Windows to Empathy and Absence: The Arts as (Re)Connective Tissue

One of my life’s continual struggles has been to name, and claim, the value of art as a worthy enterprise.  I’ve always loved art of all kinds, especially music, and yet frequently been unable to escape the nagging Puritanical feeling that creative effort is a waste of time, or “just goofing off” as opposed to what American society regards as more productive work. Continue reading

Lost in Transition: Reformations, Changed Values, Iconoclasm

Is it art?

Is it good?

Is it holy?

These definitions are constantly re-negotiated in our public spaces.  And the present time, our age of Internet and continual new technologies, seems to be a time of acceleration in this re-negotiation.

One school of thought gives way to another.

Your “holiness” may be my “blasphemy.”

Yesterday’s “good” may be tomorrow’s “What were we thinking?” Continue reading

Deep Listening: A Visit to Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church

In a way, it was an event that was fifteen years in coming.  Sometime around 2000, at a concert in the Boston area, I was told “If you’re ever in San Francisco, you have to check out Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church.”  Kind of a conspiratorial rumor, among musicians, that this was something unique. Continue reading

Transcendent Disruption


Samuel in Stained Glass Congregation Sherith Israel, San Francisco

The story starts out with, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.”  Eli, the high priest, is getting old.  He has  young Samuel, miracle child born to Hannah, to help out around the temple.  One night the boy, Samuel is sound asleep when he hears a voice calling out to him in the darkness, “Samuel, Samuel.”  Since the word of the Lord was rare in those days, Samuel assumes the voice is Eli’s voice.  After several admonitions to return to bed, Eli tells Samuel to listen again.  If the voice calls, Samuel is to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  Samuel follows the instructions.  In their private midnight conversation, God says to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.”  God is talking about a revolution, a social transformation (quoted text from I Samuel 3: 1-14 NSRV). Continue reading

Drop of the Divine

When I was first considering applying for this Arts Immersion, I will admit that I had some trepidation because I am not well-versed in the visual arts.  As a performing artist, I knew that world, and that way of looking at the world, quite well, and I felt I wouldn’t have much to offer in a class that was predominantly focused on the visual arts.

However, when I realized that the course would be taught in conjunction with the Earl Lectures, I decided it would be the best possible experience for me.  The performance art elements of the Earl Lectures (Adriene Thorne, Michael Franti, The Piper) would mesh well with the visual art that predominated the Immersion. Continue reading

The Artist’s Invitation: Répondez s’il vous plaît

In her lecture, Iconography: Making That Which is Absent Present, Dr. Rossitza Schroeder asserts that “it is the viewer who brings the icon to life” (Schroeder, 2015). She then asked her audience to ask a question about iconography: “Where is the invitation to the viewer?” (Schroeder, 2015)  These two points encapsulate for me the lasting gifts of the  Local Arts Immersion and this year’s Be|ART|Now Earl Lectures. First: art requires a viewer. The artist begins the conversation and the viewer sustains it. Second: art issues an invitation and it is the work of the viewer to find it and decide how to respond. Continue reading

…putting it into action, one baby blog step at at time (a reflection on the Earl Lectures and Being Art Now)

During worship on the second day of the Earl Lectures, Rev. Adriene Thorne demonstrated that James Weldon Johnson’s poetic meditation on the creation narrative is actually a blueprint for creating art and doing justice. She distributed a handout with this nifty blueprint and it reads as follows:

“Be-Art-Now: a cheat sheet for creating art AND justice based on The Creation:

Step out.

Look around.

Name what you are feeling.

Name what you plan to do about it.

Make yourself aware of what you are up against. Continue reading