Ministry of Art
Windows to the Future
Father Tom Brown was a member of the art faculty for forty years, and examples of his work can still be found throughout the campus. One of these is the ‘Windows to the Future’ sculpture near Willer Hall. We can get some sense of the panorama of past and future in this work from
a ground view beside it. However, there was always more to the story with
this artist. When the work was dedicated, Fr. Tom pointed out
that, from the sky, the sculpture is in the shape of a Tau cross symbolizing lifelong fidelity. Those who remember Fr. Tom can understand this perspective.
Judith Winkelmann was a student and protégé of Fr. Tom for many years and is now developing a digital and print collection of his many works. “Fr. Tom Brown was more than an advisor and professor,” Winkelmann said. “He was like family.”
Winkelmann describes Fr. Tom as having a wonderful sense of humor and a Franciscan view of the world around him. This ability to see things differently allowed Fr. Tom to understand and appreciate beauty in places the average person might not.
Father Tom was a key component in establishing the Art Department at Quincy University, and he inspired his students by taking them on trips where they could experience the art they were learning about first hand.
During these trips he would take photos and work up entire programs for classes in hopes of promoting fine arts to other students.
Mrs. Winkelmann, who got a chance to really know Fr. Tom over the years, devoted years researching and restoring thousands of pieces he created. Brown worked with many different mediums during his lifetime including stained glass, wood, ceramics, metal, photography, oil, acrylic, and even watercolor. Some of the recovered pieces are being housed at the Sacred Heart Province on Meramec Street, in St. Louis, MO.- by Candace Gosney
The Franciscan Way weaves together the sacred and the secular, the holy and the human, the spiritual and the natural, artistic expressions and the meaning they express and bring about. The ongoing experience of the Incarnation transforms the burning bush into an encounter with God’s presence, the cluster of musical notes into a song of praise, the materials on a canvas into a glance into the divine.
For this reason, then, Franciscan friars, as heralds of the Good News, use all forms of expression to engage their senses, their hearts, and their minds in order to speak of God’s presence and action in the world. Since faith is a sacramental and symbolic process, so the arts – steeped in the same expressive qualities – can touch the soul. Hence, the arts have always been an integral part of the ministry of the Friars Minor. From the earliest days of the Order, friars have been patrons of the arts, friends of artists and artists in their own right. Their presence, their engagement, and their practice have been and can be both witness to and messenger of the Gospel.
Art is the pan-cultural expression of the ultimate realities of the human person in relationship. St. Bonaventure wrote in his Major Life of St. Francis that Francis came to know God as Beauty Itself. If God is the ultimate reality of the Christian experience of life, then the artist has a responsibility and a calling to express, in any form, this Beauty. Art is a gift to humankind, a necessary and often challenging avenue to Beauty Itself. The artist, as servant, strives to give form to his or her experiences of life and God, so that the one perceiving his or her artistic expression can also come to know the confluence of the human and the divine.
The creativity of art is a part of every human being for all are called to use what is most intimately and identifiably theirs to bring forth into light the deepest revelation of their significance and purpose, especially to acknowledge God and to show God to others. All are capable of creating “divine possibilities.” All, then, are called to find that particular medium for which a person is best suited, whether it be making music, doing theater, gardening, building churches, constructing furniture, writing, creating works of graphic art, or cooking a meal. The creativity of art, then, is both grace and work.
The Franciscan friars of Sacred Heart Province have been deeply imbued with the ministry of art throughout the 150 years of its foundation. One of early acknowledged artists was Adrian Wewer OFM, an architect, who drew up plans for churches and schools across the country and especially in the Midwest. The printed word, especially through the efforts of the former Franciscan Herald Press, incarnated thoughts pertaining to everything from philosophy to hagiography to poetry. Friar musicians of the past have embodied the lofty thoughts and profound feelings of the “God experience.”
Among the friars of the province there is an immediacy in the performing arts that is not unlike the immediacy one experiences in sacramental ministry. Dance, music, and theater in all their forms express the joys and sorrows of humanity. The enigma of human life is sanctified by the Incarnation and the performing arts bear witness to the truth, goodness, and beauty of our universe. Those are three classic attributes of God. The performing arts, as manifestations of the creative power of God, reveal “in the moment” the Incarnation, the love between God and God’s People. Artistic performance has the ability to bring people to God, and that is the sole purpose of any form of ministry.
Humanity has always used the visual arts to record experience, to comment on events, and to search for meaning. As followers of Francis of Assisi, friars stand in the tradition of knowing, living, and proclaiming the meaning found in the relationship with God, with others, and with the world. Friars who are artists or who are involved with the visual arts are participating in a traditional avenue of human expression. They minister by presence and bring their Franciscan values to art's continuing conversation about the human condition.
One expression of the visual arts is art therapy. Some friars have seen how the very act of art-making generates increased self-knowledge and gives the artists further insights into the world around them. Through the creative process people can find ways to cope with stress and traumatic experiences; enhance their spiritual, physical and cognitive development; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.
Jerry Bleem OFM, Benet Fonck OFM, Bob Hutmacher OFM, Joe Manning OFM, and David Rodriguez OFM
Please consider becoming an active partner in supporting our ministries, our work and our lives.
MAKE A DONATION
Do you feel called to the Franciscan way of life.? We can help you become more familiar with us and guide you along the path to a fulfilling life.
We would love to be aware of and share in your intentions at our daily masses and during our prayers.