“Tell me more about this St. Sebastian fellow that I may understand how to draw him better.” This was from an artist in China that I commissioned to draw me a picture of the parish’s patron saint. The man had little to no knowledge of faith at all but through commissioning art we were able to have a discourse on the life of this amazing saint.
Another artist who is not interested most things “Church” but who is working on a project for me, was interested in having a discussion on the transcendentals and as an artists wishing to work in churches whose art is meaningful, open to the public, and beautiful.
Eric Armusik is a great young painter who has done several pieces for the parish. He desperately wants to work for the Church but by an large we buy our “art” out of catalogues and so he must work for whoever pays him.
For a parish to commission a work of art is time consuming, difficult, and dangerous, but worth it. But do we really need instant art? What if a congregation had to wait a year or two for their art of finally arrive? What a day that will be with all of the anticipation building. And just because it is difficult should we shy away from it? The vast majority of us will not build a cathedral, but we could pass on a work of art for the generations that you wont run into a dozen copies of in various parishes. As my grandma would say, “For beauty, you must suffer.” And it is dangerous. Finding the right artists is an art itself. There have been unveilings that were less than stellar. But when you have a true piece of art, it is piece of evangelization, catechesis, and prayer.
Our painting of the Crucifixion by Eric Armusik in one of the successful pieces. We have people come to the church (not always necessarily for Mass) just to see it. We use it for teaching people about the faith. And during lent people come just to be with the painting and pray. Would that have happened it was just a copy in a pretty frame?
Much more good is done in the world by commissioning one good piece art than by buying a thousand prints or mass produced statues. From those working on the committee, raising and donating funds, to inspiring the artist, to bringing something beautiful and unique to your congregation (and beyond,) it truly becomes source of grace for everyone.