When it comes to the intersection of Christian faith and the art of music, I’ve encountered abundant dialogue and engagement within the community here in Lancaster. But when it comes to the intersection of Christian faith and the visual arts, I have not encountered that same level of activity and vibrancy.

Ned Bustard With an Allison Luce Sculpture
Ned Bustard, curator of Square Halo Gallery, explains some of the meaning behind this medium-defying work of ceramic by Allison Luce.

That’s the reason I’m so excited about the opening of a new art gallery in downtown Lancaster, Square Halo Gallery. This gallery’s opening is an important moment in the maturity of Lancaster’s art scene. The work you will see at this gallery is deeply informed by and rooted in faith, but it is leagues away from Thomas Kinkade or happy paintings of a white Jesus holding well-mannered white children on his lap. Not only is the work you will see on display at Square Halo Gallery distinguished by the complexity and maturity of its artistic vision but also by its remarkable display of talent. This is quality, world-class work.

Most people in the Lancaster area are unaware of the vibrant community that is spread across the country, in small pockets here and there, of Christians who are engaged in the visual arts. I think of two organizations as being at its heart. The first is CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts), an organization designed to encourage, support, and connect active artists as they explore – on their own and together – the relationship between their Christian faith and the visual arts. Many of my blog readers and friends may understand CIVA better immediately when I say that Dayton Castleman, now living in Bentonville, Arkansas, is on the organization’s board of directors.

The second institution that encapsulates this loose subculture (or community, or movement – there’s really no good word for it) is Image journal, which takes the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary art (visual as well as literary) more seriously than any other periodical ever has. Image is a publication of incredibly high artistic standards. If your work appears on its pages, it is because as an artist you have produced something really, really good.

And that is one way to introduce the opening exhibit at Square Halo Gallery: The exhibit includes work by five artists whose work has appeared in Image: Sandra Bowden plus four others who have been profiled as in the past as the  Image artist of the month: Roger Feldman, Makota Fujimura, Edward Knippers, and Mary McCleary.

Another way to introduce this exhibit would be to say that the artists included all had work appearing in the excellent book It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. Bookseller Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books in Dallastown, PA explains why this book, now in its second edition, is so great better than I can here, so go read his review.

It is through Byron, a friend, encourager, and college-days employer of mine, that I first was introduced to this book and to the editor who compiled and produced it, Ned Bustard. The book is essential reading for anyone studying how artists and those who appreciate their work can and should connect art with their faith (rather than keeping them separate parts of their lives). I read a lot on that subject in my early 20s, and It Was Good remains one of my favorites.

Artwork on Display at Square Halo Gallery

The exhibit itself captures the essential aspects of this whole contemporary-Christians-doing-visual-arts camp. In the selection and ordering of the works on displays, key themes arise: treating tradition with respect but also with reinvention, looking straight at evil with open eyes and acknowledging it, embracing the sacred while incorporating and connecting the profane (the secular), looking to diverse cultural heritages as a source of inspiration and variety (not of division), and communicating boldly but not always plainly (sometimes symbolism, sometimes not; sometimes words, sometimes not; sometimes riffing on the expected, sometimes leaping out with the unexpected).

Square Halo Gallery opens its doors for First Friday, October 4, 2013 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. (Facebook event page). The gallery is located right inside the front doors The Trust Performing Arts Center at 37 North Market Street (between the Lancaster Dispensing Company and Orange Street), the building formerly occupied by the Lancaster Quilt Museum.

The opening night for the gallery will also be the night of the book launch for a “sequel” of sorts to It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, this volume titled It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God. (Byron Borger has a fresh-off-the-presses, in-depth rave review of this one, too, which is well worth reading.) The event will feature appearances and performances by several of the contributors to the book, including Rob Bigley (the venue’s executive director), composer Mark Chambers (who has a short blog post of his own about the new book), Joy Ike (who has, to my astonishment, played in my house! ), Matthew Monticchio (who previously spent ten years as music director at Wheatland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster), and Steve Nichols (author and Lancaster Bible College professor). Tickets, available through EventBrite, are $5 for adults and $2 for students.

As for the gallery, Ned Bustard says the exhibit will change every two months and the gallery will always be open on First Fridays and Third Fridays.

As soon as you check out the gallery, please swing back here to leave a comment on what you thought of it.

If you were interested in this post, you likely will also be interested in my 2009 post about an exhibit of work by Barry Moser at the Lancaster Museum of Art, which also includes mention of Ned Bustard and Image journal.

Square Halo Gallery
37 North Market Street
Lancaster, PA 17603
Website: http://www.squarehalobooks.com/gallery.html
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SquareHaloGallery

The gallery is open tomorrow night (October 4, 2013) for First Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday as part of the fall ArtWalk.

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