Published in the Spring 2005 issue of “Stillpoint” by Gordon College.
CIVA Celebrates 25th Anniversary. In 2002 Christians in the Visual Arts hired its first full-time staff and accepted Gordon’s invitation to make its permanent home at the College. This year CIVA celebrates its 25th Anniversary, CIVASILVER, with more than 1,500 members.
As part of the celebration CIVA is looking back on its transformation from being the idea of a few leading artists to becoming an international organization that provides an important voice to the art world and to the Church through its conferences, exhibitions and publications. In the upcoming book Faith and Vision: Twenty-Five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts, scheduled for publication by Square Halo Books, Baltimore, Maryland, New York City-based art historian James Romaine writes about CIVA ’s mission and the challenges with which the organization grapples. Below are excerpts of his description.
Any Christian working in the visual arts has to consider the fundamental question of how his or her faith and art interrelate. There is no single answer to this complex problem. Yet without a clear sense of one ’s relationship to the Creator and its implications, artists cannot as fruitfully engage in their own creative activity, relate to other artists, or enrich the Church and culture. CIVA is a place where many artists are able to ask hard questions and find rewarding answers in integrating their faith and creativity.
CIVA provides artists with tools and opportunities for spiritual and artistic maturity and develops a worldwide community of scholars, patrons and artists who represent an amazing diversity of spiritual and artistic viewpoints and are committed to love, support and challenge each other. CIVA is also making significant inroads within the Church to encourage artists of faith to participate in a renaissance of the historically rich relationship between the Christian faith and the visual arts.
Christian artists today may be unaware that a generation ago the term “Christian artist” was considered by many an oxymoron and by others a reference to an illustrator of Bible stories. CIVA’s bold refusal to be ashamed of joining “Christian” and “the visual arts ” has given numerous Christians permission to work in an incredible diversity of media and aesthetic approaches, to take risks with their art beyond the currently fashionable trends, and to make art of superb conceptual and technical quality. CIVA ’s membership now includes scholars, art historians, gallery owners, critics, designers, graphic artists, sympathetic church leaders and patrons.
Over the past 2,000 years the Church has been one of the most prolific patrons of the visual arts. Indeed, it would be impossible —and certainly misleading —to discuss the history of the visual arts without including the paramount role the Church has played in providing financial, intellectual and spiritual resources.
Sandra Bowden has served as chairman of CIVA since 1993. An accomplished artist in her own right, she has led the organization with her own energy and the support of member-volunteers to its present influence as an important force on behalf of Christian artists.
Bowden says, “When historians and artists of the future want to know what was important in 2004, they will look, among other things, to the visual record. Will they find powerful art that points to a remnant who knew and revered God? Will we leave them a record that faith was alive and well in our time?”
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