The inaugural Faith in Arts Institute hosted by UNC Asheville and the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, intended for anyone interested in the role of art in religious and spiritual experience, will be led and facilitated by artists and scholars. The number of participants for the institute itself will be limited to create the possibility for rich and meaningful dialogue and engagement among the participants and faculty.
In addition to talks on religion and art in the 21st century, sacred art in secular spaces/secular art in sacred spaces, and small group discussions on topics including devotion and discipline, revelation and inspiration, faith and hope, ritual and routine, vision and imagination, the institute will include several workshops:
Telling Interfaith Stories with Objects: A Group Curated Exhibition
Can an object move us beyond the visual to an evocation, or the recalling of a feeling, memory, or experience? In this opening workshop, we will use ordinary and ritual objects to tell stories about our connections to faith, the spiritual, creativity, or the divine. Prior to the start of the Institute, each participant will select a single object and write their story as a brief narrative. What kind of object will you choose–a ritual object used for a spiritual or religious practice or an ordinary object that has special meaning for your faith or experience of the divine; a handmade or one-of-a-kind object or a manufactured object; an object used daily, weekly, seasonally, annually or one used only on rare occasions or maybe never used at all? Each participant will have a few minutes to present his or her object and narrative to the group, and then in the second part of the workshop, workshop leader Julie Caro will lead the group as they curate their objects into an exhibition in UNC Asheville’s Highsmith Gallery.
The Making of the Mandala
Following a lecture on the evolution of Hindu-Buddhist mandalas from their historic origins to their contemporary contexts, Pamela Winfield’s workshop will offer participants the opportunity to put theory into practice and make a mandala for themselves. They may choose to model their constructions on the historic precedents mentioned in the lecture, or they may adopt a more westernized approach to individual expression.
Girls in Trouble: Midrash Making
How can sacred Jewish texts help us understand the intimate emotional and spiritual experiences of our contemporary lives? How can we contextualize our own questions, wisdom and stories within the world of Jewish legend? For thousands of years, the tradition of midrash—creative commentary on Jewish texts, much like modern fan fic—has provided an interface between sacred Jewish texts and the messy glories of everyday life. In this session, contemporary midrashist Alicia Jo Rabins will share some insights from her own practice of interpreting stories of Biblical women through her Girls in Trouble song cycle, as well as re-imagining kabbalistic ideas into poems. Then we will each create our own midrashim through words, movement, music or visual art, telling our own stories—or exploring a current internal question—in conversation with a sacred Jewish text.
Contemplative practices—deep listening, beholding, phrase and embodied practices—will be integrated throughout the institute.