The Commissioned Artist

The following study describes the first scenario for creating art, The Commissioned Artist. This is a type of artistic collaboration most common to new construction or renovation. In this case, the Liturgical Consultant working with an architect commissioned a professional liturgical artist to design, produce and deliver the completed art ready for installation.

Pamela T. Hardiman and St. Mary Magdalen Church, MI

View of three banners. © Pamela T. Hardiman, 2014, St Mary Magdalen Church, of Kentwood, MI.
View of three banners. © Pamela T. Hardiman, 2014, St Mary Magdalen Church, of Kentwood, MI.

After a fire devastated its original facility, St Mary Magdalen Church, of Kentwood, MI, underwent a total reconstruction including the addition of a new light-filled glass gathering space.

Gilbert Sunghera, SJ, the liturgical consultant overseeing the job, envisioned enhancing the soaring height of the space with fiber art representative of the liturgical seasons. In addition to beautifying the space, these banners would serve as an aid to worshipers preparing for mass as they entered the church. Rather than standard rectangular banners, Sunghera determined that column-shaped banners that could be experienced from multiple angles, would suit the space. He commissioned Connecticut based liturgical fiber artist, Pamela T. Hardiman to produce them.

In this situation, the collaborative process occurred between the artist and the liturgical consultant who works on behalf of the pastor and faith community. As such, the image or inspiration for the art is presented to the artist who, in turn, brings it to life.  In this scenario, aesthetic input from the faith community, unless it is part of the discernment, is limited. That being said, when liturgical art is properly done, the needs and culture of the community are represented in the final product.

Of the materials the artist chose to fabricate the banners, Hardiman says “I try in all my work, but especially this one, to use fabrics representative of as many cultures as possible. This particular church has a diverse population.”

The purpose of the space, the gathering of people, also lent itself to the physical experience of drawing closer to the art. Seen from a distance, the dominant features of the banners are their color and form, but as the viewer draws near, fine detailing is revealed, which as Hardiman points out “adds to the sense of human scale.”

Close up of central 14' banner. © Pamela T. Hardiman, 2014, St Mary Magdalen Church, of Kentwood, MI.
Close up of central 14′ banner. © Pamela T. Hardiman, 2014, St Mary Magdalen Church, of Kentwood, MI.

Note: Each installation includes two banners, the green ones are 10′ long, suspended on 24″ diameter hoops, the white one is 14′ long, suspended on a 36″ hoop. The church has commissioned a purple set, plus a set of the smaller sized white banners for Easter and Christmas. Hardiman has also been commissioned to create complementary banners for the wall behind the altar. The hanging hardware is permanently in place to accommodate seasonal changes. The banners can be rolled and stored flat. The suggested time frame for a similar process from planning through installation would be one year.

Pamela T. Hardiman is “dedicated to enhancing the liturgical life of the church through color and movement.” She is also the coauthor of Raise the Banners High! a practical and comprehensive guide to creating beautiful and expressive processional banners for use in the liturgy. Please visit Pamela’s website for more information.