May 5, 2014

Relationship Building: Through Art

The other day my church rented out our new space for an art show. An organization called Fiercely Curious took our space (which is very much an empty room at the moment) and made it into a gallery for a weekend. 

Using church to display art is nothing new, of course. Churches have been home to religious art for hundreds of years—statuary and stained glass and icons. I think that the church can and should continue to be a home for art.

There are many examples of this around the country. Trinity Church in Houston, Texas, where I was a member for several years, displays art by parishioners in it’s building throughout the year, much of it very good.

Parables, an experimental Lutheran community in Brooklyn, has had a Lenten art show at St. Paul’s Lutheran for the past two years, which brings in visitors and allows the community members to express their faith in new ways.

Trinity Wall Street, where I work, regularly has artwork by parishioners on display in its community space. There are artists, I am sure, in every community—photographers and painters and other people who would love to express this side of themselves if they had the opportunity.

I think that the art in church doesn’t necessarily need to be sacred, however, and doesn’t necessarily need to be created by the community.

For example, a show is going up by French artist Sophie Calle in the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan. There’s a story about it in the New York Times, and many people who’ve never heard of the church now have.

St. John the Divine regularly has art in their large space, which brings in visitors to their cavernous building.

Judson Memorial Church, a UCC church in Manhattan, cultivates theater and other performance art through arts programs and use of its space.

While not everyone can afford a staff member to work on cultivating artists like Judson does or St. John the Divine, space is one thing that many churches have. Often lovely and unusual space, that sometimes goes underutilized. This can be an opportunity to connect and sometimes generate a little income through rentals.

The arts is a worthy thing for churches to support with the resources they have. It’s a way to create beauty and can expose a new group of people—artists and art lovers—to the church, it’s buildings and its people.