Three Scenarios for Creating Art

1: A Commissioned Artist is a professional liturgical artist who produces and delivers a completed work of art for installation. The artist takes into consideration the context of the season or liturgy during which the art will be on view as well as the needs and culture of the particular faith community.

2: An Artist-in-Community is a professional liturgical artist who works with an existing or newly formed art and environment committee made up of local artists, craftspeople, and other interested parishioners to assist with one or more installations. This artist leads the committee in the process of discerning symbols and metaphors that express the intent of the art being created. The artist either then produces the work independently, or as a collaborative effort with members of the committee.

3: A Parish Art and Environment Ministry creates art for worship throughout the year. This group, comprised of a core group of members (often creative professionals or skilled artisans) who share a love for the liturgy, and a pastoral staff member or lay minister who is versed in liturgical art norms, meets regularly to engage in theological reflection and discernment of symbolic, thought provoking, prayerful liturgical art.

Each one of these three scenarios has benefits:

The first, the Commissioned Artist, is the least complicated; it promises the most predictable results since the artist controls the project. It is also likely to be the most costly.

The second, the Artist-in-Community, also comes with expenses, but the fruit of having an artist work with a committee is akin to teaching them to fish. The experience is enriching and generative. The committee gains confidence in their collective ability to create quality art for worship and will continue to grow after the artist’s commission ends.

The third scenario, the Parish Ministry Model, requires the least funding, but the most organization and pastoral sensitivity. Still, because it emerges from the heart of the parish body, a Parish Art and Environment Ministry is capable of producing art for worship that both elevates the assembly’s worship experience, and enriches each person’s own faith and understanding of the liturgy.  .

“…the work(s) of the artist—local and professional—are important resources in our evangelical tool kit. Honor these artists. Include them as leaders in your assembly.”— D. Foy Christopherson

Each faith community needs to determine which of the three options is most practical for them. While each scenario may be possible at different times and for different needs, the key is sustainability. It is wholly beneficial and desirable to work with a professional artist, but most parishes cannot afford the ongoing expense. The ideal, of course, is to do a little bit of each.  Members of a well-organized and committed Parish Art Ministry, working closely with their pastoral staff, should request a small budget and plan for occasional work with a professional artist. If a parish is blessed to count professional artists among their membership, these individuals should be extended an invitation, and offered a stipend, to participate.

[1] D. Foy Christopherson. A Place of Encounter. Renewing Worship Spaces. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2004) 83

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