Faith & the galleries

The art world is a debate without words.

This debate takes place in galleries across the country. It will not match your sofa. At the college level and beyond, art is not about decoration. Rather, it is a lively discussion about the very terms and ideas through which our culture experiences the world. Consequently, Christians have a stake in this discussion. As in any debate, you will find positons or images to embrace as well as dislike. Debate (rather than demogoguery) is the defining feature a Christian intellectual community.

Our library, the Huizenga Memorial Library, exemplifies this. It carries works by Augustine and Calvin; it also carries works by Freud and Nietsche. Freud and Nietsche remain in our library because their insights are significant influences in our culture even though certain aspects of their work are at odds with a reformed, Christian perspective. In fact, the range of ideas is what makes for a strong library.

Exhibiting the range of images that have shaped our visual tradition makes our gallery strong as well. Consequently, the art department defines the Seerveld Gallery’s role as the intersection between our community and the art world. Both sides contribute to the discussion. A Christian campus is a fruitful context for the examination of visual culture. Our goal is to respond to this rough and tumble discussion with grace and insight.

The ability to engage in debate —including work whose ideas or terms challenge us— is the college's mission. Both the the apostle Paul and our founding colleague, Calvin Seerveld, exhort us not to fear. Our capacity to rise to this challenge is a sign of artistic, spiritual, intellectual and institutional strength. Programming in our student and professional galleries is a steady reminder of the opening line from the Art Department's mission statement: God’s gift of vision is neither incidental nor neutral.

The Seerveld Gallery is where Reformed community meets the art world: Students encounter work by five or more professional artists each year. These artists range from those who are internationally known and emerging artists from Chicago, New York and elsewhere. We also bring in artists, designers and critics to campus in person and online. Students encounter the ideas that shape the discipline in the familiar environment of Reformed scholarship. Interaction with these artists and designers helps students to understand that their own work is part of a larger tradition that is still active.

Art world meets the Reformed community: Our gallery’s reputation gives our program “street cred” in the art world as nothing else can providing that we continue our practice of exhibiting work that is relevant to the current discussion.

Connections to internships and graduate schools: Connections to artists made through the gallery help our students to connect to internships and graduate schools.

Students' professional practice: Students make their first steps into professional practice by observing artists in the gallery and putting up their own work, hosting openings and explaining their work to their peers in the student gallery. For design students that induction into professional practice happens in the Student Design Organization. For art education students our program, including opportunities for students meet artists and show their own work, functions as a paradigm modelling the necessary elements of an educational experience.

At Trinity, student artists,educators and designers will be professionally engaged long before they leave campus for internships and the real world of art, design and art education.