Biola Launches New Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts

Celebration encourages engagement with art and faith

Sep. 23, 2013 By Jenna Bartlo

Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts officially launched Sept. 20 with the dedication of the newly renovated art gallery — dedicated to Earl and Virginia Green — and a concert under the stars.

 

Encouraging attendees to engage with art and culture as an integral point of faith and Christianity, Biola University President Barry H. Corey spoke about the heart of the new center.

 

“We believe it’s time for Christians to regain a voice within cultural industries and the art world and in so doing, continue the great intellectual and artistic tradition of our faith,” said Corey. “To do this, we must first come to a deeper understanding of the role of the arts in the Christian life. And with our close proximity to Los Angeles, arguably the imaginative epicenter of the world, we at Biola believe it is imperative that we engage with increased passion and sophistication in the conversations [and] the creations of culture.”

 

Biola received a grant from philanthropists Howard and Roberta Ahmanson’s Fieldstead and Company to establish the new center — a significant initiative that will host events, support artists and seek to promote rich thinking about faith and art.


Drawing from Christianity’s rich historical past of incorporating beauty and art, the new center seeks to close the schism of faith and art that arose in the past century with contemporary Christianity.


“This growing separation has grown worse and worse over the past centuries,” said Dana Gioia, a professor of poetry and public culture at University Southern California, at the dedication. “Biola’s new center is only a beginning, but it is an important beginning. Here in the city, the Los Angeles area, which has more creative people, more artists than anywhere else in North America. Here in the center of the modern arts we have created a way of witnessing that art and faith are actual partners.”

 

To celebrate and launch the center’s exploration of the arts and faith, the gallery featured the show “Amass: The Paintings of Linnea Gabriella Spransy.” Spransy’s show is about limitation and finding harmony within limitation. Her paintings seek to reflect the belief that limits can result in freedom.


The newly renovated art gallery opened at 6 p.m. and a formal program outside the gallery featuring Gioia, Spransy and the Ahmansons commenced at 7 p.m. The gallery was dedicated to Roberta’s parents, Earl and Virginia Green.


“When we create, though we in our imaginations are sinful and broken, we are working out of the image of God in us. We are co-creating with him,” Roberta Ahmanson said. “We all know that art is a major language of our very visual time. Images speak in ways that words cannot, just as words speak in ways images cannot. This gallery is a place to explore that visual language.”

 

The evening concluded with a jazz concert on the lawn featuring five renowned musicians — Biola professor Rique Pantoja, keyboard; Alex Acuña, drums and percussion; Abe Laboriel, Sr., bass; Mike Bagasao, sax; and gospel vocalist Linda McCrary — who share a spiritual and artistic depth as they play across musical idioms encompassing jazz, contemporary Christian, Latin and gospel music forms.


“I’m excited at the prospects of what this will mean for Biola University and our influence on the world,” said Corey.

 

“One of the crucial ways we can impact the world for Christ is through shaping the way creations of the imagination — poetry, music, visual arts, performing arts, literature, and on and on — how they’re shared and how they’re celebrated. It has been said that the most influential creators of culture are the most impactful changers of culture.”


The launch event for the Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts was the first of many events for the 2013–14 academic year. See a full schedule of events at http://ccca.biola.edu/events/.


Fieldstead and Company, which is funding the center, was founded by Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., and his wife, Roberta Green Ahmanson, longtime Biola supporters who guided the university’s Year of the Arts in 2011–12. Roberta Ahmanson served as “visionary in residence” for the yearlong celebration, which included dozens of events, lectures and exhibitions centering around the theme of “Sanctuary and Sacred Space.”

Read President Corey’s thoughts on Christianity and art, “Art in the Now and Not Yet.”

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Specialist. For more information, contact Jenna at 562.777.4061 or jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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