As the new Director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary, I am excited about the possibilities that I see ahead for LCAR as we move into the future. I am honored and delighted at the trust and confidence that WTS has placed in me to lead the Center.
After fifteen years as the Curator of the Dadian Gallery, which included time as an MTS student at Wesley, PhD work at Drew University, and finally attaining the rank of Associate Professor of Art and Worship here again, this feels like the capstone of my career.
As I look ahead, I am aware of the important groundwork laid by LCAR's founder and first director, Catherine Kapikian, in insisting on the centrality of the arts in theological education and creating a program that is the standard by which arts offerings at other seminaries are measured. Not only is there art on every hallway and office wall, but the expectation that the arts will be an integral part of the way we teach and learn about God, the Church, and the world pervades the seminary. I am beyond grateful to Catherine for her vision of providing a place for artists and theologians to be in conversation, and for her thirty years of guiding LCAR from that early, prophetic vision to its current, living, incarnate reality. As Director, I pledge to maintain Catherine's tradition of combining teaching, research, and an active studio practice with a willing ear and an open heart for who all want to explore the intersection of art and faith.
I am, of course, also aware that many challenges are before me. Perhaps the most sobering of these challenges is the reality that our endowment, including the generous grant given to us by the Luce Foundation several years ago, as well as other gifts from individual donors who believe in our mission and our programs, has been severely diminished by the economic downturn that has affected all of our lives. Where once we were able to pay for about half of our expenses from the income of that nest-egg, it now covers a little more than one quarter of our ongoing costs. High among the many tasks that fill my to-do list is rebuilding that endowment and ensuring the financial health of the Center so that it can serve the needs of artists and the Church in the 21st century and beyond.
Although we, like everyone else, have had to tighten our belts, we are pleased to continue to offer a full calendar of exhibitions, events, and classes. As students come back from their summer activities, the Dadian Gallery's fall season will open with "An Artist's Reaction to War," a group exhibition organized by guest curator Cecilia Rossi, featuring works by ten nationally-known artists, while Rossi's own multi-panel work, "War Memorial: Iraq and Afghanistan," will fill the walls of the boardroom. Look for information on this and other shows on our upcoming exhibitions page.
In the Fall semester, the studio will be filled with the sounds and sights of our new Artists-in-Residence, Lauren Raine, Doug Purnell, and Carolyn Gass as they move in to begin their own projects and work with students; and the continuing presence of Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, Catherine Kapikian. Meanwhile, Deryl Davis will be casting for a production of Michael Hollinger's play, Incorruptible, a dark comedy about the dark ages; Eileen Guenther will teach music courses and lead the choir; Kathryn Sparks will teach dance; and Tracy Radosevic will help students learn to tell the stories of the Bible artfully and dramatically.
Additionally, in the coming months look for new opportunities to become involved with our work, whether it is volunteering to be a docent in the Dadian Gallery, participating in ongoing conversations about what it means to be an artist of faith in the 21st century, becoming our fan on Facebook, or reading this blog.
I look forward to hearing from you.