Welcome to the March 2009 Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. Webzine

Welcome to the e-magazine/blog for Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h., the Inland Empire's Christian fine arts organization! We hope you will find this to be a useful, enjoyable and worthwhile resource. Here are the newest items in the blog. Just click on the titles to go to the articles:

God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins- Poetry Corner

It Builds Character- Master Class for Better Characters in Playwriting

March Happenings- Artistic Events Around the Inland Empire

Bookclub Discussion Questions for our first quarter of 2009

Fine Arts Bible Study #5

Artist Profile: Sandra Bowden

Art and Race from a Christian Perspective

The Cafe for March

Local Profile: Laura Kramer and Psalm 23 Jewelry

Juried Art Show in Ontario

Christian Songwriter's Showcase

So, brew a cup of coffee, herbal tea, or whatever you like, and stay a while. This page will be updated monthly with new articles and interviews. Enjoy!
You are part of a growing group.

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So, what is Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h? This is a place for Christian artists in the Inland Empire of Southern California to mix, network, relax, share, and learn. What types of Christian artists?
1. Visual arts (sculpture, painting, glass blowing, etc.)
2. Dance (performing, choreography, etc. )
3. Music (playing, writing, learning, singing, etc.)
4. Creative writing (poetry, stories, etc.)
5. Drama/theater (acting, playwriting, directing, etc.)
6. ??????

Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. is for Christian artists: simply, people who are Christians and who are also artists. Some Christian artists make art exclusively for Christians, but many use their talents in secular ways as well (writing screenplays for television, jingles, playing in a philharmonic orchestra, acting in a community theater, displaying their paintings in a gallery, etc.) All are welcome here.

Christians follow the Creator of the Universe, and therefore should be the most creative people in the world. The church has historically been the patron of great artists. Hildegard, the writer of the very first opera, was a nun. Michelangelo, Donatello, Edward Hicks, and many others made art for church and used church subjects.

But, today, Christian art is not considered "forward" or "interesting" in many circles. This reputation is well-deserved in most cases. Christian art has become a punchline. In our own little way we hope to change some of that perception.

What does Artist's Work B.e.n.c.h. stand for?
B=BUILD new Christian artists, ministries, avenues.
E=ENCOURAGE Christian artists to use their talents.
N=NETWORK with Christian artists, churches.
C=COORDINATE opportunities for Christian artists to use/exhibit their talents.
H=HELP Christian artists and help churches utilize artists.

This group is for people who fit one or more of these categories:
1.) Just starting out
2.)Being used mightily for God
4.)Seasoned professional
6.) Talented amateur
7.)Wanting to learn/improve
8.)Not sure if God can use your talent
9.)Good enough to teach others
10.)Wondering if your talent (flower arranging, calligraphy, photography, etc.) even qualifies as art.

Christian artists--unite! Let's be creative, interesting, and forward thinking enough to lead the artistic world, while still making quality pieces that reflect our worldview.

February Christian Songwriter's Showcase

A crowd of 40-50 people packed GFE Coffee House on February 28 to listen to three inspiring area songwriters play and sing their original music. Here are some pictures of the evening.

Above: Andrew Rios of Chino played some of the worship songs he has written, including a song called "Awesome God." Some of the lyrics include: You never forsake me/You’re always by my side/Whenever I’m in darkness/You’re here to be my light/And when I’m down and lonely/You’re here to pick me up/And when I’m hot and thirsty/You’re here to fill my cup/You are an awesome God." © 2004 Andrewrios Music. You can find out more about Andrew here.

Above: Janelle Burris shares her soulful music with the crowd. A recent graduate of Cal Baptist, she now lives in Santa Ana. Her influences are Imogen Heap, Lizz Wright, Regina Spektor and Joni Mitchell. Learn more about Janelle on her MySpace page here.

Marie Galloway from San Bernardino ended the evening with her crowd-pleasing Gospel-tinged songs. She attends Gateway Christian Fellowship, and it seems like half the congregation came out to support her. She has many interesting original songs that are polished and professional sounding. Her clear voice rang through the coffee shop and even attracted passers-by.

The next Christian Songwriter's Showcase will be March 28 from 4:30-6:30 at GFE in Highland (in the Albertson's shopping center on the corner of Boulder and Baseline). Admission is free. If you have questions or if you might be interested in playing your songs at an upcoming showcase, e-mail Todd at epistrophy@aol.com.

To get directions to GFE, click here.

Juried Art Show- Get Your Art in a Museum and Possibly Win a Little Cash

2009 is a banner year for artists in the Inland Empire because the Museum of History and Art in Ontario is hosting its biannual Ontario Open Art Exhibition.

All artists are eligible to hand deliver their visual artwork submissions. The museum is accepting two-dimensional and three-dimensional artworks of all media. Electronic artwork will not be accepted.

The 2009 awards juror is Bob Smith, known for his accomplishments and leadership in teaching at Chaffey College from 1956-1996. He taught a wide variety of art classes including Art History, Drawing, Painting, Design, Photography, Film, and TV History. He is also a celebrated painter in his own right, and a musician.

The drop-off dates for submitting artwork are from 12:00-4:30 on Friday, April 3, and from 10:00-4:30 on Saturday, April 4. There is a fee to enter your artwork, and only checks or cash are accepted. The fee for museum members is $20 for 1 entry or $30 for 2, and for non-members, the fee is $25 for 1 entry and $40 for 2. Each artist can only submit up to two pieces.

The juried winners will be awarded $500 for First Place, $300 for Second Place, $200 for Third Place, and $75 for an Honorable Mention award (up to four Honorable Mentions are selected).

Call for more information: (909) 983-3198.

There will be a reception and awards ceremony on April 24, and some or all of the artworks entered will be displayed in the museum (depending on the quality and number of entries) from April 24-June 14, 2009.

For those who want to see the museum, it is open Thursday through Sunday from 12:00-4:00 P.M. and admission is free. The museum is located at 225 South Euclid Avenue in Ontario, California.

Pictured above: Three winners from the 2007 Ontario Open Art Exhibition. Clockwise from top left: Antonio Pelayo, 1st Place; Esther Reeves, 2nd Place; Chick Curtis, 3rd Place.

Local Profile: Laura Kramer and Psalm 23 Jewelry: Turning a Hobby into a Witness and a Business

In the year 2000, Laura Kramer had surgery on both feet and was laid up in bed for four weeks. A kind friend brought some beads and taught her to make jewelry to pass the time. Originally Kramer intended to make the jewelry for herself, but soon she began giving some pieces away as gifts to friends who came to visit her during recovery. Before the mandated four weeks in bed were up, people were sending in orders to buy her jewelry designs. Kramer continued making jewelry as a hobby but had little ambition at the time to make it a vocation.

Three years later Fraser Venter, the pastor of Laura’s church, Cucamonga Christian Fellowship in Rancho Cucamonga, preached a series on Psalm 23. In the sermon series, he challenged each person to think about the Psalm daily. Laura Kramer said, “I usually need something tangible to help me have a focal point in my daily reflections. I would read the Psalm, but I felt that there had to be a better way to reflect on and memorize it while going throughout my daily routine. “
Using her jewelry making talents, Laura created the Psalm 23 bracelet. Every crystal and bead in the bracelet is thoughtfully and prayerfully selected to relate to the lines in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd (white crystal); I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures (green crystal),
He leads me beside quiet waters (blue crystal),
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness (clear crystal) for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (black crystal),
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff (brown crystal), they comfort me.

You prepare a table (brown crystal) before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil (yellow crystal); my cup (purple crystal) overflows.
Surely goodness and love (pink crystal) will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord (gold crystal) forever.

In 2004 Kramer used her talents to launch a business, Laura K Designs, with the Psalm 23 Jewelry Collection as the flagship line. She says, “Having your own business can create many stresses, but it also creates the realization that learning and going to school is a daily occurrence. You are constantly learning new methods or tips on how to effectively grow your business. The joy comes when you hear the impact you’ve had, both within the organization and by the development of new jewelry.”

Many pieces sold by the company come with a CD entitled “Psalm 23: A Message of Hope,” which includes Pastor Venter’s sermon series that inspired Laura to make the Psalm 23 bracelet, as well as Laura’s own personal testimony. Laura K Designs also has a partnership with Diversified Industries/OPARC, an employment training service for adults with developmental and vocational disabilities. Many of Psalm 23’s pieces are packaged by OPARC clients who are employed specifically to help Laura’s business. Diversified's capable staff of about 200 employees are located within minutes of Laura K Designs’ offices in Rancho Cucamonga.

As if she isn’t busy enough running her own business and creating her original jewelry, Laura Kramer has become an inspirational speaker. She speaks to women’s groups and to groups of adolescent girls. Kramer says, “I prayed for any opportunity in any kind of forum to have a chance to be vulnerable and real in order to inspire others to get on their own journey and believe God would meet them where they’re at. I have walked through the valley and God has brought me up our of that darkness. I will share God’s hope in any way I can.”

Laura has this advice to anyone interested in learning how to make jewelry. “If you have a local bead store, the first step would be to visit one and take some classes there. This is probably the best method for getting a feel of what types of jewelry you’d like to pursue. Most bead stores have classes taught on various ways of creating many designs. A great local store in Upland is Garden of Beaden (http://www.gardenofbeadenupland.com). Irene, the owner, was a great help in the early days.”

Her church further helps her develop her artistic talents. “Art, and its expression, has become a wonderful piece of our Wednesday evening prayer services,” she says. “We have a few college students who will paint, mostly using just their hands, to create art that is now being displayed in our sanctuary. It is their form of worship.”

During one recent Wednesday evening prayer service, a sermon was given on the different styles of worship. One style mentioned, “sensate”, was especially meaningful to Kramer. Here is a portion of the definition of a sensate worshipper, according to that sermon:

Sensate “Loving God with the Senses”

I connect with God through my senses through awareness of taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound. I’d have a difficult time worshiping in a church building that is plain and lacks a sense of awe or majesty. I have a difficult time worshiping through second-rate Christian art or music. I feel closest to God when I’m in an environment that allows my senses to come alive when I can see, smell, hear, and almost taste his majesty.

Recently, Laura sent her Psalm 23 bracelets to the new First Family. Michelle Obama was sent a classic Psalm 23 bracelet, and Sasha and Malia were each sent a “Just for Girls” bracelet. She felt especially led to do this since President Barack Obama referenced Psalm 23 in his inaugural address, and he claims he was taught to memorize the psalm in his fifth-grade class. "During these times of both great opportunity and uncertainty, we pray that President Obama be granted great wisdom and seek God as he leads our nation," stated Laura Kramer.

Psalm 23 Jewelry is sold online, through Christian bookstores, hospital gift shops, and their mail-order catalogue. The pieces can be customized with a Star of David instead of a cross for Jewish recipients as well.

Laura sums up her ministry this way: “There was a time when I was surrounded by the thick darkness… Through God’s healing love and amazing grace, I was able to step out of that dark tunnel into the bright radiant light of God’s healing… The next natural step for me was to go back into the tunnel to guide, lead, and encourage other people to see hope flickering just outside their struggle or circumstance… My passion is to share with people everywhere what I discovered through my healing many years ago; there is a hope in God because our God is a personal God, a faithful God, and a good God.”

Psalm 23 Jewelry: http://www.psalm23jewelry.com/
Laura K Designs, 7375 Day Creek Blvd., #232, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739; toll-free phone: 877-256-0023

To learn about other artists who are using their faith to impact their art, click on the names below:

Chris Schlarb

The Cafe for March

American scientist Linus Pauling once said, "The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas." Below are some ideas that might give you ideas and inspire you in your quest for making art in March. Who knows how many songs could be written, dances could be choreographed, pictures could be painted or photographed, plays could be written from these possible ideas? Find something below that interests you and consider how you could use that information in your own art.

March birthstone: aquamarine, also called beryl

Flower: daffodil
If you have a chance this year, go up to Running Springs and visit the “Daffodil Garden.” The garden is open to the public for 3 weeks in the spring, usually the last week of March and the first two weeks of April. But, flowers can bloom at unpredictable times, especially depending on the weather, so contact the garden to see if it is open before you go up. Here is a link to the garden’s website.

Music in our Schools Month- For all you musicians, this is a great time to think about your local schools. How can you help? Perhaps you can provide lessons (or provide a scholarship for six months of lessons to a child), donate CD’s, perhaps even take your instrument collection with you and talk to a class about music.

March 2- Green Monday (also called “Clean Monday” or “Pure Monday”). This is the beginning of Orthodox Lent.

March 2- Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day. If you are looking for a good book to read, perhaps this one would be appropriate. Or, you could choose the Artists Workb.e.n.c.h. bookclub selection for this quarter here.

March 3 Alexander Graham Bell’s birthday- call your mom! The video below is has no sound. Enjoy!

March 3- on this day in 1931, the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key, officially became the National Anthem of the U.S.A.
Here is a look at the actual flag that inspired Key’s poem.
Here are the complete lyrics of the song. Most people only know the first verse.

March 4- International Scrapbooking Day- all you collage artists, you might be able to find some good sales on supplies. And, for those who have shoeboxes (or hard drives) full of pictures, this might be a day to resolve to organize and scrapbook.

March 6- Michelangelo’s Birthday
Here is a link with many of his works. Click on the thumbnails to see a larger picture. There is also a link to read a biography of Michelangelo.

March 8- Daylight Savings Time begins (spring forward) until November 1. It’s also National Change Your Batteries (in your fire alarms) Day. For more about fire safety click here.

March 10- Purim

Above: Alex Levin, Purim at Mea Shearim (oil painting, 2004)

If you don’t know much about this Jewish holiday celebration about Esther, read here.

March 14- Albert Einstein’s Birthday
Many people can give Einstein’s theory of relativity, but how many truly know what it means, and how it changed science? Here is a video that clearly explains how Einstein changed our view of the universe.

March 15- Ways to celebrate the Ides of March:
-Throw a Toga Party
-Read (or re-read) Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, or watch one of the movie versions.
-If Shakespeare is a bit too daunting, listen to some Marc Anthony tunes
-Get appointed dictator
-Order a Caesar salad (not actually named for Julius Caesar, but festive anyway)
-Use the phrase “Vini Vidi Vici,” or the English translation “I came, I saw, I conquered” at least once.
-Turn your calendar to July- the month was named in honor of Julius Caesar
-Get a Caesar-style haircut
-Ask the question, “Et tu, Brute?”

March 17-22 American Chocolate Week- Is chocolate a medium for art? These people think so! Click here and/or here.

March 17- St. Patrick’s Day- here are some gorgeous pictures of the Emerald Isle.
And here is a biography of St. Patrick, teaching us that there’s a lot more to him than shamrocks and snakes:

March 19- The Swallows return to Capistrano, an event that has inspired countless artists.

March 20- First Day of Spring

March 21 National Quilting Day- Check out this quilt!

March 21- Children’s Poetry Day- try writing a poem for a child. Here are some examples

March 24- Harry Houdini’s birthday

March 30- Alaska was purchased from Russia for $7.2 million.

March 30- A day for all who make mistakes to celebrate (that would be everyone, right?). The pencil with an eraser was patented in 1858.
In this New Scientist feature, photographer Chris Jordan tries to graphically produce what our society’s overconsumption actually looks like. Very interesting stuff that has a pretty clear and convincing message.

Mute Math is a quickly rising rock band from New Orleans that has successfully moved into the American mainstream. They broke into the mass market in 2006 with a pair of crossover hits, “Typical” and “Control”. Some of its members were formerly in Earthsuit, best known for “One Time”, their inescapable Christian radio hit in 2000. Here is an excellent live performance from “The Jimmy Kimmel Show”.

Christianity Today reviewer Mark Moring discusses spiritual themes in Working on a Dream, the new album from Bruce Springsteen. Click here to read the interesting article.

Art and Race from the Christian Perspective

Langston Hughes, the famous poet from the Harlem Renaissance, wrote an essay in 1926 called “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”. In it, he wrote a story that is both amusing and disturbing of the issues surrounding race and the Christian church.

“A prominent Negro clubwoman in Philadelphia paid eleven dollars to hear Raquel Meller sing Andalusian popular songs. But she told me a few weeks before she would not think of going to hear ‘that woman,’ Clara Smith, a great black artist, sing Negro folksongs. And many an upper-class Negro church, even now, would not dream of employing a spiritual in its services. The drab melodies in white folks' hymnbooks are much to be preferred. ‘We want to worship the Lord correctly and quietly. We don't believe in 'shouting.' Let's be dull like the Nordics,’ they say, in effect.”

Race issues have always been around, but they have recently become more prominent. In late 2008, the people of the United States elected Barack Obama, a man who is racially mixed (a white mother and a black father), as their President. For all intents and purposes, he is considered “black” by most people, and therefore, on January 20, 2009, the world watched history being made as the first black President of the United States was inaugurated on the steps of a capital building that slaves of African heritage built. His ability to lead this great and proud nation remains to be seen, and the next four or eight years will surely contain their share of presidential triumphs and missteps.

Political debating aside, Obama’s campaign, election victory, and inauguration have brought out some interesting questions for American society.

-Are blacks and whites finally treated as equals in America?
-Does it still make sense to have programs such as Affirmative Action?
-Can every baby born today on American soil have an equal chance to become President, or are there some who are “more equal than others?”
-Is race really a dividing factor in the U.S., or is socio-economic status what really divides? Or is it gender? Or something else?
-Not including churches that have services in languages other than English, why is Sunday morning still the most segregated time in America?
-Is it OK for a woman to lock her car doors when a black man approaches, or is that considered racist? What is more important, safety or equality?

Artists have long been more sensitive to the social breezes that blow (and often are creating work that addresses questions society isn’t ready to address as a whole yet). Many artists over the ages have entered this dialogue. Below is a smattering of artists who have done work addressing the more current racial questions floating in society.

Howardena Pindell has been an activist since the 1970’s and has even pushed (and chided) galleries and museums for under-representing artists of color.

One of her famous works is a video piece titled “Free, White, and 21,” produced in 1980, in which she tells stories about her experiences with racism. One of the stories she tells on the video is about being denied a place in her school’s “accelerated” program to make a space for a white student. She tells of her school taking her name off the ballot for student body officer because school officials considered it “inappropriate.” She also tells of being part of a wedding party and experiencing ostracizing as guests shook hands with everyone in the party but her, and later at the reception, stared at her as she ate food as if her basic human function was a spectacle to behold. While she tells these stories and more, she wraps her head in white gauze bandages to make her “white-faced.” Between each story segment, a white woman with a blond wig, a stocking over her head, and dark glasses (also portrayed by Pindell) reprimands the black Pindell for being paranoid and ungrateful. White Pindell then says, “But then, you’re not free, white, and twenty one.”

Pindell was raised as a Christian (although she is also part Jewish), but has pursued Buddhist and Hindu spiritual practices as an adult.

Adrian Piper, a light skinned black woman, has used her art to discuss race. In a 1988 video piece called “Cornered,” she confronts attitudes about race and tells white America that there is a collective blackness due to the legacy of slavery (almost everybody in America, she claims, has some black blood somewhere in the lineage). She is also known for passing out calling cards at art exhibition openings saying things such as, “I am black. I am sure you didn’t realize that when you made/laughed at/agreed with that racist remark.” In the 1990’s she made a series of fuzzy photographs of black men and wrote across them, “Pretend not to know what you know.” Her work is a sledgehammer to many people, and instead of subtle nudging, she attempts to awaken people’s perceptions and attitudes about race and racial issues by confrontation. Perhaps her most famous work is “Self Portrait Exaggerating my Negroid Features.”

Spiritually, Piper espouses East Indian ideas, and discusses this openly. She studied with a swami in the 60’s, became a svanistha and later a brahmacharin (levels of achievement in yoga studies). Her website for the Adrian Piper Research Archive has more information on yoga than it does about her art.

William Pope.L (above; name is not a misprint) is a fairly prominent artist who has received recognition with some of his works that raise the issues of race and racism. One of his landmark shows, “E-racism,” has gained him recognition throughout the artistic community. He consistently pushes the bounds of what art is.

It is difficult to discern Mr. Pope.L’s spiritual leanings. He is not very public about his religious beliefs.

Valerie Soe is a media artist from Arizona who is currently residing in the Bay Area. One of her pieces is a video installment called “All Orientals Look the Same.” Another is called “Mixed Blood,” about interracial coupling between Asians and non-Asians. New Hope Covenant Church in Oakland, CA teamed up with Soe and sociologist Russel Jeung to create a 60 minute documentary titled “Oak Park Stories” about a group of low-income immigrants. Despite this collaboration, Valerie Soe once mused about the similarities between church and the movies. When discussing gathering together to watch a movie in a theater, Soe said, “Human beings like that, they need that. Must be sort of like why people go to church. I don't go to church but I go to movies.”

Rage Against the Machine, a popular alternative “rapcore” band that has recently reunited, wrote and performed the song Maria about Mexican-immigrant workers in the U.S. The partial lyrics of the song are:

Tha sun ablaze as Maria's foot
Touches tha surface of sand
On northern land
As human contraband
Some rico from Jalisco
Passed her name to tha boss
She stuffed ten to a truckbed
She clutches her cross

Yet, this is the same group who performed the song Calm like a Bomb in which the first line is, “I be walkin’ God like a dog,” and have peppered their songs with profanity and vulgarity.

Kara Walker (above) specializes in silhouettes that often depict racist stories and images of black and white people in the antebellum South. Admired by some, criticized by others, her work is very “in your face” and makes the viewer think about how blacks have been represented and misrepresented through U.S. history. Her silhouettes are usually black against a white gallery wall, and the shadow of the viewer actually becomes part of the piece, placing the viewer in the scene and making the viewer examine his/her own views of these stories. Walker is currently the youngest person to receive a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant,” which she received when she was 28 years old.

Kara Walker is not publicly outspoken about her religious views at all. It is not reasonable to attach any religious label on her.

La Joven Guardia del Teatro (above) is a theater and dance group that deals with race issues in their performances. Most of their performances are in Spanish. Originating in Syracuse, New York, this award-winning group has received recognition for its performance of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Un Senor Muy Viejo Con Unas Alas Enormes (A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings).

This troupe is, by definition, made up of several people. Some may be Christians, some may not. Their work is not overtly Christian.

Malik Sow is a drummer, composer, and choreographer who was born in Senegal but currently resides in Los Angeles. Passionate about his work, he has been in several movies, including Poetic Justice, and he composed most of the music for Spielberg’s Amistad. He has toured the world, is fluent in nine languages, and has won several prestigious awards. As a member of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Sow has worked in the Inland Empire teaching schoolchildren about African drumming.

While he was growing up, Sow went to both an Islamic mosque and a Christian church regularly. However, he did not respond to an e-mail request inquiring about his current spiritual life.

Rita Dove was poet laureate of the United States in 1993-1995 and is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. In her poem “Brown,” she writes:

For once I was not the only
black person in the room
(two others, both male). I thought of Sambo; I thought
a few other things, too,
unmentionable here. Don't
get me wrong. I've always loved
my skin, the way it glows against
citron and fuchsia, the difficult
but the difference I cause
whenever I walk into a polite space
is why I prefer grand entrances....

While Dove isn’t publicly outspoken about her religious beliefs, she does occasionally quote the Bible in her interviews. The YouTube video below, from 1994, features Dove and Garrison Keillor singing the spiritual “Nearer My God to Thee”:

Just because a person does not follow Jesus Christ, that does not invalidate his/her opinions or voice. Many non-Christians have made valid points on the issue of race, racism, etc. Christians can learn from them, and their art, as long as it isn't inherently sinful, is worth examining, discussing, and understanding.

However, the question must be asked: Where are the Christian artists on this very timely, interesting, and vital subject? In the United States, it was the Quakers who opposed slavery and facilitated the abolitionists. The most famous civil rights leader was Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian minister. Some of the Twentieth Century painters who dealt with this subject were Christians, and some weren’t, but Christian voices weren’t absent in the debate at one time. To see some of the exemplary examples of some of the Twentieth Century’s artists on this subject, do an internet search for some of these artists:

George Biddle (see his painting Alabama Code)
Adolf Dehn (see We Nordics)
Jacob Lawrence- art contained some Christian themes
Julius T. Bloch (see Prisoner)
Joseph Delaney- possibly a Christian, the child of a minister
Ben Shahn (Father Coughlin) Christian themes in his work
Robert Gwathmey (The Custodian)
Elijah Pierce (Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy Brothers)

The Bible has a lot to say about race. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says that there is neither "Jew nor Greek," or as the Message puts it, "The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive." (See also Galatians 3:20) Furthermore, Revelation 7:9 tells us that every tribe, tongue, and nation will be represented in Heaven. That includes, I believe, every group in this great nation (see also Romans 9:23). In the table of nations mentioned in Genesis 10, there are 70 nations. When Jesus sent out disciples to preach the good news, he sent out 70 (Luke 10), possibly signifying the fact that He wants everyone to know Him. More directly, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to "make disciples of every nation." In Acts 1, right before Jesus' Ascension into Heaven, He tells His followers "...you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth." Samaritans were halfbreeds, half Jewish and half Assyrian, and Jesus was specifically telling His followers not to forget them. Jesus' own earthly lineage was not purely Israelite, with the additions of Rahab and Ruth. John 3:16 and other verses tell us of God's love for everyone. Moses, Joseph, Ruth and Boaz, and several others in scripture are positive examples of interracial and intercultural marriage (there are negative examples as well). Finally, on the subject of evangelism and sharing our faith, 1 Peter 3:15-16 says, "...you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”

These are but a few examples of Biblical ideas that can add to this topic. Guided with the Bible's ideas about race (and the absence of barriers between the races), along with the rich Christian history and activism in this arena, one would think that Christians would be among the loudest in this debate, and Christian artists would take up the mantle to change people's hearts, minds, and ideas. Perhaps Christian artists are too busy making church-y art for their churches, but the pickings of Christian artists who have weighed in on this subject in their art have been relatively slim. (Before you get upset at the last sentence, realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Christian artist creating art for the church if that is actually his/her calling. There is a problem, however, with all Christian artists creating art for the church and dividing themselves off from being a Godly voice among non-Christians.)

Furthermore, not all Christian artists will have the passion to tackle the topic of race in their artistic endeavors. But, some do, and maybe that someone is you. Or perhaps your passion isn’t race but a different social issue (poverty, women’s issues, the environment, etc.). As Christians, we need to weigh in on these issues so that the world hears our voices on these issues as loudly and proudly as the other artists’ voices who do not publically proclaim Christ as their savior.

I decided to write this particular article about race since every living, breathing person has a racial identity (and some have several), including white people, so this is an issue that everyone has an opinion about. In fact, rather than considering white as “ethnically neutral,” we should understand that white is just as much (or as little) a racial category as black, Asian, or any other race, and within the race of “white,” there are many distinct ethnic groups, just as every other racial group. All that is to say that you have a race, whether you think about it much or not, and you probably have had an occasion where your race made you uncomfortable, or at least you have experienced a time when you felt someone else’s pain on this subject. (If you have never had such an experience, I would suggest spending time with the nearest church that has a different ethnic make-up in its congregation. That experience will open your eyes and bring in opinions, ideas, and feelings you may not even know you have.)

Looking at the average church’s website in the Inland Empire, I have noticed that churches take pains to show inclusive photos of their congregants; if they have a racial mixture in their congregation, they include photographs of people representing all the races. In some cases, the church may really be mixed, and in other cases, there might be one or two token families of a particular race attending that church, but the church’s administration/pastor still takes pains to make sure the image the church projects on its website is that of a multi-racial church. If a pastor who is not an artist worries about the images on one particular church’s website, how much more should the artists within the entire Body of Christ be interested in racial reconciliation, racial inclusion, the brutal history of race relations in the United States, and other race-related ideas?

However, it is important to note that simply including different races of people in a painting or singing a song about a person and mentioning the person’s race isn’t necessarily the same thing as creating a piece that is a commentary on racial issues. Furthermore, including multi-cultural dances or singing a worship song in a different language isn’t necessarily the same thing as creating a commentary on race, either. While those things might be worthwhile in their own right, if you want to create a commentary, you have to create a piece that “says something” about the topic in a way that the average art fan/patron/audience/viewer will be able to consider and hopefully understand.

Upon studying modern artists who have pieces that deal with race and racial issues, it becomes abundantly clear that outspoken Christians are underrepresented. For example, the label Reach Records has a roster of several up-and-coming Christian rappers. Now, rappers who are not outspokenly Christian deal with racism all the time in their works, but astonishingly, the topic seems to be absent among these Christian rappers. Some of the other artists who deal with race issues in their work are very definitely not Christian, espousing either other known religions or even their own made-up forms of spirituality. Other artists have chosen to be silent on the matters of spirituality, making it unclear whether they are a Christian voice or not. Religious views, or lack of them, do not negate the message the artist is trying to put forth in the piece. However, the lack of Christian voices on the issue does send a clear message to the world that most Christians do not care about this issue, but instead live in a fantasy world where people don’t get angry, people aren’t discriminated against, people don’t lose their jobs, everything is sunshine and rainbows, and the only topic worth addressing in any way, shape, or form is that of Jesus Christ.

A short list of outspoken Christian artists who have addressed this topic in their works is below:

Romare Bearden- painter, collage artist (above: La Primavera)

Shai Linne- rap music

Ruth Naomi Floyd- jazz singer

Jenna Compton- Painter

Bernard Hoyes- Painter

Annie Lee- painter

Edwin Lester- painter

Kadir Nelson does some really remarkable art, but once again, his religious background is not totally clear. "Emancipation" has some crucifixion imagery, and there are other religious references in "Humility", "Angel" and "Stairway to Heaven".

Both Faith Ringgold and William Pajaud (unrelated artists lumped together for the sake of space in this article) have works that deal with race and racial identity and they also both have works that deal with Christian ideas. Still, it is unclear whether or not either of them are Christians.

Here is a blog that talks about the lack of a Christian counterculture today that might deal more decisively with such issues:


To prove this is an area that can be addressed by unashamed Christians, I want to end this article with the lyrics of a popular song most Christians have heard. Christian group D.C. Talk addressed the topic in their song “Colored People”:

Pardon me, your epidermis is showing, sir,
I couldn’t help but note your shade of melanin.
I tip my hat to the colorful arrangement,
‘Cause I see the beauty in the tones of our skin.
We’ve gotta come together
And thank the Maker of us all.

We’re colored people, and we live in a tainted place.
We’re colored people, and they call us the human race.
We’ve got a history so full of mistakes,
And we are colored people who depend on a holy grace.

A piece of canvas is only the beginning for
It takes on character with every loving stroke.
This thing of beauty is the passion of an artists heart,
By God's design, we are a skin kaleidoscope.
We’ve gotta come together,
Aren’t we all human after all?

(repeat chorus)

Ignorance has wronged some races
And vengeance is the Lord’s
If we aspire to share this space
Repentance is the cure

Well, just a day in the shoes of a color-blind man
Should make it easy for you to see
That these diverse tones do more than cover our bones
As a part of our anatomy.

Artist Profile: Sandra Bowden, Visualizing Words and ‘The Word’

Visual artist Sandra Bowden has been interpreting Scripture and her own spiritual walk through mixed media for more than forty years. She has been acclaimed as one of the most unique, impressive and inspiring Christian artists in America. Bowden’s work has been featured in books, magazines and gallery shows across the United States, Canada, Italy and Jerusalem.

Her work fuses the vivid yet traditional imagery of the Old Testament – stone tablets and artifacts, Hebrew inscriptions, architectural depictions – with images of Christ’s passion, important music scores, and God’s natural creations. She has issued several series of artworks over the years: crucifixion scenes, artistic use of text and color, new interpretations of classic religious artwork, even altered books with applied textures and hues. God’s grandeur and creativity shine through in each piece of her art.

“My Christian faith has been the driving force behind my art,” Bowden says. “I look at the making of a piece of art as a kind of doxology, a prayer or conversation with God. I don’t mean this in any mystical way, but my ideas come out of my theology and thoughts about God. I am somewhat of a theologian, but one who translates those interpretations into visual form.”

Above: Sandra Bowden, Sanctus (collagraphed mixed media; score is Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem”)

As soon as Bowden realized her artistic gifts, she set forth to serve God through them. “My gift determined my calling. I cannot remember any time when there was any question. Every day I have awoken to ‘do art.’ I cannot imagine life any other way. It is a way of life. When I had children, I did the work around the house, then allotted time in the studio. When they were in school I worked while they were gone, and after they were out of our home, my studio work only intensified. I would say it is the ‘calling’ that determined my career as an artist.

“My art is a visual record of my spiritual and artistic journey. Each work that I do seems to beg another question and then leads me to the next work. My job has been to ‘follow the work’. Early on my work was very abstract, only alluding to a vague theme. But over the course of time I have come to realize that my work focuses on the WORD, both the written word and the Word made Flesh. This has become more clear over time so the work very directly reflects this understanding. That is why at this point I am working on three-dimensional books as the painting surface. I have gone from using letters, words, blocks of text, to finally the book itself suggesting the theme of the work.”

One of her specialties is the intaglio collagraph method, which Bowden taught briefly in the 1980s. It involves arranging and gluing materials onto board stock to make a collage, applying ink where desired, placing paper over the collage, and using a roller to make a print. This is the method Bowden used to create her Israelite Tel series, for example, which visually interprets several archaeological finds at ancient Biblical sites. The method gives some of her works a distinctive 3-D texture. “The collagraph medium was chosen as an extension of my collaged oil paintings from the 70s and 80s. I had to make few changes to adapt to the technique and I was afforded the opportunity to have multiples to share with others and to sell. Texture has always inhabited my art, probably because I sewed my own clothes as I was growing up and loved the touch and tooth of fabric.”

Above: Sandra Bowden, Moon Endureth (collagraph)

Besides collagraphs and altered books, Bowden has worked with oil paints, collage, and is now delving into encaustic (heated beeswax colored with pigment). “The methodology has changed primarily as a way to express the new ideas that I want to explore. Sometimes the media is also an inspiration. There is a need to explore new areas of interest, both in method and topic… however, my work has pretty much stayed on topic. From a very early stage the written Word has been the area of exploration.”

Some of her changes in methodology have come about from travel, curiosity and even affliction. “After back surgery I had to curtail working with the etching press, so I began to cannibalize my previous collagraphs, combining them with some wonderful handmade papers that I had been collecting… therefore the birth of the collage. So in this instance, physical limitations gave me a new medium. The collage which I have worked with for over ten years will continue to feed my imagination.

“In the early 90s, after having traveled in Europe many times and having been enthralled with the beautiful early illuminations (lavishly colored and gilded book illustrations), and at the invitation to participate in a show called “12x12”, I started on a series of my illuminations using acrylic and iridescent pencils to add luminescence and beauty to the surface of the images. Then, around the late 90s, I decided I needed a break or a sabbatical from all the normal work that I was doing in the studio. I embarked on a series that related to the history of art. This is the ‘Art History 101’ series, and it was started by a trip to Italy where I fell in love with the large elaborate crosses and altarpieces that hung above the altars in medieval times. I loved the shapes, the delicate woodwork and sheer beauty of these works. I still continue to do the crosses and an occasional new art-historical work.”

Above: Sandra Bowden, Arrezo Crucifix (San Domenico) after Cimabue (mixed media drawing with gold leaf)

The rich history of Christian art has been as inspirational to Bowden as individual artists. “I cannot say that any one person’s art has inspired my art, but I have been profoundly inspired spiritually and artistically by the long history of art. The artists of our rich Christian heritage have left a record that their faith was alive and well, and now it is our turn to convey that to our generation and for generations to come. Georges Rouault is an artist from the 20th century that I collect and deeply admire. He was faithful to his calling, even against the trends of the time. Many contemporary artists have encouraged and therefore inspired me: Ed Knippers, Bruce Herman, Mary McCleary… all artists who have visualized their faith to our generation.”

In some of Bowden’s works, such as “And In Earth”, a layer of Scripture is visually buried beneath layers of earth that have accumulated over time. She says, “The text from Psalm 85 has been the guidance for my use of geological forms and visually exploring and scientific ideas. It says that ‘Truth springs from the earth, but righteousness comes down from the heavens.’ I saw this as the earth giving up its secrets and allowing us to uncover truth embedded physically and metaphorically in the layers of the earth. Many of these works were conceived as a kind of message buried deep in the earth to be revealed if we searched.”

In many of her works, Bowden almost conceals the Hebrew texts among other elements of the painting instead of bringing them front and center in an obvious way. As she explains, “This is perhaps comparable to why we wrap presents. We want to veil for a time what our secret gift is from the receiver. If the words were easily legible, then the viewer would be totally caught up in reading the text and not in reading visually. I want to excite the eye, open the imagination and let the viewers play with the image to give it some of themselves.”

The very idea of language set down in permanence inspires Bowden to play with it. “I don’t think it was the form of the words that is so important as the very idea that these small ‘squiggles’, shapes or graphic ideas have allowed us to communicate and converse across time and place. They are the means to a wonderful world of sharing ideas and thoughts... And they were the device that God chose to tell his story to us, how he has chosen to communicate through the written word, then through his Son, the Word made Flesh.

“I think my work is pregnant with meaning and content. A good book leaves things for the reader to discover and become engrossed in. My work is in a way a treasure hunt, not immediately revealed, but within reach. Each artist has a visual vocabulary and once you have discovered or learned what the keys to an artist’s work are, then the sky opens and discovery and the imagination are wonderful aids to perceiving another world… the world beyond words.”

Above: Sandra Bowden, Burst Into Song O Mountains (collagraph)

Bowden prefers to work in series, letting a core idea develop in several different directions at once. “I nearly always work in series. So usually the ideas for the series are thought through in a sketchpad, with many variations quickly suggested in the drawings. Then I decide what media will best help convey the idea. I work in series because the work is usually done in stages and it is fine to keep several pieces going at the same time… It would be impossible to tell you how long a work takes because I so rarely work on only one piece at a time. I start a series and work them through the various stages somewhat together: sketching out many ideas, preparing the surfaces, gathering all the materials, then working with them individually. I start with an idea to chase; then, of course, the ideas change and there are new, somewhat refined pursuits to follow.

“I use series because one piece would not flesh out all that I hope to discover in one piece. There is no way that creating only one work in a given series could have possible explored a full range of ideas that flow from the original concept. Another reason is purely a physical one. These pieces take many days to complete and it is more fulfilling and better economy of time to have several pieces under construction at the same time… Each individual work is not dependent upon another work to be complete. The seed for the concept is fully embedded in each piece, however subtle variations and suggestions are more fully realized with the series.”

Bowden’s faith is deep-rooted, an extricable part of her life and art, and her creative explorations have helped to augment her faith. “How does my art shape my faith? Whenever I am reading Scripture I visualize the various images from my work to help understand the text. My art has made me a deeper person, always challenging me to think, to find ways to put into form what I believe. I think and see with images.

“I was raised in a conservative New England church that my mother’s family had built generations before me. I was taught to memorize Bible, to believe it and to love it. At Berkshire Christian College I studied Old Testament, and then after college studied Hebrew, first with a tutor and then at SUNY Albany. I studied both modern and biblical Hebrew. I also studied biblical archaeology and geology. From there I have less formally continued to study on my own the things that interest me.”

This profound knowledge of the Bible’s ancient languages has greatly informed her art, and has led to some unusual commissions and opportunities to showcase her work. “My work was in a Jewish gallery in Boston from the late 1970s and that exposed me to many Jewish connections. For some time the Jewish community was more interested in my art than the Christian community because of the Hebrew text in most of the work. But that has changed since my book (The Art of Sandra Bowden by James Romaine, Square Halo Books, 2005) came out, and the Jewish galleries are not willing to carry the book because it has too many Christian images. Christian colleges in the United States and Canada have been very supportive of my art, and many churches have commissioned work or have purchased art for their congregation. Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) has given my work national and international visibility, and I am truly blessed.”

The organization has given Bowden the chance to see how Christian artists across the nation and world are expressing their faith through the arts. “I have worked (volunteered) for Christians in Visual Arts for over 30 years and have come to know literally hundreds of Christian artists whose work is stunningly beautiful. I have organized and coordinated all their traveling exhibitions and was president for 14 years. I am still on the board.”

Recently, Bowden worked with CIVA to put together a CD-ROM of Christian art, entitled Images of Faith. “Attending a church in Kansas City three years ago that had screens to project images and text, I could only dream of the possibilities. I contacted the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and asked them for a grant to partly fund the project. After looking at over 4000 slides of art I finally settled on 100 images that I thought could be used for projection in churches, seminaries, and in teaching environments. I hired an art historian to write about each work and then compiled the info for the CD. When downloaded onto one’s computer it functions like a separate website. My hope is that this will be the first of many such offerings.”

Above: Images of Faith CD-ROM (Christians In the Visual Arts, edited by Sandra Bowden)

Because of her travels and busy lifestyle, Bowden does not have many opportunities for her talents to be utilized within her home congregation. “They used to be, but at this point in our lives we live in two places and are traveling constantly, so there is little that we can really do locally. I really feel that my calling is to CIVA, to the Museum of Biblical Art in NYC, and to collecting religious art that I curate into exhibitions that travel to churches, seminaries and colleges. I explained to our pastors that they would need to think of me as a kind of visual missionary to other organizations outside the congregation, that we are there locally upon occasion, but not regularly. My church life is really just attending church wherever we are. We have a community in both places we live and integrate with the people and do what we can in the area of art, but it is limited at this particular point in our lives.”

Bowden’s life is filled day-to-day with the unity of art and faith. “I personally made a decision in 1980 that if it did not directly relate to Faith and Art then I would not do it. This has freed me to be available as a volunteer to give many hours of my time and much of my energy for things that others might not have been able to do… I am a full time artist and have been for nearly 45 years. Every day of my life is filled either with creating in the studio, working on our religious art collection or volunteering on projects for Christians in the Visual Art of the Museum of Biblical Art in NYC. I have dedicated my life to the revival of art in the church and for the renewal of artists of faith to engage within their culture.

“I believe that it is critical that the church embrace their artists, and encourage them to develop. There are different levels of ability. Not all artists are gifted to do all things. We need a community that goes beyond our local one. Since we live is a culture that is connected, there is no reason that there cannot be lots of cross-pollination between churches, denominations and regions. This is the reason that I so like to curate exhibitions to travel to these churches. The exposure to good art can help congregations grow to appreciate their own artists more.”

She takes very seriously the notion of Art as something more than colors applied to paper. “This is a current fad, to assume that if we identify it as art, then it is art, but the test of time, I think, will not support that. Art is created to illuminate is some way, to cast a new light onto ideas of things that surround us as humans. Art has a kind of poetry that allows us to see beyond what just our eyes convey.” And Bowden sees a clear role for Christians in the continuation of art’s evolution. “We live in a visual culture and it is only normal that we would want to express our beliefs and ideas visually. I also feel that there is a long rich tradition of art in the church and that we are heirs to that and must continue to put into visual form our faith… I do not feel that scripture in any way prohibits the use of the arts. The second commandment only prohibited the creation of art that was to be worshiped. Other scriptures in the Torah command the creation of objects that are of things from above and things from the earth… I believe that it is important to have a ‘place at the table,’ to be part of the dialogue that is going on in our culture.”

Above: Sandra Bowden, Aaron’s Breastplate (collagraph assemblage)

Still, Bowden doesn’t get into the arguments about what qualifies as “Christian art”. “I see myself as a Christian who is an artist. This is all a matter of semantics, and even if we do not say ‘Christian art’ it is bound to be labeled that. We have no problem with the art history books describing early ‘Christian Art’ by that topic, yet we are uncomfortable with the term today. However, I think it best not to use the term. I sometimes describe work as done by ‘artists of faith.’ I do not, myself, call my work ‘Christian Art,’ but others call it that sometimes. I try not to worry too much about those things.”

Bowden’s methodology continues to expand with her curiosity and new learning. “Each year, month, day I make lists of things that I need to do for that period. I am one who has lived with goals ahead. I have aimed to have work that would add to the repository of Christian faith and think that I have been faithful to that. One goal was to have a retrospective and book to accompany such a show and that was realized in 2005. I would like to continue to work on Exploring the Book, a series for a new show that would include a new series of ‘pages’ that will be created in encaustic and to also continue with the artists’ books that I have been working on over the last few years. There is also another series that I hope the future will hold and that relates to a series of small altarpieces I purchased in Italy many years ago. I would like to paint, more realistically onto their surfaces with images of the sea, clouds, sun, and creation. Maybe in 5 or 6 years I will do this.”

Her end goal, of course, is to glorify God in fresh and creative ways. “I hope that my work as an artist conveys a marvel at how wonderful the written word is to the history of humanity, how important to our relationship to God the words of Scripture have been. These little symbols we call letters allow us to convey sounds, words, paragraphs, entire books with ideas, plus allow us to share these ideas across the boundaries of time and place. But the idea of WORD does not end with ‘words;’ it is also Christ the Word made flesh, the very substance of our faith.”

Above: Sandra Bowden, Reflected Light (mixed media w/ book, collagraph, gold leaf)

Sandra Bowden online: http://www.sandrabowden.com

Christians In the Visual Arts (CIVA):

Square Halo Books: http://www.squarehalobooks.com

To learn about other artists who are using their faith to impact their art, click on the names below:

Chris Schlarb

Fine Arts Bible Study 5

Scenario: A Christian singer is looking for a new guitarist for her live shows. She holds auditions one Thursday evening in her church’s sanctuary. She advertises in a few Christian publications and sends a message about the auditions to all her Facebook and MySpace friends, hoping that they will pass the message along to people they know. On the night of the auditions, three people show up.

One is a teenager who is talented, but immature in his musical expression and experience. She is worried that he will get tied down with high school, and may even be underage and not allowed into some of the venues she has concerts in.

The second is a worship musician for a church down the street. While this person is more mature than the first auditioner, his musicianship is mediocre. He doesn’t know how to read music and cannot transpose songs into a different key. While he may be passable as a worship musician at a church, the singer is turned off by the fact that this person has played worship music for almost ten years, but still has a beginner’s grasp of music.

The third to audition is by far the best musician of the bunch. He’s a good guitarist and is not just technically adept, but brings emotion and meaning to his playing as well. However, when the singer asks him about his faith, it becomes obvious that this guitarist is not a Christian. “Do you know that I am a Christian singer?” the singer asks. “Yes, and I’m OK with that. I want to play for you and I hope my religious beliefs don’t disqualify me from this gig,” the guitarist answers.

Question: You are the singer. Which guitarist would you choose?

Solomon had a similar conundrum when he was building the temple. The best artists he knew were the Phoenicians, people from Tyre. They were polytheistic people. But, unlike the singer in the scenario above, who could build a case for choosing any of the three guitarists, Solomon wasn’t auditioning people for a few concerts in coffee houses and area churches. He was finding artists who would be qualified to build God’s Temple. The process he used to find the best artist for the job is in 1 Kings 5 and 2 Chronicles 2. Read both passages below (both taken from the Message translation):

1 Kings 5

1-4 Hiram, king of Tyre, sent ambassadors to Solomon when he heard that he had been crowned king in David's place. Hiram had loved David his whole life. Solomon responded, saying, "You know that David my father was not able to build a temple in honor of God because of the wars he had to fight on all sides, until God finally put them down. But now God has provided peace all around—no one against us, nothing at odds with us.
5-6 "Now here is what I want to do:
Build a temple in honor of God, my God, following the promise that God gave to David my father, namely, 'Your son whom I will provide to succeed you as king, he will build a house in my honor.' And here is how you can help: Give orders for cedars to be cut from the Lebanon forest; my loggers will work alongside yours and I'll pay your men whatever wage you set. We both know that there is no one like you Sidonians for cutting timber."
7 When Hiram got Solomon's message, he was delighted, exclaiming, "Blessed be God for giving David such a wise son to rule this flourishing people!"
8-9 Then he sent this message to Solomon: "I received your request for the cedars and cypresses. It's as good as done—your wish is my command. My lumberjacks will haul the timbers from the Lebanon forest to the sea, assemble them into log rafts, float them to the place you set, then have them disassembled for you to haul away. All I want from you is that you feed my crew."
10-12 In this way Hiram supplied all the cedar and cypress timber that Solomon wanted. In his turn, Solomon gave Hiram 125,000 bushels of wheat and 115,000 gallons of virgin olive oil. He did this every year. And God, for his part, gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised. The healthy peace between Hiram and Solomon was formalized by a treaty.
13-18 King Solomon raised a workforce of thirty thousand men from all over Israel. He sent them in shifts of ten thousand each month to the Lebanon forest; they would
work a month in Lebanon and then be at home two months. Adoniram was in charge of the work crew. Solomon also had seventy thousand unskilled workers and another eighty thousand stonecutters up in the hills—plus thirty-three hundred foremen managing the project and supervising the work crews. Following the king's orders, they quarried huge blocks of the best stone—dressed stone for the foundation of The Temple. Solomon and Hiram's construction workers, assisted by the men of Gebal, cut and prepared the timber and stone for building The Temple.

2 Chronicles 2
The Temple Construction Begins
1 Solomon gave orders to begin construction on the house of worship in honor of God and a palace for himself.
2 Solomon assigned seventy thousand common laborers, eighty thousand to work the quarries in the mountains, and thirty-six hundred foremen to manage the workforce. 3-4 Then Solomon sent this message to King Hiram of Tyre: "Send me cedar logs, the same kind you sent David my father for building his palace. I'm about to build a house of worship in honor of God, a holy place for burning perfumed incense, for setting out holy bread, for making Whole-Burnt-Offerings at morning and evening worship, and for Sabbath, New Moon, and Holy Day services of worship—the acts of worship required of Israel.
5-10 "The house I am building has to be the best, for our God is the best, far better than competing gods. But who is capable of building such a structure? Why, the skies—the entire cosmos!—can't begin to contain him. And me, who am I to think I can build a house adequate for God—burning incense to him is about all I'm good for! I need your help: Send me a master artisan in gold, silver, bronze, iron, textiles of purple, crimson, and violet, and who knows the craft of engraving; he will supervise the trained craftsmen in Judah and Jerusalem that my father provided. Also send cedar, cypress, and algum logs from Lebanon; I know you have lumberjacks experienced in the Lebanon forests. I'll send workers to join your crews to cut plenty of timber—I'm going to need a lot, for this house I'm building is going to be absolutely stunning—a showcase temple! I'll provide all the food necessary for your crew of lumberjacks and loggers: 130,000 bushels of wheat, 120,000 gallons of wine, and 120,000 gallons of olive oil."
11 Hiram king of Tyre wrote Solomon in reply: "It's plain that God loves his people—he made you king over them!"

12-14 He wrote on, "Blessed be the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, and who gave King David a son so wise, so knowledgeable and shrewd, to build a temple for God and a palace for himself. I've sent you Huram-Abi—he's already on his way—he knows the construction business inside and out. His mother is from Dan and his father from Tyre. He knows how to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, in purple, violet, linen, and crimson textiles; he is also an expert engraver and competent to work out designs with your artists and architects, and those of my master David, your father.
15-16 "Go ahead and send the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine you promised for my work crews. We'll log the trees you need from the Lebanon forests and raft them down to Joppa. You'll have to get the timber up to Jerusalem yourself."
17-18 Solomon then took a census of all the foreigners living in Israel, using the same census-taking method employed by his father. They numbered 153,600. He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 to work the quarries in the mountains, and 3,600 as foremen to manage the work crews.


Question 1: If an artist is not a Christian, but obviously skilled, do Christians have anything to learn from him/her?

Question 2: Is It O.K. for a church that is expanding its sanctuary to hire a non-Christian construction firm for the job if that firm is the best qualified (in whatever ways the church deems important)?

Question 3: Can a non-Christian artist successfully depict Christian themes in his/her work? When should a patron consider art from only Christian artists, and when is it fine to look for the most skilled, whether or not the artist is Christian?

Question 4: The scripture is plainly talking about non-Jews working on God’s temple. But, what if we turn it around backwards? Is it O.K. for Christian artists to work on non-Christian projects? What if a Christian is asked to paint a picture for a public library, for instance? What if a Christian is hired to write a song for a non-Christian singer/band like Prince or Nine Inch Nails? What if a Christian is hired to write a jingle for a car commercial?

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #1 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #2 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #3 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #4 click here.

Work B.e.n.c.h. Book Club Discussion Questions - March

Our book club selection for the first quarter of 2009 has been Steve Turner’s Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts. We hope that it has been inspirational and enlightening for you. If you want to participate in or put together a discussion group in your area, please consult February's Work B.e.n.c.h. newsletter for some guidelines, or contact us at epistrophy@aol.com. Below are some suggested discussion questions about Imagine for book club groups.

1. In Chapter 1, what attitudes and ideas about Christian art did Steve Turner outline from his own experiences? What attitudes and expectations have you encountered from Christians regarding the arts? Discuss the effects that these might have upon artists, the Christian community and the world.

2. In Chapter 2, Turner discusses the history of the Church in regard to the arts. Evaluate Turner’s arguments about the relationship of the Church and the arts through the ages. On page 24 he quotes Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, as telling Constantine’s sister there is no such thing as Christian art. What did he mean? The chapter ends with a quote: “How much of life is Christ to be Lord over?” Then the statement follows: “The sort of art we make as Christians will illustrate the answer.” Looking at the status of Christians in the arts today, and Christian art itself, how would a non-Christian answer that?

3. In Chapter 3, Turner points out various controversies about Christians making art: graven images, portraying sin in a positive light, invitation to worldly thinking, triviality, deception or falsehood, and failing to glorify God. Which of these issues have you heard about, experienced or taught? Do you think Turner makes a good argument refuting the most prevalent criticisms of the arts by Christians?

4. In Chapter 4, Turner argues that, while there is a place for overtly Christian art, there is also a place for Christians to create art that carries a more subtle message. How can Christians who create art that is not specifically intended for the Church become more relevant, according to Turner? He mentions several artists in this chapter. Which artists, in your experience, would best exemplify or refute Turner’s arguments?

5. In Chapter 5 we see that the Bible is full of artistic expressions – songs, dance, even erotic poetry – as well as tales of lust, greed, violence, revenge and their consequences. Why do you think so many Christian artists are so timid about approaching the same issues today? How can the examples set out in the Bible for artistic expression be used to make Christian art more significant to the world?

6. In Chapter 6 Turner presents the realms of art in concentric circles, with the Gospel at the center and art with no clear worldview on the outer edge. Christian society pressures its artists to focus entirely upon the central circle and not venture beyond the Gospel. Shouldn’t Christian artists have a voice in other realms of discussion, like peace, social justice, and the value of human life? Can stepping beyond the boundary of Gospel-only expression help Christians reach others who have little or no point of reference for that central circle? Think about the art (recordings, paintings, etc.) in your home. Where does each of them fall within these circles?

7. According to Turner’s ideas in Chapter 7, how can Christian artists help solve the church’s apparent problem with producing culturally irrelevant art in America?

8. Evaluate the ways that U2 and the other artists mentioned in Chapter 8 have used their art to comment both on their faith and their society. Why do you think more Christian artists are unable to connect with mainstream society on such a level? Have bands like Jars of Clay, Switchfoot, Lifehouse, P.O.D. and The Fray been able to have a similar impact upon secular culture as U2? How?

9. Drawing from Turner’s discussion in Chapter 9, design a plan that would help a Christian artist keep up a strong spiritual life with Christ at the forefront. How can churches work to support, encourage, utilize and protect their artists?


If you were to write a book-cover summary, or explain to a Christian artist what you learned from Turner’s book, what would you say? Has this book changed the way you view the role of artists in Christian life? Explain.

We are actively deciding upon the book club selection for the second quarter of 2009 (April-June), and we will post the information in the April edition of this webzine. Stay tuned!!

March 2009 Happenings

To find out about Happenings in August 2009, click here.

March 6-8 Heartland Players are performing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Heartland Theater at 33994 Avenue E in Yucaipa. Tickets are $8-10. For more information, click here. No reserved seating. All tickets are sold at the door.

Christian Singer

March 7 Daniel Rodriguez, America's beloved policeman tenor, will be performing at Loma Linda University Church at 11125 Campus Street, Loma Linda. Daniel Rodriguez helped bring the country an uplifting spirit of promise and hope with his stirring rendition of "God Bless America" after the 9/11 attacks. Guest artist Lauri Gayle Stephenson will also be performing. For tickets, call (909) 558-7193.

March 7-March 15 Inland Pacific Ballet will perform The Little Mermaid at Bridges Auditorium, 450 N. College Way, Claremont. This show is for the whole family and is based on the Hans Christian Andersen story. Puppetry and dancing combine in this show to create an underwater spectacle.Tickets are $16-$35. For more information call (909) 607-1139. To purchase tickets, click here

Through March 8- Sweeney Todd is a musical thriller of a barber who seeks revenge on the judge who framed him and sent him to prison. His quest includes avenging his wrongs on his unfortunate customers, and those customers soon become the "secret ingredient" in the meat pies selling in the bakery below the barber shop. The play is being performed at the Lewis Family Playhouse at Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. Tickets are $31.50-$33.50. Purchase tickets here.
For more information, call (909) 477-2752

Christian Theater

Lifehouse presents three excellent shows in March

Through March 15th Lifehouse Theater in Redlands presents “Ecclesiastes: The Wisdom of King Solomon”. A treasure trove of life’s secrets are explored as the wisdom of Ecclesiastes comes to life on stage. This unusual new stage experience promises to offer insights from and for the ages.

On March 15th – one night only! – at 7:30 PM, Pasadena-based writer/actor Roger Nelson brings the patron saint of Ireland to life in “The Confession of St. Patrick”. The Bible is quoted more than 200 times as Patrick shares his joys and trials as a frontier missionary in Ireland. This production is presented as part of Lifehouse’s LifeEdge series.

Then, from March 28th to April 26th, Lifehouse presents “The Hiding Place”, the acclaimed life story of Corrie Ten Boom in an astonishing dramatic memoir.

For interested actors: on March 5th, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM, auditions will be held for Lifehouse’s production of “Peter Pan: A New Musical”. The performances will be May 9th through June 14th, and all roles are open for audition.

Lifehouse Theater is located at 1135 N. Church St., Redlands, CA 92374. For more information, call the box office at 909-335-3037 or visit them on the Web at http://www.lifehousetheater.com.

March 14 Cirque La Vie performs "Seasons" at the California Theater of the Performing Arts in San Bernardino. In the tradition of Cirque Du Soleil comes an all new show celebrating the seasons in song, acrobatics, and dancing. Musical numbers include "Hazy Shade of Winter," "All Summer Long", "Here Comes the Sun", "The Boys of Summer" "California Dreaming" "Autumn leaves", "Blowin in the Wind", and many more. Don't miss this amazing combination of song and acrobatics that will appeal to the whole family as we celebrate each turning season. Tickets are $30-$60. For more information call (909) 885-5152.

Christian Rock

March 19 Leeland will be in concert for Beautiful Africa on March 19th at Crosspoint Church (6950 Edison Ave. in Chino). Tickets are $12 in advance, or $15 at the door. Call (909) 606-9833 for more information. Beautiful Africa is an organization that provides medical care to abandoned and HIV-affected babies in Lesotho, Africa, a country where 23% of the population has HIV/AIDS and 56% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. This concert is raising money for Beautiful Africa. Purchase tickets and learn more here.

Christian Rock

March 20 The blockbuster, platinum-selling Newsboys will be coming to the Packinghouse in Redlands on March 20th, 2009 as part of the 30-city “Join The Tribe Tour”. Also on the tour will be the rising groups DecembeRadio, Vota (formerly called Casting Pearls), and Bread of Stone. The show will kick off at 7:00 PM; doors open at 6:00.
The Packinghouse is located at 27165 San Bernardino Avenue, Redlands, CA 92374. For tickets and more information, go to Transparent Productions’ website and search for “Newsboys”. Tickets can also be purchased from the Packinghouse bookstore by calling 909-793-8744.

Christian Rock/Worship

March 26 Rock and Worship Road Show featuring MercyMe, Jeremy Camp, Hawk Nelson, Tenth Avenue North, & Addison Road, comes to the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario on Thursday, March 26th. Doors open at 6:00 PM and the show begins at 7:00.

There are no tickets available for this engagement; the price is $10.00 at the door for all seats. Proceeds will benefit “Imagine a Cure”, a non-profit organization aiming to cure juvenile diabetes, and the medical missions of Compassion International.
Citizens Business Bank Arena is located at 4000 Ontario Center, Ontario, CA 91764. For more information, call the Arena at 909-244-5500, or visit here or here.

Christian Rock
March 28 The acclaimed hip-hop/dance/rock band Family Force Five will be at the Glass House in Pomona on March 28th, 2009 as part of the AP Tour. Riding high on good critical reception of their third full-length album, Dance or Die, the band successfully brings a positive turn to some of the most popular styles of contemporary music. In a May 2008 interview with Christian Music Today, the band admitted that their music would not appeal to certain segments of the Christian audience: “They want Sandi Patty all over again. They want Amy Grant. And most times, it's people that don't understand new art, new videos... We want to make music that is for God, but at the same time, we want to make music that people enjoy and that they're not turned off by.”
The Glass House is located at 200 W. Second St., Pomona CA, 91766. For more information, visit the band’s website or contact the Glass House at (909) 865-3802.

March 28 Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. puts on its 6th monthly Christian Songwriter's Showcase at GFE coffee house in Highland from 4:30-6:30. GFE is located in the Albertson's shopping center on the corner of Baseline and Boulder. Admission is always free. For more information, contact epistrophy@aol.com. If you want to perform at the March showcase or later, space may still be available. Click here for more information.