists, between theology and art. "The church's ability to 
incorporate the insights of these artists into its liturgy and practice will 
determine its success in adapting to the visual world of the next generation," 
she said.

More shows planned

     Bowden's and Brewster's works are among the 11 artists in the first 
exhibition. Others are Loren Baker of Spencerport, New York; Nancy Chinn of 
Oakland, California; Kate Curry of Cupertino, California; Donald J. Forsythe of 
Grantham, Pennsylvania; Erica Grimm-Vance of Vancouver, British Columbia, Edward 
Knippers of Arlington, Virginia; Krystyna Sanderson of New York; Mary Trent Scott 
of Oakton, Virginia; and Susan Kelly vonMedicus of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.

     Currently, ECVA is soliciting contributors for its upcoming textile show, 
Beyond the Banner. Artwork may be designed for use in the church or may be "an 
expression of spirituality not intended for liturgical use," according to 
guidelines released by ECVA. For more information, artists should contact Eliza 
Linley at or 1027 Euclid Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94708. Entries 
are due by April 6.

--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News 
and Information. Jerry Hames is editor of Episcopal Life.

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