Art serves many purposes. Sometimes it entertains. Sometimes it provides a few minutes of escape from the heavy industry of everyday life. But art does something else – it points us to the deeper things in life. Love. Hope. Suffering. Pain. And most of all it points to meaning, that elusive quest to make sense of our human experience. Religion is our attempt to make sense of two unalterable realities — that we are here and we’re going to die. This is why art and religion share so much common ground — both are trying to help people make sense of everything in between these two inescapable realities of life.
The exhibit of “Art & Spirit” invites people to consider the relationship of art to the spiritual quest. Some of our pieces, such as the wonderful print from Corita Kent, are in fact overtly religious. Others touch upon spiritual awareness in a less direct way. A painting by the young artist Roberto Ortiz, for example, portrays a simple but beautiful chair at Disney Hall. On first glance it has nothing to do with religion. Yet it has everything to do with the importance of stopping, sitting, and pausing — the painting becomes an invitation to the contemplative life.
“Art & Spirit” is also a reminder of the transforming nature of community. Art Division, located only a few blocks from First Congregational Church and headed by Dan McCleary, provides art instruction to young adults who might otherwise be forgotten in a sprawling city like Los Angeles. Not only does this exhibit display some of their amazing pieces, but it also brings together friends of Art Division. To place, for example, a student piece next to an established artist such as Laura Lasworth or Luis Serrano, suggests community is indispensible for our human experience.
Finally, to have this exhibition inside First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, reminds us that there are still sacred spaces that matter to our city. First Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2017. But the real story of the church is not that it’s the oldest Protestant congregation in the city, but that it has reinvented itself as a dynamic, open, progressive community of faith, integrating the arts and the spiritual journey in a way that is engaging and profoundly meaningful. While this happens every Sunday in the beautiful cathedral space of the church, it is especially true of “Art & Spirit.”