Beginning with this blog, we would like to share with you some thoughts and experiences from the Lumen Christi Art Schola sponsored by Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality. The event, hosted by the Community of Jesus in Orleans, Massachusetts, gathered 40 or so artists and those who love art from across the world for a 5 day “Easter Encounters with Art” retreat. We feasted body, soul and spirit in the lecture series given by Msgr. Timothy Verdon and in the studio workshop under the tutelage of Gabriele Wilpers from Essen, Germany in the beautiful setting on Cape Cod Bay. Our spirits were lifted and knit together as we experienced His Love and Beauty, supported by the generous Benedictine hospitality.
A question was asked of Msgr Verdon at one of the lectures: “What is the role of the contemporary artist today who happens to be a Christian?”
Msgr. Verdon: “ I don’t think anyone just happens to be a Christian. Being a Christian is an important choice whether we are artists or not. We have to reaffirm this choice everyday and many times everyday. So the artist, the creative person, desires to create a piece of sculpture, a painting, a piece of music, a dance form or whatever the person desires to create. In doing so, this communicates one of the many ways he or she expresses the primary reality in their life, which is being Christian. These things are not casually related. These activities we carry forward in life. If we are Christians, we carry them forward as expressions of Christianity. If they involve particular gifts we have received, and this is the case with artists, even artists with no faith at all know they have received gifts that others do not receive. But if we do have faith, the works we make are one of the ways of giving back to God and others, what God has given us. It is clear to a creative person that the gift was given for a purpose and that is why the artists have to use their gifts. Artists suffer terribly if they don’t use their gifts or are prevented from using them…”
Msgr. Timothy Verdon, an art historian with a PhD from Yale University, directs both the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage, and the Cathedral Foundation Museum (Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore) in Florence. A Fellow of the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Msgr. currently teaches in the Florence Program of Stanford University. He writes regularly for the cultural page of the Osservatore Romano and in 2010 curated the exhibit Jesus: His Body and His Face in Art at the Riggia di Venaria Reale at Turin. Msgr. Verdon is also the Director of the Centre for Ecumenism of the Archdiocese of Florence and the Academic Director of Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art & Spirituality. He lives in Florence, where he is a Canon of the Cathedral.