One of the biggest mistakes in creating art for worship happens when no evaluation process is in place, either before the design is fabricated or after it has been installed. Not only should the committee examine the final design using formal criteria, the people in the assembly should be provided an opportunity to respond to it. Does it deepen their prayer experience? Is it worthy of its purpose? Does it make sense in the context of the community? Equally important is the process of the artist. Two methods of evaluation are provided here. Both should be included the creative process. To neglect either is to limit the scope of the arts affect.
A formal method of evaluation
When determining the suitability of a particular art installation certain criteria need to be met. In her book Liturgical Art for a Media Culture, author Eileen D. Crowley explores the implementation of media and technology in worship. While the medium in Crowley’s book differs from that of this guide, the parameters for art in worship spaces remain the same. Crowley’s four frameworks for committees planning media art* serve as launching points for the creative process as well as tests both for evaluation prior to fabrication and post-installation. The frameworks are adapted here for the purpose of planning temporary art for worship, however the addition of this book to the art committee’s resource library is strongly recommended.
- Test one: Will the art serve or enhance, or will it be superfluous to the service?
- Test two: will the art speak to the community and their particular needs?
- Test three: Will the art be such that it will not obstruct or interfere with the liturgical action?
- Test four: Does the art occupy a relevant role or is it redundant?
- Test five: Does the art lead to contemplative thinking or is it quickly dismissed?
- Test six: Is the art a good fit for the particular community?
- Test seven: does the art exist as part of the whole liturgical space and is it relevant to the action? What about this art differentiates it from a secular installation?
The diversity of people that make up a faith community including various cultures, physical needs, should be represented both in the art and in the community that creates the art. If we are what we claim to be – a welcoming community – but depict art from a singular point of view we do a disservice to the liturgy as well as the Body. As such, gendered symbols and metaphors should be avoided when referring to the Creator.
- Test eight: Is the art challenging? Is it capable of prompting a transformation?
- Test nine: Does the art represent diversity present in our community and in the world?
*Eileen D. Crowley, Liturgical Art for a Media Culture (Collegeville, MN, Liturgical Press, 2007) 59-88.