Story Magazine - Spring/Summer, 2009

Fine Arts Collection Brings New Depth to Biblical Stories

by Laura Kaslow, Communication Specialist

In Craig Koester's Genesis to Revelation course, students come as close as possible to witnessing biblical stories in the year 2009. Koester accomplishes this feat by incorporating music, drama and
visual art into the classroom.

"We not only read about wandering in the Sinai desert with the Israelites or traveling to Philippi or Corinth with Paul--we see as much as we can of those places as we read," says Koester.

Photos of biblical landscapes and artwork from the biblical world bring that world into the classroom,
so students gain a more vivid sense of the times and places in which the biblical narratives are set.

"Paintings from ancient Egypt show what was involved in the process of brickmaking, which we read about
in Exodus. Sculptures from Assyria show how armies captured ancient cities and took people into exile, as we read about in the book of Kings. Statues of the goddess Artemis introduce us to the religious beliefs prominent in Ephesus when Paul was there, as we find in the book of Acts," says Koester.

Paul Daniels, Luther Seminary archivist and curator, says that art, like the imagery used in Koester's course, "provides our fine teachers with another valuable tool of instruction." He notes that many faculty members regularly use artwork from the archives in their teaching, including pieces from the seminary's fine arts collection.

"Texts come alive with new vitality when they are accompanied by powerful visual images, making learning happen in very different, often challenging, ways," he says. "We have hundreds of years of great imagery at our fingertips. It's only right that we use this gift to enhance our teaching, whatever format it takes."

Beyond the use of art as a classroom tool, Luther also prominently features touring shows of premier religious art. The main purpose for the touring art shows is to expose students and the wider seminary community to the riches of a wide range of religious art.

"We aim to challenge, inform and delight our audiences with the art exhibits we bring to campus," says Daniels.

This spring Luther showcases "works of reconciliation," an exhibit by Chuck and Peg Hoffman. The Hoffmans explore relationships between art and faith, and understand prayer and art as ways to share a deeper understanding of self and community.

Their faith is so deeply woven into their work that before they begin a new painting each canvas is inscribed with a prayer, a process they describe as "permanently fusing the prayer and the painting." Named Genesis Art®, it draws from the common elements of the creation story of Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. It is guided by a time of prayerful thought and spiritual infusion.

After the Hoffman exhibit ends in June, Luther will showcase pieces from the permanent collection through the remainder of the summer. The permanent collection boasts more than 500 paintings, sculptures, textile items and photographs and continues to grow. It includes the more-than-250-piece Prodigal Son collection, gifted to the seminary by Jerry Evenrud.

"The permanent collection is important in educating students at Luther because it is broad-based in terms of subject, style, era and media. Consequently, it exposes students to a great variety of
artistic treatments of Biblical stories "We hope the outcome of this exposure is a lifelong, ministry-long appreciation for, and use of, the visual arts in proclaiming the gospel."

UPCOMING SHOWS:

Summer: Showcase of the Luther Seminary Permanent Collection
Mid-June - September
www.luthersem.edu/archives/museum.asp

Fall: Images from the St. John's Bible
September - October
www.saintjohnsbible.org

Winter: Religious Works of Rob and Diane Lawlor
Mid-December - Mid-February
www.lawlorgallery.com