Two sacred art experts have stressed the importance of the Catholic visual arts in the new evangelization, saying the arts have the potential to change individual lives, and cultures as a whole.
David Clayton and Caroline Farey will teach a two-day weekend program, “Sacred Art and the New Evangelization”, at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas July 11-13.
Clayton, an English-born artist and art teacher at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire, told CNA June 19 that the beauty of art can help “open up people’s hearts so that they are inclined to be receptive to the Word when presented to them.”
Art can shape Catholic culture through “the transformation of all of us so that all our activities are ordered to the love of God. This way the whole culture can become beautiful.”
Farey, director of studies at the School of the Annunciation in Devon, England, similarly stressed the importance of art in evangelization.
“Sacred art attracts, and it attracts 100 times more when it can be explained or ‘read’ for oneself,” Farey said.
She noted that the Catechism describes sacred art as “a witness to truth” that shapes a Catholic Christian culture of “truth and honesty.” Benedict XVI said beauty “will be a primary way for the New Evangelization of the third millennium,” noted Farey, who has served as an expert for the synod of bishops and has published several books.
Clayton and Farey's program in Kansas City is intended for both artists and non-artists; a $250 fee includes meals and accommodations.
Clayton, who also runs the website “The Way of Beauty,” said that beautiful sacred art has a “profound influence” on Catholic worship.
When art is connected to the liturgy, it becomes “a visible manifestation of divine glory that affects all other art.”
He cited as an example the 16th century baroque art that emerged out of the Counter-Reformation. While this art originally was religious in character, secular art soon reflected the same styles.
Portrait, landscape and still life arts soon took on the same styles used in a crucifixion scene painted by the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez.
Farey saw a distinction between sacred art, which is primarily intended for the liturgy, and religious art, intended for educational or devotional purposes.
“Art that is expressly for encouraging or nurturing prayerful, worship and adoration, not of itself but of Christ as Eucharist, has to have a specific character of its own.”
Attendees at the upcoming weekend program will learn how to “read” works of art from a faith perspective.
“The best Sacred Art in the Christian tradition portrays the whole Catholic culture in which it was conceived,” Farey said.
The program intends to help attendees “gain a pictorial experience of faith which can have a lastingly deep effect on their memory and imagination.”
Clayton will also hold an icon painting class at Savior Pastoral Center July 14-18, at a cost of $595, which includes accommodations, meals, and supplies.
The class focuses on the Western gothic style of art found in illuminated manuscripts such as the Westminster Psalter.