Video: My Vision for the Artistic Renewal of the City

The video interview below, conducted this past fall, captures best my vision for the artistic renewal of Austin. It represents the combination of ideas and practices that I believe are necessary for the Kingdom of God to become manifest through the art culture of the city over the next 40 to 100 years.

I'm grateful to Jeremy Rogers for doings such a great job in the editing room. He turned what could have ended up boring-ish into something possibly entertaining. He certainly captured my verbal tics ("fifth? fifth? fifth, fifth--fifth?"). Jeremy works as Austin Stone Community Church's video chief. We met a number of years ago when he was an RTF graduate student at UT. He'd visited Hope Chapel a few times. And with the community of Christians in the film industry of Austin so small, it was inevitable that we would bumped into each other here and there. I sincerely appreciate the man.

(One more connection to Austin Stone. This morning a few of us from Christ Church joined Mission Possible for Church Under the Bridge, a worship service offerd to the homeless community of Austin. Cliff is asking all of us at CC to spend a Sunday serving CUB. But the folks setting up all the food and drink were a contingent from Austin Stone. It was a great blessing to serve with them.)

Let me mention two things about the video. One, I quote Andy Crouch twice. The problem is, the part where I say "Andy Crouch just published a great book called Culture Making" got left on the cutting room. But credit goes to whom credit is deserved--in particular the "we can simply go about criticizing, analyzing, consuming...culture" part. If you haven't bought his book, buy it.

Two, if you were wondering the name of the person who engaged me in lively conversation during this interview . . . well, there was none. I stared at a concrete wall the whole time.

Jeremy had his hands full running the camera. A second person would usually ask the questions and give me verbal and non-verbal feedback. But this time it was just me and a smooth, grey wall with a blobby brown spot that I looked at intently for over an hour. I tell you what: it's hard to make a joke and have the concrete wall not laugh back at you. So I laughed at my own jokes. A few I groaned at.

Anyhoo, here it is. It's a 13-minute sermonette. It's a rationale for the arts center that Phaedra and I hope some day to establish in Austin. I'm not sure how I feel about the lamb chops, though.

David Taylor-In His Own Words from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

(PHOTO: Maya Lin's "Wave Field" qua Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink, a landscape architectural project that not only renovated a "broken down" space in the middle of Grand Rapids, it also created a beautiful reproduction of a planetarium's starlight in the surface of the skating rink. See here for her conceptual process.)


Adam said…
Dude. Great video! Very, very well said! I wish I could be that succinct! I was just thinking... your case might even be stated in such a way as this: It's not about changing the culture of Austin away from being 'Austin.' It is about being a presence that champions who Austin really is and longs to be. It's about helping Austin to become more and more truly 'Austin' in large part by simply being a part of Austin's conversation about itself.
noneuclidean said…

Great video and vision. I hope God enables you to make it happen!

I'm not sure I ever got a chance to thank you for taking the time to give me advice last year. In case you forgot, I called you in regard to my decision to pursue a ministry in the arts or a PhD in Literature. I ended up pursuing the degree in Literature, and now I'm just down the street from you at Baylor. God's really blessed my wife and I in this decision and I'm excited about using my degree to help people think more biblically about the arts, and (Lord willing) encourage young artists relationally to do good work for the Lord. I'm also writing for to help accomplish that end on a different level.

Anyway, all that to say, thanks for the counsel, God bless.

Jim Janknegt said…
Just because there has been not much good religious art in the last 100 years ( and I say not much because there has been some very good religious art) does not mean we should throw in the towel and discourage artists from creating art that has a religious purpose. If you look back at the long history of art it has almost always served a religious purpose. If Christians don't make religious art it isn't going to get made. I would encourage Christians to make GOOD religious art. There are always going to be tons of people around who are going to be making good inscrutable profoundly forgetable secular art. There is a hunger, a need for religious art ( 500 million reproductions of Warner Sallman's Head of Jesus sold!!) Why can't it be good?? I guess I am just trying to say don't let the pendulum swing too far over in the " Hey -we're free-we don't have to make religious art" direction. Sure we're free to NOT have to but some of us might WANT to. What about us???
Jim: I'm sorry my comments (at least in this video) appeared to swing in a direction against religious art. Let me say for the record: I agree with you wholeheartedly. Wholeheartedly! In fact, you're one of my favorite artists, period. I'm also a playwright who prefers to work with biblical material, albeit in a historical fictional manner.

When I first arrived at Hope Chapel I struggled with an allergic reaction to the broad category of religious art. In time, though, I had a change of heart. I realized your point exactly: that I didn't have to choose between religious and non-religious art as subject matters. My choice was between art that was well-made and the rest of the lot.

Jim, you know I admire you greatly. And I like you. And in the case of your comments, I say: Amen!

Adam: your comment makes me think of all the good theology I read in seminary. God's work is not to homogenize or flatten all of creation (that "white rob" fixation thing), it's to enable each particular thing to become more fully and truly itself, alive with life. Love it.

Alan: congrats on your decision. We need good Literature peeps. And a warm welcome to Waco. We're only an hour and a half away. I imagine our paths will cross soon enough. Anyhoo, may the blessing of John Leclercq be upon you: that the love of learning and the desire for God only grow greater with your studies.
@ Jim: I didn't get the same sense from the video but your point is well taken. I might elaborate though by saying that I would expect artists of faith to approach a broad subject matter over the life of their career, generally speaking, which would hopefully include works both with and without pious obviousness. Although I'd be fine with an artist who felt led to do just one OR the other, really. IIRC you don't just do religiously themed art, but correct me if I'm wrong. Haven't perused your works in a few months.

@ David: I'd like to hear more about this art center; I don't remember reading about it before on your blog. I have a possibly similar idea:
Jim Janknegt said…

I just like to give David grief.

I agree with you about the breadth of an artists work. Although my work recently has been mostly of a religious nature if you look at all of the 200 + paintings I have done in my life so far you would see a wide range of subject matter all of it informed by my faith but much of it not religious. I think what we are all striving for is quality no matter what the subject matter. Plus I want any Christian artist who wants to pursue religious themes to feel encouraged to do so even though they'll never make any money at it or be very popular with the ART establishment.
becky said…
David, i've been keeping up with your blog for a few months now and really enjoy it. thanks for this video -- i took notes. i think it's a great checklist for those of us who've been asking 'what will it look like for me to be impacting the culture?'
Paul: just read through your blog entries on your idea for a missions-focused art center. Well done. I love it. And I find it exhilarating that so many people around the country (and beyond) feel a similar pull towards arts centers. I just spoke with Shane Tucker over in Ireland who shares this calling. We should all get together and swap notes.

Jim: I love you, man! Just like in the movie.

Becky: thanks for saying hi and I'm glad the video was helpful. That makes me happy.
Samm Hodges said…

I so appreciate your thoughts on 'art," (what a dubious word). It further extended the joy I had of our brief conversation in Ambridge, PA.

I'd love to continue dialogue, and if blogs are the way to do that, so be it. I've recently succumbed to the trend here:

grace and peace,

Sarah said…
I enjoyed the video as well. AND I've also toyed with the idea of an art center, but I'm in a new community and need commrades to make that happen.

One comment, you make a fuss on the video about some nudity in one of the paintings. I took it as you being silly, but it is also a big sore spot for me. Christians, by in large, are very squeamish about nudity in art even when it is very appropriate. Can you speak to this?
Samm, whaddup! Hey, you don't know this, but in a soon-coming blog I'm going to post one of y'alls videos. I'm gonna give ya a shoutout in blog-land. It was so great to meet you and your wife. I'm excited about the project for the AWAF conference.

Sarah: I was being silly, yes. I'm sorry I didn't have more time to give an honest opinion. We'll have to leave that for another video. I wrote an article for Christianity Today on profanity, violence, and nudity. You can read it here:

I've thought long and hard about the question of nudity and art-making. In fact, I seriously considered submitting a Ph.D. proposal on nudity in the context of modern dance. Fun stuff, that. Well I opted instead for an investigation of Richard Hooker's aesthetics.

Along the way, though, I bought two books: Leo Steinberg's *The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion* and *The Nude" by Kenneth Clark. They were valuable resources.

Plenty of Christians within CIVA have wrestled with this question. I'd suggest you try to contact them for further resources. Folks like Ed Knippers certainly puts the matter gloriously in your face. Mostly, I think, we're still young as evangelical Christians in our understanding of nudity and art. I won't speak for Catholics and Orthodox on this, but I know it's neither simple nor straightforward for either.

I'm genuinely sorry this topic has made you sore. I imagine you've received all kinds of reactions well-intended but perhaps woefully misguided Christians about your sculpture or your ideas about sculpture. I don't think we'll have to fight this fight forever.

What we need in the meantime in Christian scholars willing to write on the subject and believer artists, in all media, brave enough to make work in this vein, not as a gimmick or a juvenile act of protest but as an honest exploration of the implications of the Incarnation.

That would be pretty awesome, in every sense of that word.
Hm. The html got cut off. Here it is again:
And again. That's retarded.

Well, here's the part that got cut off:

Mark Landers said…
David - Thanks for keeping me in the loop on all these matters and I enjoyed the sermonette. To jog your memory, we met at the "Transforming Culture" symposium. I am chairman of the Fine Arts Council for the Diocese of Austin. I realize that you have a broader vision of promoting the arts, but we have recently made headway in promoting the arts with specifically religious themes by opening a Sacred Art Gallery at the Pastoral Center for the Diocese of Austin. We have 54 works of art in the current exhibit including 3 by Jim Janknegt who has managed to be mentioned in almost everyone's comments. Some of the works are more abstract and need the title to help move the viewer towards a religious interpretation of the artwork. We will also be hosting a religious art show at St. Edwards University on April 18th that is free and open to the public with religious art for sale. Information on the new gallery and the art show as well as a directory of regional artists creating religious artwork can be found at One of these days we need to sit down and have a long conversation.
Mark, I love what you're doing with the diocese here in Austin. We really do need to meet and swap stories. I'd love hear what your bishop thinks and how other priests in the area feel about your artistic initiatives.

Thanks for saying via the blog.

And again: well done!
marksprinkle said…
Dear David--

Thanks for the video--especially the humor. I am a painter and writer, mostly (and really struggle with the issue of making subtly spiritual work, much less getting it seen), but I also seem to be being inexorably drawn towards organizing an arts ministry and/or center here in Richmond, Va.; in that endeavor I would very much appreciate some connectedness with others on a similar path. We corresponded very briefly after I missed the TC event, but have never met in person. This time I get to not meet you again at the Arts Pastors Retreat, though I'll be in Austin the following week for another conference Monday to Wednesday, where Andy C. will be talking, too. I was hoping maybe we could grab a cup of coffee or something then if you're available. I'd e-mail you directly but for the fact that I didn't know how. You can get flavor of my visual (and written, for that matter) work at, and e-mail me at mark@ that same address. Do you check this blog often, I wonder? Thanks!
Mark, I do check the blog often and I do remember you and, fortunate indeed, I'll be at the same event you'll be at the week following the retreat: the Q conference. So we shall meet after all. I'd enjoy sitting down for a cafe au lait.

I'll send you another email so we can reconnect electronically.
marksprinkle said…
Thanks, David. I saw your response right off, but just realized I didn't re-reply. I'll look forward to seeing you at Q, then. Do drop me a note with contact info when you get a chance. Also, congrats on the decision to head to Duke. --Mark
Bill Trask said…
It's refreshing to hear someone who gets it - redemption of all creation. The church will remain on the margins until more of us figure it out.

Intersted in hearing some examples of those around you living out the 7 suggestions.

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