Category: Arts

Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, October 16, 2014
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malcolm xDon’t you love lists? Intercollegiate Press does too, and they’ve put together “12 Movies That Defined America.” Feel free to argue, debate, add on, cross off as you wish.

Here are just a couple of Intercollegiate Press’ choices:

The Birth of a Nation – 1915, silent. The first blockbuster, D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was both celebrated as a great artistic achievement and denounced as racist for its vicious depiction of African Americans and homage to the KKK. President Woodrow Wilson’s praise of the spectacle as “history written with lightning” served to dignify the film, despite the fact that Wilson may never have said it.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – 1939. Can one man stand against a world of lies? Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), a former Boy Rangers leader, appears to be in over his head in the corrupt world of congressional politics, but that won’t stop him from filibustering a bill that would reward graft. Denounced as anti-American upon its release (but banned in fascist and Communist countries), Frank Capra’s fable came to canonize the lone voice that speaks truth to power regardless of the odds. (more…)

Mako Fujimura

Mako Fujimura

ArtPrize, by any measure, is a successful venture. It allows artists to reach a huge audience, gives hundreds of thousands of people the chance to experience a variety of art, and gives the city of Grand Rapids a terrific financial boost. There are, though, thoughtful critiques of the ArtPrize experience.

Mako Fujimura, whose “Walking on Water – Azurite” was showcased at the Acton Building during ArtPrize 2014, is concerned about some aspects of ArtPrize. He wrote about his experience on his website, in a piece entitled, “Toward Culture Care: Why the ArtPrize helps artists…and why it does not.” While his overall experience with ArtPrize was positive, Fujimura is particularly concerned that artists, who he says are by nature introverts, need care during what can be an overwhelming event. (more…)

Chuck Chalberg as G.K. Chesterton

Chuck Chalberg as G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) is considered by many to be one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 20th century. But you’d be hard-pressed to find him discussed in any public high school (or even most colleges or universities, for that matter.) A prolific writer (he penned everything from a popular mystery series to epic ballads), he thought himself mainly a journalist. While he never attended college, his knowledge had both depth and breadth:

Chesterton was equally at ease with literary and social criticism, history, politics, economics, philosophy, and theology. His style is unmistakable, always marked by humility, consistency, paradox, wit, and wonder. His writing remains as timely and as timeless today as when it first appeared, even though much of it was published in throw away papers.

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The Acton Institute is thrilled to be hosting Makoto Fujimura’s “Walking on Water – Azurite“, which is Fujimura’s official entry for ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 8′ x 11′ work, created with mineral pigment on polished gesso, must be seen in person to be appreciated; the depth of the colors and textures of the piece are stunning. Acton also has the privilege of hosting additional works by Fujimura from his series, “The Four Holy Gospels,” in the Prince Broekhuizen Gallery inside the DeVos Family Conference Center.

Hosting such a monumental piece of art is not a simple matter; for instance, we had to deal with the basic problem of where to hang such a large work. In this short film, we document the process of preparing an exhibition space in the Acton Building upon which to display Fujimura’s beautiful work for the duration of ArtPrize.

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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"Walking on Water" - artist Mako Fujimora's 2014 ArtPrize entry

“Walking on Water” – artist Mako Fujimura’s 2014 ArtPrize entry

In Grand Rapids, Mich., we await the beginning of ArtPrize tomorrow, the world’s largest free, open-entry art competition. Those of us familiar with ArtPrize know that the entries (remember, ANYone can enter) range from the incredibly ridiculous (bunny mannequins in the Grand River, anyone?) to the breathtaking and beautiful. There is always a subjective nature to art, even among art considered by most to be “great” (you like Picasso, I like Renoir.) As we seek out great art, it is important to look past the art and ask, “What can art do?” Can art help save the world?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI thinks so:

Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. (more…)

A painting from the "Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child" exhibit

A painting from the “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child” exhibit

This November marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This momentous occasion symbolizing the decline of Soviet Communism is sure to be met with joyous celebration, not only in Germany, but around the world.

While November signifies Soviet Communism’s decline it also commemorates one of its darkest, most horrendous hours. Annually on the fourth Saturday of November, Ukrainians remember the brutal, man-made famine imposed on their country by Joseph Stalin and his Communist regime in the 1930s. The tragedy, which became known as the “Holodomor” (“death by hunger”) resulted from Stalin’s efforts to eliminate Ukraine’s independent farmers in order to collectivize the agricultural process.

Estimated to have claimed, through murder and forced starvation, the lives of almost 7 million Ukrainians, the Holodomor is recognized as a genocide by more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

In an effort to expose this largely unknown chapter of Ukrainian history and the corrupt ideology which caused it, the Acton Institute will host an evening combined lecture and art event on November 6th titled, “The Famine Remembered: Lessons from Ukraine’s Holodomor and Soviet Communism.” The presentation will feature Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art’s education committee chair, Luba Markewycz. Markewycz will share her exhibit, “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child,” composed of artwork created by contemporary children throughout Ukraine. Gregg will discuss the historical context and the ways in which the Holodomor amounted to an assault on human dignity, individual liberty, private property, and religious freedom.

We invite you to come learn about this important part of history and see it depicted through art. For more information and to register, please visit the event webpage.

Mako Fujimura, one of the artists hosted by the Acton Institute for ArtPrize 2014

Mako Fujimura, one of the artists hosted by the Acton Institute for ArtPrize 2014

Here in Grand Rapids, we are awaiting the beginning of ArtPrize (Sept. 24-Oct. 12.) For those of us who live or work in the city, we are seeing signs of it: posters hung in coffee shop windows, artists installing pieces, restaurants adding waitstaff, and venues getting spit-shined. It’s a big deal: in 2013, ArtPrize brought in 400,000+ visitors to this city, an estimated $22 million in net growth and hundreds of jobs. Not too shabby for an event that didn’t even exist a few short years ago.

The genesis of ArtPrize was the mind of Rick DeVos, a man focused on entrepreneurship and starting conversations. DeVos started ArtPrize not as a way to bring money to his hometown (“a happy accident“), but because:

…his forays into tech startups had made him love the democracy of the Internet and the possibilities afforded by crowdsourcing. Why not a contest with an open call for artists and an open vote? “I was always intrigued with the X-Prize model,” he said, referring to the $10 million prize offered for private-sector space flight. “This whole idea of putting a big prize out there and then putting as few rules around it as possible, not trying to dictate what the outcome should look like.” The idea expanded from there, and in 2009, five months after he first announced it, ArtPrize opened to the public.

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allisgift1 - Copy (2)“All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God…God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation.” -Alexander Schmemann, from For the Life of the World

In Episode 1 of For the Life of the World, a new series from the Acton Institute, Evan Koons discovers the concept of oikonomia, or, “God’s plan for his whole household of creation,” realizing that the more specific areas and “modes of operation” that God has designed us to work within (families, businesses, governments, institutions) are meant to harmonize with each other.

To illustrate the idea, Koons compares God’s economy to music. Pointing to a xylophone, he notes that a xylophone has its own particular mode of operation — its own rules, its own economy. It works differently than, say, a ukulele or a trombone or an upright bass. Yet played together in proper harmony, each of these instruments coordinate their unique patterns and modes of operation to create something unified yet varied, rich and beautiful.

But Koons doesn’t stop here, eventually moving on to ask the even bigger question: “What is the actual song, anyway?”

The answer, we learn, is gift. We were created to be gift-givers, “crafted in God’s own image, with his own breath, crowned with glory and honor.” And “in that same abundance,” Koons continues, “he blessed us, and he said go, explore my world. Unwrap the gift of my creation. Bless the world with your own gifts.” (more…)

Yesterday, I had the honor of contributing to a panel discussion on the art of Margaret Vega here at the Acton Institute. Her exhibition is titled, “Angels, Dinergy, and Our Relationship with Perpetual Order.” Some fuller coverage may be forthcoming on the PowerBlog, but in the meantime I have posted the text of my presentation, “Death and the Struggle for Permanence” at Everyday Asceticism.

Excerpt:

Angels … represent hope amid the human struggle for permanence in a life so characterized with the dark and tragic side of impermanence, death most bitterly of all. Heraclitus found the fact of impermanence so essential that he coined the phrase, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” And Socrates memorably declared that all true philosophers do nothing but contemplate death. And, at the very least, we may say that every major religion offers a way to engage humankind’s most primal fear, the fear of the radical impermanence of death.

But does “Perpetual Order” depict true hope amidst this struggle? On the one hand … the angels are symbols of permanence amid impermanence. On the other hand, however, on the panel hanging in the meeting room to the left of the gallery and on the panels on the gallery’s south wall, we see how the angel’s wing bleeds onto the blackboard, ready to be erased. Here we can see most especially that angels are not themselves the permanence for which we hope and may just as easily represent the ephemeral nature of our hopes as their certainty. Margaret even shared a story with us earlier about a graveyard in Mexico City where stone angels had been reduced to rubble after a major earthquake.

Read more . . . .

Lorde LikenessAt Reason Thaddeus Russell argues that Macklemore and Lorde embody a kind of progressive cultural critique of capitalism, captured in the attack on “conspicuous consumption” made famous by Thorstein Veblen. Russell traces the “progressive lineage” of this critique: “Their songs continue a long tradition, rooted in progressivism, of protests against the pleasures of the poor.”

Having never listened to him, I have no opinion about Macklemore. Russell’s piece makes me want to take a moment to hear “Thrift Shop.” But over at Q Ideas today, I argue that in Lorde we find some cultural resources to inoculate us against the corrosive effects of envy.

The Christian tradition has long recognized that the poor can be just as materialistic and greedy as the rich. The poor just don’t usually have the same resources to bring those vices to such “conspicuous” manifestation. And it really is a stewardship problem to spend money on luxury goods when basic necessities are given short shrift.
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