No More 'Christian Artists' in Charlottesville
Three artists groups blur the sacred-secular divide in central Virginia.
New City Arts uses an ambassadorial model that would fight what [director Maureen Lovett] calls "fragmentation," or rifts in the community. The fight against fragmentation takes conversation, which New City Arts facilitates. (In addition to regular conversation events, Lovett is collaborating with the Piedmont Council for the Arts on a pastor forum for the spring.) But improving the conversation between different far-flung regions of the community takes actual resources.
One is shelter. So like The Garage [an arts space in downtown Charlottesville], the New City Arts Initiative runs a gallery out of the WVTF and Radio IQ studios on Water Street. Also like The Garage, that gallery space has served as a springboard for emerging local and regional artists, often in collaboration, to showcase art. And in its bright office on the top floor of the Haven, New City Arts earlier this year installed a resident artist, Patrick Costello.
Though Costello was raised Catholic, he is not what you think of as a Christian artist. He doesn't regularly go to church or identify as an active Christian. But Lovett says the thematic content of his art broadly-it explores the life cycle, and where people and nature intersect-echoes Christian values. "Patrick may not identify himself as a Christian," says Lovett. "But he identifies with a lot of our values, like generosity and Shalom, a word used in the International Arts Movement to refer to a quest for wholeness."
"Patrick's work in particular tries to work through the elements of the everyday, and how it relates to the broader cosmos. The church talks about that all the time," says Lovett.
As a rector who also studied poetry at UVA, [rector Paul Walker] understands art as more than just an evangelical tool: "Art is, theologically speaking, like the grace of God - it's without contingency or qualification. So we don't do exhibits or support the arts as a means to an end, so-called Christian art that would be used for evangelism or even something like beautification."