TIR Kathryn Reklis: Art, Spirituality, and Social Justice July 8-August 5

TIR Kathryn Reklis leads Forum on July 15, 2018.

First United Methodist Church of Boulder is delighted to welcome our next Theologian-in-Residence (TIR), Dr. Kathryn Recklis, in July! Kathryn will lead 5 Forum programs (9:00 am on Sunday mornings in the church parlor) during her stay with us as together we explore Art, Spirituality and Social Justice.

Since at least the 19th century, art and religion have had a complicated relationship, many viewing art as a replacement for religion. The English Romantic Matthew Arnold argued that what Christianity did for people in the Middle Ages, artistic experience would do for modern people; around the same time, Lutheran pastor and theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher contended that real religion already was the same as good art. As late as the mid-twentieth century, American liberal Protestants were defenders of high modernist art, but after the 1960s, modern art and established religion suffered a messy divorce. Today, most artists do not want their art to be seen as “religious” and most “religious” people are suspicious of the dangerous or subversive tendencies of art.

But what if the relationship between art and spirituality were not based on the question “are they the same?” but instead “what do they do?” This series will explore new ways to think about the relationship between art and spirituality through the lens of social justice. Each week we will consider a different artist, artistic style, or genre as a way to think about how art does work that is similar to the work done by spiritual traditions to create conditions for social change.

JULY 8 Forum (9:00 AM, church parlor): Art, Spirituality, and Social Justice–An Introduction
We will look at the ways art and religion and spirituality have been in conversation or competition, focusing on Christianity and modern art in the United States. We will also discuss how “social justice” may be a valuable new way to think about their relationship.

JULY 15 Forum (9:00 AM, church parlor): Art, Meditation, and Being Present to the Other
Using performance artist Marina Abramović’s 2010 performance piece, The Artist is Present, we will discuss meditation and presence as a form of spiritual practice in art. Abramović is famous for drawing on her Serbian and Orthodox heritage to explore her own body and physical presence as an icon. We will consider her earlier performance work as a form of ascetic practice and her more recent work as a form of artful meditation.

JULY 18 (7:00 PM, church parlor): Movie Night–Black Panther
We will screen the movie Black Panther and discuss themes of race, racial justice, popular story-telling, and what pop culture can teach us about the stories that bind our culture together. Popcorn and drinks provided!

JULY 22 (9:00 AM, church parlor): Pop Culture, Cultural Myths, and Racial Justice
Drawing on our July 18 movie night, we will explore themes of racial justice in popular culture as a way to explore the common myths and stories that bind a culture together. We will talk about the film from July 18 as well as recent television shows and popular music.

JULY 29 (9:00 AM, church parlor): Art, Prophecy, and Irony
Continuing our conversation about racial justice, we will explore the work of contemporary American artist Kara Walker, whose work deals with racial stereotypes, black history, slavery, Jim Crow, and the power of public memory to erase or expose injustice.

AUGUST 5 (9:00 AM, church parlor): Community, Solidarity, and Communal Memory
Using Paul Chan’s 2007 public art project, Waiting For Godot in New Orleans, as our case study, we will discuss art that draws on its location, local communities, and the work of community-creation in both artistic and spiritual communities.

Dr. Kathryn Reklis is a professor of Modern Protestant Theology at Fordham University in New York City, where she teaches classes on the history and practice of Christianity in the modern age, Christianity and colonialism, theology and aesthetics, theology and popular culture, and digital religion. She is an affiliate faculty in the American Studies program and the Comparative Literature program at Fordham, where she works with students on projects that explore the intersection of religion, secularity, popular culture, and social justice. Dr. Reklis is also the author of the “On Media” column for The Christian Century, which won the Award of Excellence for a regular column from the Associate Church Press in 2017. In 2009, she co-founded the Institute for Art, Religion, and Social Justice with artist AA Bronson at Union Theological Seminar. From 2009-2016, the Institute brought artists, seminarians, and theologians together to explore the work of social justice through the vocations of art and spiritual leadership in both New York and Berlin. Dr. Reklis lives with her husband, an English professor, their two kids, and a lot of books in Astoria, Queens.

To learn more about the Theologian-in-Residence program at First United Methodist Church of Boulder, please visit our TIR page.