More thoughts on Transforming Culture

Last night I continued to read about the “Transforming Culture: A vision for the church and the arts” conference. I took the time to look through the details of each plenary session. I have to say that I’m a bit disappointed in their choice of speakers (I’ve already voiced this to the conference organizers, per their request.).

I actually recognize four of the six names, prominent people in Christianity — some working in the arts. In fact I have a book edited by Jeremy Begbie, an anthology on Christianity and the arts. My complaint is that none of the speakers have ties to the fine arts. There isn’t a painter or sculptor leading any of the sessions.

I am an advocate for all arts, but most especially for the fine arts, the tactile arts, which is my own passion. Further, it seems to me that drama, writing and music have all had their forums in the Church for some years now. Of course, these still need to be discussed and improved upon, but they possess a much more viable foothold (based on my own observations) among Christians than fine art.

Why not have the likes of Makoto Fujimura or Sandra Bowden lead a plenary? The organizers know these people by name; both Mako and Bowden are endorsing the conference. Both speak, to my knowledge, in such settings. Last year I voiced a similar complaint about books on Christianity and art, observing how 95% of such books are written by people in writing or drama or music — or with no relationship to the arts at all! — but none did I know of by a visual artist. And while I’m thankful for these efforts, I’m very skeptical when it comes to the author’s (or in the case of Transforming Culture, the speaker’s) ability to empathize with my own particular passions and struggles.

I hope this isn’t discouraging to people planning such events, but I am burdened by this deficiency in the Body of Christ. A friend suggested over coffee yesterday morning that I be the one to write a book from a tactile artist’s point-of-view. The thought has certainly crossed my mind. However, I don’t have credibility; I don’t have an MFA, let alone a show at any reputable gallery of any kind, nor I am I certain I can find the time for such a (probably unprofitable) undertaking. All of this can be overcome but at the moment creates hesitancy.

Furthermore, I thoroughly love the interactive aspect of a blog. A book is more static. It is less like conversation; it’s less about me learning than spouting. Were I to write such a volume, it would certainly need to be prefaced with the phrase “I reserve the right to change my mind.”


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

2 Responses to More thoughts on Transforming Culture

  1. balm says:

    This is amazing! Where are the visual artist’s? Write the book, screw the fact of titles and clout. If you have passion, creativity, stamina, and the call, write the book. These are dialogs needed at this time!
    To me, I get frusterated when the bent is about “Christian” art rather that well thought out, creative, well produced art from someone who happens to be convinced who Jesus is. I received a review of a book ccalled Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch ( It was an excellent review that I can email to you if you are interested.

    I have met and heard Sandra speak before. I believe that Mako also speaks from time to time. There is another person Leanne (IAM Staff of sorts) who I have heard speak before as well. She has a fine arts background and has begun to work on her art more often. I know Gary speaks very well also. He is tied to ViaAffirmativa. He is very direct about the approach to art. He will address the dialog of Redemptive art rather than “Christian” art.
    — darin

  2. TAE says:

    Thanks for the encouragement! The idea does cross my mind on occasion; it wasn’t just a passing idea. However, I have bigger ideas that I’d like to see happen as well.

    I suppose a book is a little more feasible than a missional retreat, though (see embedded link above).

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