Beyond Aesthetics


At the community level, art participates in securing society’s heritage for future generations. It does so by contributing to the ongoing remembrance of the near and distant past, and through current practitioners’ re-interpretation of community memory into their own original works. That which a community values most is often memorialized through monument, ritual, and public display.

For the individual within a community, art offers a means of recognition and self-identification within a larger body. On a global scale, art offers a visual language for cross-cultural appreciation of the varied expressions of religious devotion and piety in our current global narrative.

Formation programs that intentionally increase the use of visual arts assist participants in developing a visual sensitivity to what they see, both inside and outside of their local church community. Potential intelligences that develop from arts-inclusive programming include:

1) recognizing the elements and principles of design;

2) building a visual vocabulary that relates to inter-personal relationships, scripture, worship, and spirituality;

3) inquiring about the life and times of artists and the circumstances within which a particular piece of art was created;

4) developing personal preference that is distinct from community;

5) exercising the right to choose whether they like or do not like a piece of art; and,

6) developing a personal approach to extracting meaning from a piece of art through meditation, journaling, discussion, and other methods of appreciative inquiry.

Considering the growth of media into contemporary society, the pastoral implications of visual literacy upon community membership are indisputable. The best arts programming is local and organic. If you have an arts program in your area, the Art Blog would like to hear about it. Send us a note about what’s working, what isn’t, what’s hoped for, and what’s planned. We’ll feature a selection in upcoming posts in 2010. Write to

On View: The paintings of Ruth Councell. Above, Fear Not, 2008. Oil on canvas, 36″ x 36″.

About the Artist: Ruth Councell has been a freelance artist for over thirty years. She studied art at the University of Redlands, California, and at the College of Creative Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. She has worked in graphic design, and is the illustrator of six books for children, several of which earned national honors. She is currently co-chair of the New Jersey Chapter of The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts, and this fall will be teaching at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts in Princeton.

Past Posts