Managing a Contemporary Art Gallery in the Church: Walking the Razor's Edge

posted by John Jackson

 VAM Gallery curator and University of Texas at Austin art professor Tim High. Photo credit: Kevin Vandivier/Genesis Photos

VAM Gallery curator and University of Texas at Austin art professor Tim High. Photo credit: Kevin Vandivier/Genesis Photos

Recently, Jackson Galloway’s VAM (Visual Arts Ministry) Gallery at Austin Oaks Church was featured in a World Magazine Article written by World Journalism Institute Students under the direction of Marvin Olasky. In that article Tim High (curator of the VAM Gallery, member of the church and long-time friend of ours) explains the difficulty of obeying God’s call to create visual beauty in this world, and the “razor’s edge” difficulty of showcasing works of contemporary artists (many of whom are not believers) in the church.

I was glad, and somewhat proud, to see the impact that having a gallery actually had on the artists, not to mention the observer. It was apparent to me that the gospel of Christ becomes more personal for the visual creatives among us simply because the gallery exists. If works of art in a church gallery can point the artist or the observer to consider Christ, then perhaps the gospel message can penetrate the visual world, and ultimately hearts.

One artist who was unaware that his work was hanging in a church gallery stated, when interviewed for the article, that he would “reconsider his long-standing skepticism toward the Christianity of his childhood, hoping to reconcile art with faith.”

Another artist said she “hopes the VAM Gallery helps people from opposite ends of the political spectrum meet and mingle.”  This is actually a stated purpose of the gallery.

A third artist who attempts to "turn ugliness into beauty” in her work stated she does not profess to be a Christian yet she says her work embodies High’s idea that Christian artists should "ferret truth, beauty, and grace from a fragmented world…‘Beauty can be a powerful tool. It draws people in and evokes thinking and a conversation.’”

More often than not, spectators see a painting or 3D work of art as merely an adornment in a space, but most every artist is referencing something deeper.  It takes discipline to consider what the message might be, and an open mind and heart to ask oneself “What does this art mean to me, personally?"

Considering a gallery for your church? JGA would be happy to help you think through the implications and the possibilities.

Source: https://world.wng.org/2018/02/high_hopes