Tuesday, July 22, 2008


swiss miss blog

This blog is really cool.

The X Files returns

viewer discretion advised

I apoligize for the post with this pithy quote....

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

God and art: Nashville's religious communities bridge the gap

July 13, 2008

God and art: Nashville's religious communities bridge the gap


When Tom Wills moved back to Nashville with a degree in art from Centre College in the mid-'90s, he immediately started casting about for space that might be conducive to his painting.

His family had attended Downtown Presbyterian Church for generations. Wills knew that the congregation had plenty of room in its Egyptian revival edifice on Fifth Avenue, so he asked pastor John Hilley if he could set up a studio on the fourth floor in exchange for volunteering at the church's soup kitchen.

Soon other local artists were following suit and the congregation was exhibiting art in its fellowship hall. More than a decade later, the parish is home to six artists-in-residence and hosts regular shows. The work of current and former artists-in-residence is on display throughout the building.

"The arts have really transformed us," Wills said. "It wasn't that we set out to do this. It was something that started and grew from there."

Art and spirituality might have been linked for millennia, but in modern-day culture there has often been a divide between the creative and religious worlds. More and more, though, congregations like Downtown Presbyterian, along with others around town such as Christ Church Episcopal and the Village Church, are reuniting the two.

These congregations aren't just incorporating art into the fabric of parish life. They also are engaging people, and not merely those of a religious bent, in the larger communities in which they are located.

"We don't have a big institute that studies these things or is developing a think tank," explained Wills of what's happening at his church. "We're just a small community of people who are hosting art events and inviting the community to come in."

Transforming lives

"A lot of artists are people who say, 'You can't trust religion. You can't trust the institutional church,' " said Ken Locke, pastor at Downtown Presbyterian. "What we've done is create a venue for people who distrust the church but who find themselves saying, 'Wait a minute, I can ask my questions here and it's OK.' "

This has certainly been the experience of Beth Gilmore, an elder and artist-in-residence at the church. "I think that I have always believed in God, but I have not always believed in church," she said. "Here at Downtown Pres I feel welcomed . . . not just in Sunday dress with brushed hair and clean hands. I'm embraced when I'm covered in paint from working up until a deadline.

"The whole person is invited here, baggage and all, with whatever gifts they bring to put to good use. I need that. I think that everyone needs that."

Locke calls Gilmore "a case study in transformation," someone who was drawn to his church for artistic reasons but who found meaning and community that extended well beyond that.

"She's brought in friends who had real animosity toward organized faith, who had gone to church for years but had always been snarky about it," Locke said. "But they come to DPC and they see the meals for the homeless happening, they see the parenting classes for abused women.

"We're not serving the homeless with this closed idea about who they are and what God is like," continued Locke, noting that the current exhibit at Downtown Presbyterian features drawings and other work done by homeless Nashvillians. "We're trying to grow ourselves through this creative process of engaging with art."

Spiritual, not sectarian

Something akin to Downtown Presbyterian's spirit of hospitality and inclusion — as opposed to seeking converts — lies at the heart of the Sacred Space for the City program at Christ Church Cathedral, said Susan Dupont, a member of the Episcopal congregation's vestry.

Established in 2003, the series, she explained, "was envisioned as a way of bringing people into the Cathedral who were not interested in a religious relationship with the Cathedral. We felt that with our beautiful architectural space we had an opportunity to marry the visual setting with hearing and being moved by music and theater and art."

A classically trained singer and art historian, Dupont believes that all artistic expression is inherently spiritual.

"The arts are manifestations of how God works in us," she said. "It doesn't have to be quote-unquote religious content. The ability to move people and in some sense alter them is not something that any human being can take complete responsibility for. Being able to express the ineffable — to say things that can't be said through words alone — is a gift."

A year-round affair, the Cathedral's Sacred Space for the City program has been host to everything from the church's now-annual BACHanalia music and arts festival to the productions of local drama companies and workshops on the likes of fiber art and floral design. A series on icon painting is scheduled for the coming year.

"It's been amazing to see how the program has resonated with people," Dupont said. More than 800 people, including 220 musicians, she added, participated in last year's Bach fest.

"Our vision was to be more of a Cathedral, to be more open and welcoming to the community. The art series has become a big part of our identity."

Inclusion a priority

The Gordon Jewish Community Center in West Nashville is yet another place people of disparate religious backgrounds and experiences converge around art.

"When I started working here nine years ago, the rule of thumb was we just need to put Jewish art on the walls," said Margot Layland, the Center's Adult and Cultural Arts Director. "My response was, 'There's only so much quote-unquote Jewish art to go around. We allow non-Jewish members. Why don't we also bring in art from outside?'

"A lot of people think that the Jewish community center is for Jewish people only. That's a false statement. A lot of our programs are open to anyone who wants to participate."

The monthly art openings at the center's Janet Levine March Gallery, for example, are free and open to the public. "We serve wine and cheese and have had anywhere from three to 300 people," said Layland, who has a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

In June, the center exhibited Haitian artist Camille Torchon's verdant landscape paintings of his deforested homeland. Up this month is Nashvillian Garry Hornbuckle's innovative mix of photography and digital image manipulation.

"All of us at the center pride ourselves on working with the outside community and making sure that everyone feels welcome," said Layland.

Art connects us to God

Achieving unity through diversity is central to the mission of the Village Church, a Presbyterian congregation, with roots in East Nashville's James Cayce Homes. The church is working to bridge the gap between spirituality and art.

"Authentic diversity affirms the beauty of God expressed in significantly different ways," said the Rev. Andrew Stephens, the church's pastor.

While Stephens' parish is strongly Afrocentric, particularly when it comes to the performing arts and the clothing and styles native to them, he speaks with relish of his congregation's cultural and artistic exchanges with Temple Ohabai Sholom and with Koran Presbyterian Church on Franklin Road.

"We know there's a distinctiveness to what we're doing, but we're mindful of the distinctiveness of what they're doing; that's why it's important for us to spend time together," he said.

"Art is one of the ways that people envision or imagine God. Through our art, in its particular forms, we affirm our connection with God."

Saturday, July 05, 2008


An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have
a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.

George Eliot

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Art Crawl

CARRY NATION: THE ORIGINAL AND FAMOUS BARROOM SMASHERS Twist Gallery is sticking with its current show—Quinn Dukes: The Din of Culture—rather than presenting a new face for tonight’s Art Crawl. However, fans of the gallery know to expect the unexpected from this always-challenging art space. To Compliment Dukes’ work, Twist is hosting a performance by a group of women who are sure to bring a cool happening to a hot night in The Arcade. Carry Nation: The Original and Famous Barroom Smashers, a three-woman band featuring Sherry Cothran, freelance Scene writer Jewly Hight and Sarah Masen, take their name from the (in)famous hatchet-wielding, prohibitionist street preacher. Their music draws on that inspiration, blending evangelical elements, protest music and blues-based rock into one. All three multi-instrumentalists share lead vocals. 6-9 p.m. at Twist Gallery —JOE NOLAN