The histories of art and religion have always been closely intertwined. For over two thousand years, the Christian religion has witnessed a steady stream of creative expression that has produced some of the world’s greatest literature, painting, music and architecture. In the 20th century, this creative flow was somewhat overshadowed by public interest in art for its own sake, as evidenced in the creation of art centers, performance spaces and sculpture parks. But recent years have seen the sacred arts make a notable return. Many organizations have spring up to encourage new religious music, iconography and painting.
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, situated in Princeton’s Herrontown Woods, has taken a special interest in this development and since 2012 has been promoting events that explore the arts as a vehicle of Christian faith and spiritual enrichment. Though the church building dates from 1960, the light-filled sanctuary, which looks out into the woods, was finally completed in 2016. To adorn this new space, the internationally acclaimed Japanese- American artist Makoto Fujimura — Director of the Brehm Center in Pasadena California, and author of ‘Silence and Beauty’ — undertook to create 16 magnificent panels that change in accordance with the seasons of the year. All Saints’ plan to mark the completion of this gift by hosting a half day “Celebration of the Sacred Arts” that will include an opportunity for the public to see some of these new works, but hear Fujimura explain and reflect on them.
The celebration incorporates literary art as well — readings of two new scripts by local playwrights. ‘Fall From the Sky’ by Colin Hill is based on a true event – the reaction of passengers in an airplane in the minutes before it crashes, while Anthony Pennino’s “Neither/Nor” dramatizes a final bedside conversation between the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and his friend Emil. There are contributions from the arts of music and dance as well. “To Give God Dance and Praise’ is a collaboration created by Director of Music Tom Colao and professional dancer Hillary Pearson, with organ, choir and choreography.
The half-day begins with lunch (included in the price of registration) and a conversation in which Gordon Graham, Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at Princeton Seminary, discusses his new book — ‘Philosophy, Art and Religion’ — with philosopher Andrew Chignell from the University of Pennsylvania.
‘CELEBRATING THE SACRED ARTS’ has its own website with full details of what the half day holds. Everyone – of any religious affiliation or none – is welcome to attend and can register through the website. $15, full-time students free.