A handbook for church galleries: visual arts and the flourishing of a congregational life

If you have ever wondered how the visual arts might play a vital role in your congregational life, I cannot more highly recommend this handbook for church galleries, produced by CIVA and authored by Sandra Bowden and Marianne Lettieri. If something like this existed when I first began exploring the place of art in the church, in the summer of 1996, it might have saved me years of trial and error. This handbook is not only comprehensive in scope, it also includes an extraordinary amount of detail to account for all sorts of contexts (say, from large to small), constraints (say, from wealthy to modest) and purposes (say, from worship to witness).

It answers questions like:

1. How do you define a gallery program?

2. What kinds of gallery models are out there?

3. How do you design a gallery space?

4. How do you fund a gallery?

5. How do you manage the business administration of a gallery?

6. How do you plan an exhibit well?

7. What sorts of exhibits might a church mount?

8. How do you organize a juried show?

9. How do you handle artwork carefully?

10. How do you install an exhibit?

11. How can you thoughtfully engage viewers from many backgrounds and with many diverse expectations?

12. How do you promote and publicize an exhibit?

The handbook begins with a foreword that I wrote as well as with an extended introduction by Robert Colvo. It ends with a list of useful resources, such as books, websites, art organizations, tutorials, and blogs, for further inquiry.

Whether your church is a longstanding patron of the visual arts or you are newly beginning, this handbook will serve as an invaluable resource for insight and wisdom, both practical and theoretical. You can purchase it here.

During my years as a pastor at Hope Chapel in Austin, Texas, I oversaw approximately 45 distinct art exhibits. I am grateful that God surrounded me with exceptionally skilled visual artists to teach me how to curate the art within the various contexts of Hope Chapel's congregational life. We grew together, and to the extent that we made mistakes together, we learned to trust each other. At different times, the visual art served the worship, the community, the discipleship, the mission and the public service of the church. We explored many wonderful things with the visual arts and I am deeply grateful for the years that I shared with them. At the same time, I would not have minded if this handbook had been around then, too.

Hope Chapel art exhibit (detail from Shaun Fox painting)

The 8th HopeArts Festival, Hope Chapel, Austin, TX, July 2007


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