August 16, 2019
Sharing in Artistic Creations
Working with a Liturgical Guild is usually a partnership between the members of that group and the pastoral leadership of a congregation. The creative possibilities are endless, and the true joy of the experience is a gift that can be shared with the entire church community.
The partnership between an artist, or an artist-in-residence, and the people of the church who want to support the arts in a hands-on way, can also be amazing. Nancy Chinn, whose book I referenced last week, speaks about those people who help with everything from cutting paper to painting to installing a work, all of it done under the direction of the artist.
Catherine Kapikian, a former professor whom I have also mentioned in the past, includes in her book, Art in Service of the Sacred, a chapter entitled, “Engaging in Participatory Aesthetics.” She describes the relationship between an artist and the members of a faith community. One option is to commission an artist to create a work, and to interact with the people, perhaps during the process, and certainly upon the completion of the artwork. “Another alternative,” she writes, “is one wherein an artist is invited to design a work that members of the community fabricate. This is an instance of participatory aesthetics. In the experience of fabricating (painting, sewing, constructing, cutting, hammering, gluing, etc.) an already designed work, the participating members of the congregation discover why the artist made specific design choices. Gradually, they recognize the aesthetic consequences of these choices, discuss them, and pass on to the wider community the knowledge and excitement gleaned from the experience.” (pp. 107, 109)
While it is vitally important for members of a congregation to honor the skills of an artist, and to respect the direction that the artist provides as a project is undertaken, it is also a special opportunity for people to share the creative ideas and talents that they possess as they work in concert with an artist.
I vividly remember the experience of working with a stained-glass artist after one of our church windows was destroyed in an earthquake. While the artist did the actual fabricating of the window, he was very open to spending time with us in order to arrive at a design that brought our ideas to life, while at the same time showing us both the possibilities and the limitations of working with glass. During the process of fabricating the window, he invited us to visit his studio, and showed us how to cut the glass, to the point where he had us actually make two or three of the cuts for glass that went into the window. It was a wonderful participatory process, and I will be forever grateful to him for sharing that with us.
Welcome to my website. I hope you will discover a connection to the life of small churches, and the richness that the arts can bring to these churches.