Thursday, October 6, 2011

Let's Get Naked! // Jon Watts' "Clothe Yourself in Righteousness"

During the last week of September, these odd fliers peppered the walls of Duke Divinity School. By the end of the week, people were talking about naked Quakers and asking if there would be streaking. As the event coordinator, I made no promises.

We welcomed musician Jon Watts to campus with a call he makes in one of his own songs: "Let's Get Naked!" But this wasn't just for shock value. Jon's latest musical release, Clothe Yourself in Righteousness, is a unique project that was born out of a collaboration with Maggie Harrison. Maggie had written an academic paper on the 17th-century Quaker practice of going naked as a sign.

For the September 30 performance, co-sponsored by New Creation Arts Group and the Duke Divinity Women's Center, we were excited to have Maggie with us in addition to Jon. Maggie shared the highlights of her paper with us, hitting on the several layers of significance of going naked: recalling that Adam and Eve were created good—and naked—only putting on clothes after the fall; pointing out that Isaiah preached naked in Isaiah 20; and insisting that the call to put on the new self, to put on Christ, to clothe yourself in righteousness, requires that we first take off the false clothing we have put on to hide our shame and our vulnerability. At the end of the concert, the group had a discussion with Jon and Maggie around all this and more, rounding out the event as unique not only in content but in the way it encouraged conversation and vulnerability among those present.

I haven't even mentioned Jon's music yet. As a spoken word artist (performing here with a guitar and violin), the sound is an experience all its own. Jon is a gifted songwriter, his lyrics simple but profound at the same time, unafraid of hard truths while still inviting the listener into his questions and challenges. Lyrical gems include, "Forgiveness is the difference between heaven and hell. That's not some afterlife shit; I'm talking now"; and this one that resonated with many of us present: "You don't need a degree from seminary to know God loves you." Jon's music encourages the listeners to be honest with themselves and with each other, even in their brokenness. That vulnerability is what getting naked is all about for Jon.

Pick up Jon's album, but prepared to be surprised and challenged by it. The ideas that Jon and Maggie are pushing have the potential to call the church (and not just Quakers!) back to its identity as a loving, genuine, transformative community that can effect real change in relationships and in the world.

-- Sarah

Monday, September 26, 2011

Isaiah (I Know No Other Word) // Collaborative Art and Healing

By Stephanie Gehring

Excerpt below; original post here.

Mathew Crawford, a fellow student of mine, asked me to collaborate with him on an art project. His three-year-old son Isaiah died of leukemia only a few years ago, and in one of the first conversations I had with Mat, he told me he was at Duke in order to figure out how it was possible that the experience of caring for his son during that last illness had been both the most horrific and the most beautiful experience of his life. Mat is a photographer, and he said he had a photograph of Isaiah that, he felt, captured some of the power of the experience for him. For the collaboration, he printed this photograph for me on watercolor paper, and asked me to begin with that background and interpret freely.

Keep reading...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do You Have a Face? Or Do You Know Someone Who Does?

As part of the arts initiative through Jo Bailey Wells and Dean Hays, artist Rachel Campbell is painting a series of portraits. She has not yet finished the series, and is taking suggestions for local people whose faces you would like to see represented on the walls of the Divinity School. This is the same general initiative as the one that's giving us Saints through the Ages, but a different project. That means you can be involved in both! Here she is in her own words:

"I am creating a body of work that reflects our world as our parish. It is particularly meaningful to me as an artist to be able to paint portraits of people who might not normally have the opportunity to have their portrait painted. It is wonderful if it is meaningful to them in some way to be included in this project. So I am sourcing people from all countries, ages, and backgrounds. If anyone in the Divinity School has someone who comes to mind that they would like to celebrate in this way, perhaps someone who is unable to participate in community life through illness....or a sweet mentor...a child, they could email me about their friend. I have 7 portraits left to do (one is not here). So obviously I will not be able to include every suggestion--people need to be aware of this--but I do welcome ideas from others. I can work from photos, but it is an added bonus if I can get to meet the person if at all possible. Each portrait will hang in an area of the Divinity school, with a small plaque beside each painting telling some of the story of the person, depending on how much they would like to disclose."

To participate, please contact Rachel Campbell at

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You Too Can Be Surrounded by Saints! In Color!

As you may have seen, there are strange angled boxes installed near the floor in the Westbrook basement hallways; on the walls above them, we hope, there will soon be paintings which the Nasher (Duke's art museum) is loaning to the Divinity School. Art committees, headed by Jo Bailey Wells, with support from Dean Hays, are taking action to cure and prevent prevalent Divinity diseases like Severe Color Deprivation, Fluorescent Anemia, and Whiteboard Alarm.

The installation of windows is not yet a part of the program, but there are several series of images that are being collected for display in Langford's long, barren hallways. One of these is called Saints through the Ages, and will include between 12 and 20 portrait-like images of saints.

Here's where you come in. 20 is a small number, given how many saints there are – and “saints” here is construed in the broadest possible sense; we will include canonized Catholic, Anglican, and other saints, but also still-living Christians, in the spirit of the New Testament "sainthood of all believers." The current count of proposed saints is nearing 100, so we need help culling, as well as researching the saints, hunting for digital images (which will be mounted on sintra boards for display), and writing up the brief introduction to each saint that will appear on a plaque below his or her image.

If you'd like to spend five minutes (or five hours) surrounded by saints for this project, we'd love your help. Please contact Stephanie Gehring,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Art That Tells the Story // World Blog Tour

In order to invite people into the shared experience offered in his new book Art That Tells the Story, Chris Brewer decided to take the book on tour. However, this tour includes not book signings at your local bookstore but a series of stops around the blogosphere. Most recently, Art That Tells the Story was featured on the publication watch of our friends at DITA - Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts - and the next stop is on Jenni Simmons' blog Dreams of Genevieve.

Featuring a foreword by Makoto Fujimura, reflections by Michael Wittmer and work from 20 different artists, this book truly embodies the name of Brewer's project - Gospel Through Shared Experience. Following the contours of the Biblical narrative, the book carries the reader from creation to fall, redemption to consummation, combining exquisite visual art with reflections, poetry and Scripture. The many contributors, working through various media with different approaches, show that we all can be a part of telling the story of salvation history, that sharing the Gospel is not about reciting a historical account but about creating space within the story where all of God's children can inhabit it. This book does that beautifully, collaboratively and creatively.

Follow Art that Tells the Story on tour -

For more information or to purchase, visit -

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

After "The End" // Colt Mavity reflects on a life-changing and faith-changing play

On July 19th, 2011 at the Riverside Church Theatre in Manhattan and then again on July 23rd at University Lutheran Church in Harvard Square I was blessed to be part of a play that transcended anything I've ever witnessed within the bounds of "theater." It was an original play titled I Come To The End (the title taken from Psalm 139:18 NRSV) which I wrote and which was performed by 7 students from a rural town which most of you have never heard of in North Dakota. It was part of a larger ministry trip to New York City and Boston which sought to accomplish a "dual-pronged ministry" comprised of "basic needs ministry" (ie. serving meals to the homeless) and "ministry through the arts" (which included not only the play but an original visual art exhibit which featured original photography and paintings by the students on the trip and which was organized and curated in large part by one of our incredibly talented young photographers: high school sophomore Brittney Ann Berg).

Our group of 7 high school students was a mix of 4 Lutheran students and 3 Catholic students ranging in age from 15-18 along with 4 chaperones: University of North Dakota senior English Literature major Trista Schlosser as well as one of the foundations of the church where I work (not to mention an extraordinary photographer), Terri Houghton. Our chaperones also included two Duke Divinity grads: Toby Bonar, who was the play's live musician, as well as myself.)

A few weeks back, before just as we were about to debut the show at Riverside, Sarah Howell asked me to offer a reflection of the experience(s) of performing the play once it was complete and to post it on New Creation's blog. I immediately said I would love to, but after reflecting upon it, I think it is far better that instead of hearing from me (the youth pastor) that you hear from one of the students who was absolutely integral to the production from all the way back in March through the final scene on July 23 in Harvard Square. That person is an amazing young man named Colt Mavity.

Colt was my assistant director, a key actor, and the show included two full original poems that he penned as well. In other words, he was an essential part of the huge heart beating at the center of our remarkable play. Colt graduated a couple months ago from high school and will be attending Dakota College of Bottineau in a few weeks this fall on a basketball scholarship. I doubt that many young men on a basketball scholarship anywhere in America can act and write poetry as well as Colt. You can reach him at:

Alright Colt, take it away! -- Leif Erik Bergerud

"To say the absolute least, performing this play changed my life. It was so much more than just a play to everyone, actors, actresses, audience members, crew members, etc. Performing this play was such a spiritual journey. A bunch of random high school students were able to become a family of their own with unspoken bonds that can never be broken. All because of a play about coming to the end and going through the end this was possible. We didn't perform it for the reviews or the audience or even ouselves, but for God. Through His light this play was able to flourish to the absolute fullest.

Sitting in the audience, I believe it would be unmistakenly clear that the emotion behind each "actors'" face can come across as so real and touching to anyones heart. The reason behind that is because each individual had the same mindset that we really wanted to help somebody just by performing this play to get its message across. It didn't matter who it was for. It could have been for a spectator in the audience, the sound guy in the back, or even one of us on stage. The fact the we can all say it helped us in some way shows us that this play was without a doubt a success. I believe that it has the potential to help any single person in the entire world in some way."-- Colt Mavity.

[Photos: At upper right, Colt Mavity in rehearsals at The Avalon Theater in Minneapolis. Group Photo below: Our entire cast/crew after our debut performance and talk-back discussion session on 19 July 2011 at the Riverside Church Theater inside the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan. Left to right: Lucas Stroh, Colt Mavity, Ashley Brew, Jessen Dolechek, Leif Erik Bergerud, Trista Schlosser, Karly Houghton, Brittney Ann Berg, Tess Gaugler, Terri Houghton, Toby Bonar.]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Liturgy, Formation, Mission and Art // A Conference in Durham

On November 8-10, 2011, Duke Divinity Th.D. student and arts pastor David Taylor will host a conference on liturgy, formation, mission and art. While the focus will be on Anglican and Episcopalian traditions, it's for anyone with an appreciation for liturgy. Plenary speakers will include Sam Wells, Mark Galli, Lester Ruth and David Taylor. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Creation of Torrit Smoke // NC Filmmaker Follows Painter's Creative Process

The Indianapolis International Film Festival is currently running at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and I was able to attend a showing last night. I fell in love with the half-hour documentary "The Creation of Torrit Smoke." North Carolina filmmaker John Francis follows painter Blakely Dadson through a 4-month process of creating a painting. It is fascinating from a purely artistic, compositional standpoint, but the parts I found truly inspiring were those where Dadson talked about the creative process and the spirituality of it. He had some interesting things to say about the perils of perfectionism, the nature of art as a calling, and the way in which painting is often more like discovering something old than creating something new.

Click here to read a review of the film, or take a look at the trailer below.

"All Truth Is Hard Truth" // Thornton Dial at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of getting a tour of the Thornton Dial exhibit currently on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The exhibit is entitled "Hard Truths" (taken from a quote by Mr. Dial: "All truth is hard truth") and includes somewhere around 70 incredible pieces by the 82-year-old artist. Not only are the pieces incredible visually, Dial explores all aspects of life and society, from grief to racism to socioeconomic oppression to cultural elitism to post-9/11 America. Below is a link to an article in the New York Times that covered the opening of the exhibit in Indianapolis this past February. -- Sarah


Full article here // Excerpt below

By Carol King

THORNTON DIAL has never been one for talking much about his artwork. Ask him what inspires his monumental assemblages, made from twisted metal, tree branches, cloth, plastic toys, animal bones and all manner of found materials, and he is likely to respond tersely, as he did while showing me around his studio here one bone-chilling day last month.

“I mostly pick up stuff,” he said. “I start on a picture when I get a whole lot of stuff together. And then I look at the piece and think about life.”

Keep reading...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Artful Is God // A Hymn by Richard Hall

Artful is God, creation is his canvas
on which he paints his cosmic masterpiece:
brushstrokes both broad and delicate in detail,
colours and shapes composed in perfect peace.

Read the full hymn here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Celebrity and Iconicity: Some Preliminary Sketches // Carole Baker in The Other Journal

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Carole Baker

That contemporary America is captivated by the phenomenon of celebrity is hardly a contestable observation. Even those of us who try to limit the impact of celebrity on our life find that its tenacity is hard to overcome. Some try to overcome the impact of celebrity by willing its insignificance. But that some energy is required to will its insignificance should be an indication that, despite our best efforts, as contemporary Americans we are beholden to it. Celebrity has become the lingua franca of our society.

As I survey the relationship between celebrity and the two disciplines of theology and visual art, it may be worth stating my modest aims bluntly: by drawing attention to the phenomenon of celebrity, I hope to investigate a nagging suspicion of mine that something fundamental is missing in present enthusiasms surrounding the role of art and artists in the contemporary church. And that something entails a thicker theological account of materiality and Christian identity, an ontology and anthropology that goes beyond the typical imago dei apologetics. What follows are some preliminary sketches of these matters, and as any artist knows, preliminary sketches are just that—preliminary.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Music from The Gathering Church // Hymns Record Kickstarter Campaign

It's been a while since this blog has been updated, but this seems to be an appropriate topic for a return to posting. The Gathering Church of Durham is drawing on its congregation's phenomenal talent pool to produce an album of hymn arrangements, and they are raising money through Kickstarter to fund the project. Check out their video below, support their efforts, and look forward to some great folk-style sacred music coming soon out of the local community.

The Gathering Church is recording a new album of traditional hymns arranged in a different way with plenty of guests. It is a followup to 2010's Christmas Nights EP, a successful start to the recording vision of Chapel Hill's Gathering Church.

This project is larger in scale and needs your support. As it is a full length with guest vocalists, we need a larger recording budget and honorariums for the guests that appear on the record. Your money will go towards this and other expenses involved in manufacturing CDs and artwork along the way.

Proceeds from the recording after expenses will be split evenly between the production team and fundraising for the music ministry of the Gathering Church. Donations are to the church - a 501c3 non-profit - allowing them to be written off on your taxes.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Call for Artists // October Arts Fair at Duke Divinity's 2011 Convocation & Pastors' School

Duke Divinity School is accepting applications from artists wishing to display, demonstrate, and sell their craft during an Arts Fair that will take place Monday, October 10, on campus.

The Arts Fair is part of the 2011 Convocation & Pastors’ School, “Drawn into Scripture: Arts and the Life of the Church,” an event that will explore new ways of interpreting the Word.

There is no cost for vendors to participate in the arts fair, and artists will be accepted at the discretion of the event staff.

The application deadline is June 30, 2011. Space is limited, so artists are encouraged to apply early.

To learn more, download an application.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why the Church Needs Art // David LaMotte

Full article here // Excerpt below

By David LaMotte

To many people, art is superfluous or even distracting from what is truly important. It holds entertainment value, keeping people engaged, or perhaps pleasantly distracted, but is not substantive, and is certainly not integral. To others, it is fundamental; it is a door through which they enter into divine relationship. My heart breaks for the former category. I mourn that they do not get to feel what I feel when I am transported by a powerful piece of music (or dance or painting or sculpture or photography, etc., for that matter, though I primarily write of music here, which is my own primary artistic expression). Art is a way to worship and to be in relationship with God that cannot be replicated by other methods. It is an essential way to connect to God, and should not be discounted or minimized. There are several reasons for people of faith to take it seriously.

Keep reading...

Friday, April 15, 2011

TONIGHT AND TOMORROW in Durham // Duke Divinity School Broadway Revue

Come enjoy your favorite Broadway Tunes!
Admission is FREE!
Tickets are available at Duke Divinity School or by email request. []

Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16
Doors open at 6:30, show begins at 7:00
Hayti Heritage Center
804 Old Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Church and Art Network

Check out Church and Art Network--here's an excerpt from their website:

"Church and Art Network (C&A) is a gathering of organizations, individuals, networks, ideas, experience, and information.

We believe together that the arts were created by God as an expression of his own nature, and revealed in his Creation. He made his human works of art (poema – Ephesians 2:10) in his own image, so our creative work, whether it is overtly “religious” or not, reflects a God who is the center of the universe and the source of our abilities and materials. The arts are not merely a luxury – they deserve a place of importance in the Church, in the academy, in our communities, and in our individual lives."

At this Shelter, Art Studio Helps the Homeless Paint a Brighter Future // Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Lori Chapman

An art studio doesn't usually make anyone's list of what the homeless need.

But when Anita Beaty decided to start painting in the storefront window of a homeless shelter, people were soon looking in and asking to join.

"It seemed to me that there were lots and lots of creative people among folks who were experiencing homelessness," Beaty says.

And she would be familiar with their needs -- Beaty is the executive director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. She'd been looking for a way to combine her love of art with her passion for eliminating poverty.

Keep reading...

China Takes Dissident Artist Into Custody // Ai Weiwei and Dissent

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Andrew Jacobs

The Chinese authorities on Sunday detained Ai Weiwei, a high-profile artist and stubborn government critic, as he tried to board a plane for Hong Kong, his friends and associates said. Mr. Ai’s wife, his nephew and a number of his employees were also taken into custody during a raid on his studio on the outskirts of the capital.

Rights advocates say the detentions are an ominous sign that the Communist Party’s six-week crackdown on rights lawyers, bloggers and dissidents is spreading to the upper reaches of Chinese society. Mr. Ai, 53, the son of one of the country’s most beloved poets, is an internationally renowned artist, a documentary filmmaker and an architect who helped design the Olympic stadium in Beijing known as the Bird’s Nest.

Keep reading...


Here's another article about Ai Weiwei, his work and his arrest.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April 9 at Duke // Author-Activist Barbara Kingsolver To Receive Duke Leaf Award

Full article here // Excerpt below

Critically acclaimed American author Barbara Kingsolver is the 2011 recipient of the Duke LEAF Award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment announced Thursday.

The Duke LEAF Award was established in 2009 to honor artists whose works have lifted the human spirit by conveying humanity’s connection to the Earth, thereby inspiring others to help forge a more sustainable life for all. Actor Robert Redford received the inaugural award.

Keep reading...

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 15-16 at Duke // Catholicism and the Visual Study of Religions Interdisciplinary Humanities Conference

Friday, April 15, 2011 - 5:00pm - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - 5:00pm
0013 Westbrook

The Duke Department of Religion will hold a free conference on the role of visuality in the study of religion, with special interest in Roman Catholicism. Papers at the Catholicism and the Visual Study of Religions Interdisciplinary Humanities Conference will explore how visualizing the study of religion may assist scholars in understanding such phenomena as apparitions, visions, dreams divination, devotional practices, and the use of imagination in ritual practices such as meditation, prayer, and pilgrimage.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Illuminating the Word of God // The St. John's Bible

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Jeff Strickler

It’s impossible not to be mesmerized by the meticulous craftsmanship of The Saint John’s Bible: exquisite calligraphy done with hand-cut quills, stencils and stamps of gold powder, and pages made of calfskin gilded with gold leaf.

But it’s not an art book, insist the people who are working with it. It’s an interpretation of the Bible that incorporates ancient craft with modern-day worship, and its theological relevance goes far beyond its appearance.

Keep reading...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Completely Free to Be Vulnerable // Martha Depp on Art and Cancer

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Trent Gilliss

This afternoon we received the following email from Ben Depp, a photographer whose sister Martha, an artist and art teacher, was diagnosed with an advanced form of ovarian cancer:

“I put together a six-minute film on her art, life, and cancer. I think this is a good fit for your blog because of her spiritual journey through her cancer process, and it’s very interesting because of how she illustrated the process with painting and drawing. Her blog has touched thousands including many with terminal cancer.”

I don’t know why, but I started watching Ben’s quietly touching video, half expecting an against all odds type of story. It wasn’t to be.

Keep reading...

Tonight at Duke // "St. Paul's Conversion from Word to Music" Pre-concert Panel Discussion

Monday, March 28, 2011
7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
0014 Westbrook

Duke Chapel and Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts will sponsor a pre-concert panel discussion for a performance of Mendelssohn's St. Paul to be held April 3. There will be presentations at the panel discussion by Divinity School Dean Richard Hays, an international authority on the writings of Paul; Larry Todd, Duke University professor of music and a world-renowned authority on Mendelssohn; and Siegwart Reichwald, associate professor of musicology at Converse College and author of "The Genesis of Felix Mendelssohn's Paulus." Excerpts will be played and sung. There also will be time for questions. Admission is free.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tomorrow in Durham // Divinity Women's Center Art Show and Open-Mic Poetry

The Duke Divinity School Women's Center will kick off its art show with an open-mic poetry reading at Bean Traders on Ninth Street on March 24th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The exhibit will feature female artists’ work as well as art about women. Everyone who attends receives free drinks, compliments of The Duke Divinity School Women’s Center. Contact:

'Miral' //Julian Schnabel Discusses His New Film, a Palestinian Story

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Deborah Sontag

At an exhibition opening in Rome in 2007, Julian Schnabel, the burly artist and filmmaker known for his enormous canvases and outsize personality, met a svelte, stylish journalist who was born in Haifa and lived in Italy. As they chatted, Mr. Schnabel tried to place her accent.

“I said, ‘Are you Indian?’ ” he recollected. “She said, ‘No, I’m Israeli.’ I said, ‘So, you’re Jewish?’ She said, ‘No, I’m Palestinian.’ And then I hesitated for a moment. She said, ‘Are you scared?’ I said, ‘Should I be?’ ”

Keep reading...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wild Goose Festival // An Arts, Music, Justice and Spirituality Festival in Pittsboro

Wild Goose Festival - June 23 - 26, 2011 Shakori Hills Farm, NC from Wild Goose on Vimeo.

The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. We are followers of Jesus creating a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation. June 23-26, 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Worship in Black and White // From Christianity Today

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Reynolds Chapman

Learning the history of the black church has also taught me how to prepare and lead worship. The black church in America was formed, in part, because white churches (as majority cultures are wont to do) assumed that blacks should assimilate into white, Western culture. Thus some African instruments, such as the talking drum, were banned because they were thought to be demonic. This led me to ask, In what ways are my assumptions and impulses in preparing worship music guided by white cultural bias? The cross-cultural tensions between black and white churches are, to be sure, complex, but this historical example helped me realize that I could not simply add a few black gospel songs to the worship set, but needed to think about ways to fully integrate black and white cultures into worship.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Hymns That Keep on Going // From Christianity Today

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Robert T. Coote

There are many ways to identify the most lasting or best loved hymns among American Protestants. But what would we find by looking at all 28 hymnals published by mainline Protestant denominations from the late 1800s to the present? Out of almost 5,000 hymns, how many would appear in all 28 hymnals?

Why limit this analysis to mainline Protestant denominations? For one thing, a comparable series of hymnals from evangelical denominations from the late 1800s does not exist. And the hymnals most widely used by evangelical denominations in the past 40 years have been produced by independent publishers and therefore lack clear precedents.

Keep reading...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Shared Cultural Spaces // Islam and the West in Arts and Science

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Shubha Bala

When we think of historic Islamic scholars, it’s easy to think of philosophy and literature and forget the science. From February 24-26, the University of Minnesota’s program in Religious Studies held the Shared Cultural Spaces conference, which aimed to “explore the ways in which Muslim contributions to literature, arts, science, and architecture have influenced and become foundational to Western humanistic and scientific expressions.”

Keep reading...

One on One: Girl Talk, Computer Musician // An Interview with Greg Gillis

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Nick Bilton

Gregg Gillis, a musician who performs under the name Girl Talk, creates a unique style of music using a laptop computer to chop up and reuse mainstream pop songs. His work, which is heavily influenced by mathematics, manages to pair divergent genres of music, mixing Madonna and Black Sabbath. His work has also questioned copyright law and fair use with respect to digital music. The following is an edited version of an interview with Mr. Gillis.

Keep reading...

Worldly Actor Finds Method in a Monastery // Lambert Wilson in "Of Gods and Men"

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Sylviane Gold

ON Friday, around the time New York moviegoers arrive for an afternoon showing of the French film “Of Gods and Men,” last year’s grand prize winner at Cannes, the star, Lambert Wilson, should also be making his way to a theater. But not for a movie. In Paris it will be César night, France’s Oscar night, and Mr. Wilson is nominated for his performance as the leader of a tiny Trappist monastery in strife-torn Algeria.

Keep reading...

Charlotte Man's Poster of the Homeless Inspires and Multiplies // The Lord's Prayer and Beyond

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Elizabeth Leland

A Charlotte businessman created a poster of homeless people holding up words to The Lord's Prayer, which inspired a Winston-Salem surgeon to create a similar poster with words to a Bible verse, which in turn inspired a former teacher from Thomasville to create a poster.

Sales of the three posters have brought more than $14,000 to help the homeless.

And there's no telling where Brian Hadley's idea may turn up next.

Keep reading...


I like this idea on a basic level--visually reclaiming the Lord's Prayer on behalf of ALL God's people, and I particularly like the approach to embodying Matthew 25 with one of the other posters. And from where I'm sitting right now in my old bedroom in my parents' house in Charlotte, I can turn my head just over my right shoulder and see one of those Lord's Prayer posters on my wall. I like the poster, and I was glad to see the article in this morning's Charlotte Observer.

But I'm currently taking Amy Laura Hall's introductory Ethics course at Duke Divinity, and we recently discussed representation via media of other cultures and socioeconomic stations--a distressing conversation about how to deal with issues like poverty and development without objectifying or exploiting the human beings on whom such "issues" ultimately center. So I'm hyper-aware of problems of paternalism and the like right now, and I can't help but get mildly uncomfortable at a photo of a businessman in a suit holding a framed poster covered with images of unnamed "homeless people."

There's nothing inherently wrong going on here, and I applaud Mr. Hadley's attempt to bring the Lord's Prayer "home" in a real, jarring way, particularly with a philanthropic thrust. I just wanted to name a few things that might have made me like the article (and maybe the poster too) even more: names. Stories. Reactions. It is inspiring--to middle class folks like me--to hear how this idea has spread and raised money for organizations supporting the homeless. But I'm curious how "the homeless" feel about it. How do they understand the Lord's Prayer? Matthew 25? In simply putting together the image, we're given a hint of a reflection on such questions, but no real answer. I want to challenge people like me to be concerned with such answers.

-- Sarah

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hip-Hop Mosaic // From Faith & Leadership

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Jeff Strickler

To say that the Rev. Efrem Smith thinks outside the box isn’t entirely accurate. He doesn’t recognize the box in the first place. Not that others haven’t pointed it out to him, or even tried to put him in one from time to time. But he isn’t having any part of it.

It was an outlook he got early in life. Growing up in an integrated neighborhood in Minneapolis in the 1970s, he questioned why people gathered in segregated worship services on Sunday mornings.

Keep reading...


Efrem Smith and Curtiss DeYoung will be teaching at the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconcilation's 2011 Summer Institute.

Supercolossal Street Art // JR, "this kamizake image-maker"

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Gaby Wood

In a Paris suburb in October 2005, two teenagers of African descent were running away from the police and tried to hide inside a power substation. They were electrocuted instantly. The violence that broke out in protest of police harassment soon spread to neighboring communities and eventually to housing projects across the whole of France. When the media came to document the events in Clichy-sous-Bois, they were met with an additional, unexpected kind of confrontation: behind one of the countless cars in flames was a black-and-white photograph that was pasted onto the side of an apartment building some time before and took up its entire width. From its center, surrounded by a group of boys striking aggressive poses, a black man several times larger than life stared out, pointing with what appeared at first to be a shotgun. On closer inspection, it was a video camera. Get out, he seemed to be saying, we’re recording this too, and we’ll tell the story the way we see it.

Keep reading...

Why We Write About Grief // Memoirs as the Public Side of Grief

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Joyce Carol Oates and Meghan O'Roarke

Meghan O'Rourke: You know, writing has always been the way I make sense of the world. It’s a kind of stay against dread, and chaos. My mother was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer in 2006; she was 53, and I was 30. As her disease progressed, I found myself writing down all the experiences we had — the day she got giddily high on morphine at the doctor’s office; the afternoon we talked, painfully, about her upcoming death. It helped me externalize what was happening. After she died, I kept writing — and reading — trying to understand or just get a handle on grief, which was different from what I thought it’d be. It wasn’t merely sadness; I was full of nostalgia for my childhood, obsessed with my dream life and had a hard time sleeping or focusing on anything but my memories. I worried that all this was abnormal.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

‘Kind of Blue’: Senior Debuts Jazz-Inspired Play About Male Identity // UNC Student Kuamel Stewart

Full article here // Excerpt below

Senior communication studies major Kuamel Stewart is passionate about jazz music and playwriting. He combines those two loves into one with the Feb. 23 debut of “Kind of Blue,” a play he wrote that explores male identity. The title of the play comes from the 1959 Miles Davis’ modal jazz album, “Kind of Blue.”


Preview night is 6 p.m. Feb. 23. The play will be performed Feb. 24-28 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 26-27 at 2 p.m in Playmakers Theatre, 202 E. Cameron Ave. After the Feb. 24 show, theater-goers can enjoy a free live performance of Miles Davis’ iconic album at 10 p.m. in Room 1201 of the Kenan Music Building as part of the Carolina Jazz Festival. Free tickets to the play are available at the Memorial Hall Box Office in person, by calling (919) 843-3333 or online at On March 1, the cast and crew will hold a “talk back” session to further explore the themes of masculinity at 7 p.m. in the Carmichael Dormitory ballroom.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is the Future of Traditional Church Music? // From the Daily Episcopalian

Full article here // Excerpt below

By George Clifford

Recently, I’ve participated in, or overheard, several conversations about church music. A well-known, respected authority on Episcopal liturgy openly declined to attend Morning Prayer at a conference we both attended because the service included Taizé music. These experiences evoked memories of conversations in my former parish between parishioners who wanted a variety of contemporary music (Taizé, jazz, guitars, praise choruses, etc.) and those who wanted only traditional music (i.e., classical, chant, or from the 1982 Hymnal).

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Singing Hallelujah with Fear in Your Heart // Arcade Fire and the Suburban Soul

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Paul Harvey

Has there been a major pop group more concerned with exploring personal anxieties, aspirations, and narratives through music defined so fundamentally by religious themes? The turmoil and paranoia of the last decade—wars, attacks, economic crashes, myriad color-coded fears—run through Arcade Fire’s three full-length records: Funeral, Neon Bible, and The Suburbs. The newest effort induces a tour of previous decades, when suburbia seemed (but only seemed) to offer placidity and refuge from the wilderness downtown.


From their debut, Funeral, and then most obviously and grandiosely in their last production, Neon Bible, religious desire, frustration, and anger define the lyrics. For some of the band’s critics, the group lays it on a bit thick. On Neon Bible, a crashing church organ accompanies a song about crippling inhibition and self-consciousness:

My body is a cage
that keeps me from dancing with the one I love
but my mind holds the key

set my body free, set my spirit free...

And a symphonic explosion of sound highlights the climax to “Intervention”:

Been working for the church while your life falls apart
been singing hallelujah with the fear in your heart

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What Does Mercy Look Like? // From NY Times' Lens Blog

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Niko Koppel

Mercy is commonly defined as compassion, forgiveness, kindness or an act of piety. But photographs of prisoners reaching through bars, a wrestler being contorted by masked men and an infant dressed for burial are among the many interpretations of the word in the book “The Mercy Project/Inochi,” created and curated by James Whitlow Delano.

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Haiti’s Scars, and Its Soul, Find Healing on Walls // Haitian Murals Find Sanctuary in Restoration Project

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Damien Cave

Colorful and sad, beautiful but cracked, the three remaining murals of the Episcopal Trinity Cathedral received the soft afternoon sun after last year’s earthquake only because the rest of the church had collapsed.

Haitians walking by looked heartbroken. All 14 murals had been internationally treasured. Painted in the early 1950s during an artistic renaissance here, they depicted biblical scenes from a proud, local point of view: with Jesus carrying a Haitian flag as he ascended to heaven; and a last supper that, unlike some famous depictions, does not portray Judas with darker skin than the other disciples.

“All of this was painted from a Haitian perspective,” said the Rev. David César, the church’s main priest and its music school director. He marveled at the image miraculously still standing: Judas, with the white beard and wavy white hair often assigned to God himself.

It was his favorite mural, he said, and now, it is being saved.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

North Africa's Hip Hop Protest Music // On the Media

Full story here

In the midst of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the protests elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East, a group of Libyan exiles who run a website called Khalas noticed one surprising common thread in the voicing of discontent … rap music. Across the region rap artists were providing the soundtrack to protests in the streets. So Khalas decided to contribute by releasing a mixtape of their own. Khalas co-founder Abdulla Darrat talks about the influence of hip hop in this latest round of protests.

Tonight at Duke // 'Jazz Mama' Documentary Showing

'Jazz Mama' documentary film screening and discussion with filmmaker Petna Ndaliko and African Studies scholar Chérie Rivers

Tuesday, February 22 @ 6:45pm
0014 Westbrook
FREE Pizza & Beverages

Does the media’s focus on stories of violence condition us to overlook the strength, resiliency and hope of women in Congo?
Jazz Mama is both a film and a movement inspired by the uncompromising strength and dignity of Congolese women, despite the obstacles and violence they face. Jazz Mama aims to bring awareness to gender-based violence in Congo without reducing the women to victims whose lives are circumscribed by rape. While sexual violence is a devastating problem, these women are often not only survivors but pillars of the community.

Film Chronicles Persecution of Monks in Algeria // "Of Gods and Men"

Full article here // Excerpt below

"Of Gods and Men" is a French film that's set in a monastery in Algeria in the 1990s. It's loosely based on the story of seven monks who were kidnapped and decapitated in 1996. At the time, Algeria was facing a violent Islamist insurgency.


"Of Gods and Men" has been a surprisingly successful film at the box office in France. And the actor who plays Brother Christian, the prior of the monastery, is a very well-known French movie star, Lambert Wilson, who is better known in this country for playing the Merovingian in "The Matrix" movies and who joins us from New York.

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Juror for New Creation's 2011 Juried Arts Exhibit Announced

The juror for NCAG's 2011 Juried Arts Exhibit, Carolyn Butler, is a North Carolina-based artist working in digital and new media. Her work has been shown throughout the south and northeast, winning awards at the Green Rice Gallery, in Charlotte, NC and the Reece Museum in Johnson City, TN. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Duke Youth Academy at Duke University, and recently was awarded an artist residency at the prestigious Vermont Studio Center. Butler received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and will complete the MFA program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill this spring.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Playing for Change // Songs Around The World

You've probably seen at least one of the videos from this album (like the one below), but be sure to check out the entire project from Playing for Change.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Monday at Duke // Free Show in Reynolds Auditorium: Mayda Del Valle

Mayda Del Valle (2001 National Poetry Slam Winner)

Monday, February 14 @ 8:00 p.m.
Reynolds Theater, Duke University

More info

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Photography and the Education of a Doctor // Learning from Patients

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Lucy Hood

A stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and a few other tools are all pediatrician John Moses needs to obtain basic information about the health of his patients. But when he wants to go beyond the clinical setting and find out more about their health issues -- the whys and wherefores of teen pregnancy, for example - he puts the medical instruments down and picks up a camera.

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“Enhancing My Medical Education Through Photography," A Talk By Pediatrician/Photographer John Moses from Center for Documentary Studies on Vimeo.

Drawn Into Scripture: Arts and the Life of the Church // 2011 Convocation & Pastors’ School @ Duke Divinity

While the church’s celebrations and teachings follow a steady cadence, we continue to seek new and vibrant ways of interpreting the Word. The arts – in their varied forms – can provide a source of inspiration.

Join us as professor and musician Jeremy Begbie, author Marilynne Robinson, professor and musician Anthony Kelley and the BLAK Ensemble, and the Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel help us explore art’s illuminating power.

Together, we will experience the scriptures from a new perspective and find imaginative ways of expanding the life of the church.

More info

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In London, Climate Change Comes to the Stage // "Greenland" at the National Theater

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Matt Wolf

It’s not often that the mundane activities of an audience directly fly in the face of what is happening on stage. But there I was the other night at “Greenland,” the National Theatre’s admonitory potpourri of a drama about climate change, when I became all too aware of my fellow spectators crumpling packets of this or that or popping plastic water bottles like (very) cheap champagne.

“Hang on!” I wanted to call out, as images of the plastic trash-turned-land mass that is gradually despoiling our earth unfurled before me. (The production runs in repertory at the Lyttelton through April 2). “Is no one paying this show any heed?” Or perhaps the sorry truth is that even plays considerably better than “Greenland” can hector till the cows come home, and yet we still aren’t as conscientious as we ought to be. Recycle, recycle, recycle, I muttered all the way home.

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Learning How to Transpose // How the Arts Inform Christianity

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Wes (Transpositions)

...What are the methods for putting the arts in conversation with Christian thought and practice? How do we describe the relationship between the arts and Christianity in the context of interdisciplinary studies?

One relationship we should discount right away is illustration. If we are going to take the conversation between the arts and Christianity seriously, we have to move beyond thinking about the arts as mere illustrative tools for theological reality. Even though Christians are really good at “finding God at the movies” and other methods of mining the arts for truth, I believe that the arts have more to offer than this.

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The Glen Workshop // Acts of Attention: Art as Discovery

The Glen Workshop is a unique opportunity offered by Image. Pick up a brochure from the bulletin boards above the student folders or next to the student lounge, or get more info below.


The Glen Workshop 2011

Writing classes. Art classes. A seminar on arts and aesthetics. A retreat option. The Glen Workshop combines an intensive learning experience with a lively festival of the arts.

Glen East, in its first year, will be held in the Pioneer Valley, one of New England’s most beautiful and intellectually vibrant spots, home to some of the country’s oldest renowned colleges and known for the natural beauty of the Connecticut River and rolling green terrain.

Glen West, celebrating seventeen years, takes place in the stark, dramatic beauty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and within easy reach of the rich cultural, artistic, and spiritual traditions of northern New Mexico.

More info

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

At Night, Protest Gives Way to Poetry // Poetry and Performances in Tahrir Square

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Anthony Shadid

It was a few minutes after midnight on Sunday, when an unaccustomed rain washed Cairo’s somnolent streets, as Ahmed Abdel-Moneim walked with friends across a bridge that was a passageway to a parallel capital in Tahrir Square, an idea as much as a place.

“My vision goes a lot farther than what my eyes can see,” he said.

Egypt’s revolution is a contest of ultimatums — chaos and revolution, freedom and submission — but its arena of Tahrir Square becomes quieter at night, the cacophony of rebellion giving way to a stage of poetry, performance and politics.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Call for Submissions // 2011 Juried Arts Exhibit: "Places of Redemption"

Submissions for the 2011 Juried Arts Exhibit will be accepted March 16-18, 2011. Guidelines and submission forms will be available in a folder above the student mailboxes or as downloadable PDFs from the New Creation website (click here).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google Takes Street View Into Art Museums // Art Project Preview

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Nick Bilton

Now that Google has conquered a majority of the earth’s major streets with its Google Street View project, the company is starting to move inside. It’s creating the Google Art Project, a virtual equivalent of 17 major art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Britain and National Gallery in London, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, among many others.

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Sing Praises to God // Charles Pettee & FolkPsalm on Faith & Leadership

Full article here // Excerpt below

Musician Charles Pettee was reading a psalm one day when it occurred to him: This is a song! He began writing music based on Scripture and founded FolkPsalm, a band with a changing set of members ranging from Pettee performing solo to a full seven-piece band. Pettee hopes to make the ancient texts -- and their expression of God’s grace -- more accessible to audiences.

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For those of you who were present when Charles and the group led worship in Goodson Chapel on January 19--or if you have seen or heard of FolkPsalm in other settings--what do you think of this project? Did you know that Charles often works with Duke Divinity professor Ellen Davis on texts for his songwriting? -- Sarah

Does One Need Sight to Grasp the World? // Brian Friel's 'Molly Sweeney' at Irish Rep (and Ken Medema)

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Ken Jaworowski

It takes two hours to watch “Molly Sweeney” at the Irish Repertory Theater. But you’ll spend much more time thinking about it afterward. A deeply moving meditation on hope, change and despair, it’s a compelling piece of theater, one in which the ending applause is only the beginning of the play’s effects.

Molly, who has been blind almost since birth, starts off by recounting her life, one blessed with friends and a recent marriage. Her ever-enthusiastic husband, Frank, embarks on a plan to restore her sight and seeks out Mr. Rice, a once-promising eye surgeon who has gone into near-seclusion. “What has she to lose?” Mr. Rice asks as
he agrees to operate on her. That question will haunt them all.

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Sidebar: This past weekend at the Calvin
Symposium on Worship, I was blessed to be in a worship service and a songwriting workshop led by Ken Medema. Though blind from birth, Ken is one of the most effective songwriters and worship leaders I have come across. I encourage you to check out his work, and to consider this question: how do you think the lack of one of the five senses might hinder--or enhance--one's appreciation and/or creation of art and beauty?
-- Sarah

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lee Smith: A lifetime of paying attention | Faith & Leadership

See my latest interview with one of the iconic Southern writers of our time:

Lee Smith: A lifetime of paying attention | Faith & Leadership

Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing the Play His Curiosity Led Him To // Playwright Matthew Lopez and 'The Whipping Man'

Full article here // Excerpt below

By Felicia R. Lee

Matthew Lopez is ready for the question but continues to refine the answer. How did he, a self-described “foxhole Episcopalian” from the Florida Panhandle, the son of a Puerto Rican father and a Polish-Russian mother, come to write a play about a Jewish Confederate soldier and two former slaves raised as Jews who, in the charred wreck of a Virginia home after the Civil War, celebrate Passover together?

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On a similar subject (sort of), a book club at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham looked this past month at Dara Horn's novel All Other Nights, about a Jewish spy in the Civil War.