Sunday, March 6, 2011

Christian Art & Spiritual Formation: There's Going to be an App for That!

I experienced a wonderful workshop last week on the power of Christian art given by Professor Eileen Daily of Loyola University, Chicago. She offered some interesting, easy steps to lead ordinary people to meditate on Christian art from many eras and artists, using some simple questions to focus.  It was an interesting experience - both when done in a small group and as an individual meditation.

The process involved each person selecting a choice from her collection of art prints removed from purchased books and mounted on cardboard - that they could hold and look at closely during the meditation and discussion time.  We were guided in terms of what to look for in certain genres. I chose the William Blake "Virgin and Child in Egypt", and Andy Warhol's "Camouflage Last Supper" paintings.  It was an "aha" moment for at least several people in the room, including me. I will never look at these in the same way.  However, there is no substitute for standing in front of a real work of art and experiencing it as the artist originally intended. Those experiences have the power to move people even more deeply.

 Daily's own journey to this work began with a powerful moment of conversion that she had in front of a painting in the Vatican Museum of Modern Religious Art, which propelled her on a personal quest that involved a career change and has involved her in academic work in this area, including writing  a teaching guide and CD-Rom called Beyond the Written Word: Exploring Faith Through Christian Art.  

Now Daily is moving her passion to the next level.  The project is to create a mobile app for phones.  The iChristian Art app will be a way to allow people to visit an art museum, stand in front of an artwork and experience it with a guide to scriptural references, symbols, and more. In effect, the art will become catechetical, but "painlessly" so that average people can learn more about scripture and its stories without sitting in a classroom or church.  Daily says, "This project started out as a book but then I realized that most people don't bring reference books to the museum. Ah, but, most people do bring their phones."  Take a look at her eloquent video explanation of what she is working on, here.

This project, however, will need about $9,000 to complete - mostly in terms of getting the hundreds of pages of texts of the meditations included.  If you can help, check out her fundraising page here

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