A Catholic liberal arts college in Pennsylvania is hosting its seventh biennial Catholic Arts Competition and Exhibition to move artists and buyers towards diverse, original, and beautiful Christian art.
Originating in 2001, the competition at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., about 10 miles northeast of Greensburg, was founded by one of the school’s late monks and teachers, Brother Nathan Cochran, who was also the curator and director of the St Vincent Gallery. The college is operated by the Benedictines of Saint Vincent Archabbey.
Jordan Hainsey, the exhibition manager and a seminarian for the Diocese of Covington, told CNA that a major focus of the exhibition is to give priests and the laity an option to commission religious art through means other than a catalogue.
“There are these talented artists that pastors of parishes [and] people who just want to commission a painting for devotion don’t have to go to a catalogue,” he said. “There is all of these artists who are looking to create new and original expressions of art of the faith, and they are just waiting to be commissioned.”
Through Aug. 3, Saint Vincent College is accepting Christian works of art from any person 21 years and up. The entries must be original and created within the past five years. After the competition closes, an exhibition of the competitors’ art will be displayed Oct. 30 – Dec. 2.
The competition allows for any media, such as sculpture, stain glass, pencil, paint, and digital photography. Winners of the competition will be offered $3,500 in cash prizes – $1,000 for first place, $750 for second, $500 for third, and four other $250 prizes for juror mentions.
The juror this year will be Dr. Elizabeth Lev, a professor of art and architecture at the Italian campuses of Christendom College and Duquesne University.
Subject choices must promote devotion with Christian themes such as biblical scenes, stories of saints, the history of the Church, and the sacraments. The competition primarily seeks to foster the arts of the Western Christian tradition, but examples informed by Eastern traditions are accepted as well.
Hainsey said the pieces of art may be modernized or ethnically acculturated, not only to promote participation from artists all around the world, but to emphasize the universal message of the Gospel.
“The Christian Gospel assumes everyone …and we want the competition to reflect that everyone can see themselves in Christ’s Gospel message,” said Hainsey.
He pointed to Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Saint Matthew”, which tells the story of the Apostle Matthew in the contemporary dress of the baroque period. He also gave the example of a painting entered into the competition two years ago which depicted Christ breaking bread as a Native American in traditional garbs.
“Every artist of every time period has a message to relate the Christian Gospel,” he said. “They are not just recreating baroque painting, but they are creating something which expresses meaning and value to the community that we live in today.”
Hainsey said the Church has been one of the greatest promoters of sacred art and quoted an address from Pope Francis to the Patron of the Arts in the Vatican Museums: “In every age the Church has called upon the arts to give expression to the beauty of her faith and to proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation, the dignity of human beings made in his image and likeness, and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to bring redemption and rebirth to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death.”
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