Christian art

Thursday, April 5, 2007
Artist Ron Brown sat in front of one of his faith-based paintings in Carbonbdale, Ill. (Pamela Kay Schmalenberger ~ The Southern)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For centuries, the church was the main patron of the arts in the Christian world. Artists such as Michelangelo were commissioned to create works that still amaze the world today, hundreds of years later.

Then, for one reason or another, Biblical art fell out of the mainstream, and less and less of it was created on the same grand scale.

"It was actually more like artists fell away from it," Kentaya Brown said, "with the whole movement of art being self-expression, not just a means of making money.

"You can have that self-expression, but you can also bring in the biblical part of it, as well."

Brown has started a new organization called "Wisdom Living," with the mission of promoting interest in and encouraging the creation of quality Christian art.

The first major event is a Biblical Arts Competition in September, designed to showcase the talent and reward the efforts of outstanding Bible-based art, as well as provide an opportunity for an artist to sell their work.

It must be a personal and original interpretation of a Biblical event, person, saying or place taken from the Holy Bible.

The idea for "Wisdom Living" stems from her husband, Ron's, experience as an artist. He's been painting for the last 10 years, but it's been part of his life for much longer.

"I actually started in second grade drawing portraits," he said. "It's a gift. I'd rather be painting than doing anything else."

In 2002 and 2003, he painted his first Biblical artwork, and gave his first pieces to the church.

"I believe in first fruits," he said, "to give it to the church and have them profit off it instead of me."

Most recently, Ron and Kentaya's church, Victory Christian Center of Southern Illinois, has given Ron the opportunity to display his work in their sanctuary.

Through these experiences, the idea came to form an organization to provide a community for Christian artists and a forum for them to sell and possibly display their artwork.

"There are people who, like Ron, work a full-time job and do this on the side and we want to give them an opportunity to show what they've been doing in their basement, that work that just doesn't seem to fit in the art world at large," Kentaya said.

It begins with the Biblical Arts Competition, but they hope to eventually have a full arts and crafts festival associated with it.

"Just to give the subject matter of biblical art it's time in the spotlight," Kentaya said, "an avenue for people to be in the competition and get recognition for their work and give it a niche in the art community."

So far, it's been difficult to find other Christian artists who deal with Biblical art, as opposed to artists who are Christians.

"We're going to find them," Kentaya said. "We're on a mission."

The call for entries is out and the deadline for submissions is Aug. 24. The Browns are hoping to have a large response to their call from artists that might be "hiding in the woodwork," so to speak, because of the lack of other artists in the genre.

"The fear of a lot of artists who are Christians is 'can we sustain ourselves in life by painting Christian themes,"' Ron said. "We want to take the fear out of it."

"Don't be afraid," Kentaya added. "You never know until people see what you're doing ... Don't afraid to be judged, because even those people that may not win the first, second or third prize, it doesn't mean that the work is not valuable."

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