Category: Arts

kickstarter1Several years ago, as a music student in college, I remember hearing constant complaints about “lack of funding for the arts.” Hardly a day would go by without a classmate or professor bemoaning the thin and fickle pockets of the bourgeoisie or Uncle Sam’s lack of artistic initiative.

Little did we know, a shake-up was already taking place, driven by a mysterious mix of newfound prosperity, entrepreneurial innovation, and the market forces behind it. The digital revolution was beginning to level the playing field and drain power from tanks and banks of all kinds, from the Hollywood execs with dollar signs in their eyes to the aesthetically enlightened cronies at the National Endowment for the Arts. Despite the many prophecies of a creative apocalypse, a bottom-up revolution was taking place.

Amid the sea of new technologies and tools that were soon to emerge — streaming music, streaming movies, ebook publishing — crowdfunding rose as a powerful path to creative independence: artistic, economic, and otherwise. Leading the pack is Kickstarter, with success stories abounding, from inventors to thespians to foodies to photographers, and with routine funding results that actually surpass the NEA. (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, September 21, 2015

bob dylanWhen it comes to addressing the latest hit-piece in Rolling Stone regarding the Acton Institute, Rev. Robert Sirico is front and center, top of the charts, so to speak. I’d like to take a whack at it, myself, if readers will indulge me.

“Pope Francis’ American Crusade” appears in the same magazine (in)famously trumpeting liberal causes for nearly 50 years, and the very same publication with a boss worth more than $700 million, earned primarily from a magazine that applauds the conspicuous lifestyles of thuggish actors and “musicians;” and the same magazine that has celebrated unabashed materialism while bashing capitalism since its inception. The very same magazine that could be accused of white, American capitalist imperialism for ripping off its very name from the titles of famous songs by Muddy Waters (a black man) and Bob Dylan (Jewish and Minnesotan) as well as a British rock group.

It seems the article’s author – one Mark Binelli – succumbs to the tried-and-true tactic employed by the magazine’s editorial contributors since time immemorial, which is to quote anyone regardless credibility or integrity if they support the Rolling Stone writer’s agenda. For example, famed scofflaw Rep. Charles Rangel is quoted: “People can distort the Bible any way they want to, but when you have science and religion on the same side of a question, there’s no place for fundamentalists to go. You speak against the pope at your own risk.” Apparently, according to Binelli, readers should consider Rangel a martyr because he “says he has had invitations to speak at Catholic high school graduations rescinded by local religious leaders, apparently because of his pro-choice views.” (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, September 2, 2015

creativity-capitalism-money-crashCapitalism is routinely castigated as an enemy of the arts, with much of the finger-pointing bent toward monsters of profit and efficiency. Other critiques take aim at more systemic features, fearing that the type of industrialization that markets sometimes tend toward will inevitably detach artists from healthy social contexts, sucking dry any potential for flourishing as a result.

But what if the opposite is true? I offer the argument over at The Federalist.

Free economies introduce their own unique challenges for artists and consumers alike. We are justified in cringing at the array of bottom-dollar record-company execs and merchandising-obsessed Hollywood crackpots (though I will always prefer their ilk to your run-of-the-mill Commissar of the Arts). But the increases in economic empowerment that have led to these many marketing machines have also led to plenty of artistic empowerment in turn.

In an article for New York Times Magazine, Steven Johnson reinforces this very point, observing that the many apocalyptic prophecies about arts in the digital age have not quite manifested. “In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art,” he writes. “Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways.” (more…)

“The cultivation of imagination is to begin to integrate life into faith and every other facet, whether mundane or extraordinary, whether 9-5 work realities or worship in a church. Imagination is key to the thriving God intends for us.” –Makoto Fujimura

makotoThe burgeoning faith-work movement has does a fine job of re-orienting our perspectives about the meaning of everyday toil and the importance of stewardship in the area of work and creative service. But one area that continues to suffer neglect is that of the human imagination.

The problem isn’t so much with imagination in a strictly “for-profit” or utilitarian sense. We all recognize the importance of the imaginative capacity of a Steve Jobs, for instance, insofar as he delivers some innovation or experiment or new convenience.

But do we have a more basic concern for cultivating and stewarding the imagination in and by itself? Do we see value and meaning in simply learning to connect reality with faith, truth with beauty? Do we recognize the type of long-view foundation it takes to even get to that more “useful” Silicon-Valley phase?

As Stephen Grabill reminds us in Episode 6 of For the Life of the World, we rarely give ourselves the time and space to pause and cultivate this corner of the human intellect, and even when we do, it’s often for the wrong reasons. “We need to develop a palate for what is good,” he says, “not just for what it can do for us, but for what it is in itself.” (more…)

In a land long ago and faraway, before shows like “The Bachelor” and “How I Met Your Mother,” there was “The Twilight Zone.” Remember the shiver you got when that music came on? And “The Twilight Zone” was never a “horror” show – no maniacs running around chopping teens to bits after sexually assaulting them, all on screen of course. No, “The Twilight Zone” wanted to get you to think … and maybe a little scared.

Take this episode: The Obsolete Man, starring the incredible Burgess Meredith. It’s less than 25 minutes; watch it. Some of it will ring quite true, I’m sure. You see, a humble librarian has been declared (just as ministers are) “obsolete” in a society where neither books nor God exist. The State has done away with the former and proved the latter. The librarian insists that no man is obsolete, but his fate appears to be sealed.

In his review of the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, Andy Crouch noted its artistic merits, observing how well it conveyed “deeply Christian themes in widely accessible ways.”

“I can only hope that many of us will indeed watch and learn,” he writes, “and that we will then give ourselves away, as skillfully, promptly, and sincerely as these filmmakers have done, for the life of the world.”

Now, in response to the series, other artists are joining in on that endeavor. Inspired by each episode, Kayla Waldron, artist and founder and creator of PennyHouse Creative, has created some beautiful chalk art to capture the major themes of the series. Both individually and taken together, the pieces aptly illustrate the grand design and beauty of God’s economy of all things.

She’s been sharing them on her Instagram and Facebook feeds, and I’ve re-posted them below for your enjoyment.

Episode 1: Exile


Episode 2: The Economy of Love (more…)

unknown artist from Japanese internment camp

unknown artist from Japanese internment camp

It is a disturbing part of American history: the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent and Japanese who were legally living in the U.S. during World War II. About 120,000 people were placed in internment camps in the western part of the U.S.

Life in the camps was harsh. The only furnishings were beds. There was no privacy. Many people lived in metal huts, which provided no protection from heat or cold. However, many of those interned were resourceful, and determined to make the very best of their situation.

Prisoners were denied any belongings coming in, and the barracks were furnished only with beds. There were no luxuries like tools, tables, chairs, or curtains for privacy. Later, they could order modest items by mail. But their ethic was of tremendous resourcefulness. Nothing was wasted. Onion sacks were unraveled and woven into baskets and cigarette cases. Tiny shells on the ground were collected for brooches for special occasions like weddings and funerals. Toothbrush handles were cut off and repurposed. An ugly stub of iron sewer pipe was incised with a bird and blooming plum branches to fashion a vase. A ring was made from a peach pit.


Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Leonard Nimoy as Spock

Leonard Nimoy as Spock

Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Spock in the Star Trek television series and movies, passed away last week. For many of us, it was a sad event. Nimoy had created a memorable character that is an enduring and endearing part of our pop culture lexicon. While my colleague Jordan Ballor took a look last week at Spock’s “live long and prosper” tagline, I’d like to refer to the more human side of Spock and the world of Star Trek.

Stephen D. Greydanus at the National Catholic Register reflects on what Nimoy and Star Trek taught us about humanity. The series creator, Gene Rodenberry, envisioned a world where poverty had been eliminated, money was unnecessary, and creatures of very different origins learned to work together for peace and mutual respect. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, January 19, 2015

from the film "Ida"

from the film “Ida”

The film industry quite often gets religion wrong. Either the industry completely misunderstands faith (think Noah and the recent Exodus), or the movies are so saccharine that theaters ought to offer diabetes testing for movie-goers on the way out of the theater (Left Behind and anything else Kirk Cameron has been involved with). This is really too bad, because movies are an art form that have the power to move us, to make us think, to ponder more deeply critical questions of our fallen human nature, our relationships with others and with God.

Zelda Caldwell, at Aleteia, has put together a nifty list of ten great religious films you can watch now on Netflix. Each of these has their own merit, and there is a nice range of films included. I’ll note just a few here: (more…)

Blog author: ken.larson
Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I’m not one of those folks who are glued to the tube, but some things on television grab and hold my attention. One is Masterpiece Theatre’s Downton Abbey, that just began its fifth season in the United States this past Sunday night. I was one of millions watching according to trade journal reports. As a promotion to the new season the producers created a supplemental trailer so to speak – oldsters might call it a “double bill” – titled Manners of Downton Abbey. You can see it online here.

The manners as depicted in portrayals of either Victorian or Edwardian England do clash quite abruptly with what most of us encounter and or display in our lives today. In the Manners Special we are allowed to view and listen to the various actors and actresses in the show as they comment with gestures and expressions that coincide with the major contradictions in the behavior they present on screen and the one they live in their private lives. Expressions like stiff formality, odd set of rules, no slouching, sitting up straight, wearing gloves at the dinner table, tend to characterize the dialogue.

Our tour guide for this show is a guy the producers hired at the start to make sure that the actors accurately portray their parts. Alastair Bruce is an “expert on British Royal Ceremony” and has a resume and Royal Order of the British Empire to prove it.

Nearly eight minutes into the Manners Special I heard Mr. Bruce say something that knocked me back. In describing the dining room etiquette he puts things in context with,

They say Grace at the beginning [of the meal] and that makes it the Lord’s table and all the detail and sumptuous display and the manners reflects the struggle they all have to achieve a similarly perfect moral approach to life. An immaculate presentation was a statement of moral correctness to all.

Granted, we do not – I don’t recall, ever – see the Crowley’s or for that matter anyone else actually say Grace in these Downton Abbey episodes. After all, this is public television, not Duck Dynasty. But it is comforting to know that Mr. Bruce has grounded intentions. Something to think about the next time you sit down with the family or have guests for dinner.