Sacred Art is flourishing and inspiring…now in the city of Phoenix, Arizona

On July 1, 2017, I wrote an article about sacred art on display in an Arizona Sonoran Desert city, titled, Sacred Art is inspiring and flourishing…in Scottsdale, Arizona. You will be happy to know that The Sacred Art Gallery continues to grow and attract more artists and visitors all the time. One of the gallery consultants, Grace Rivera, even shared with me two nights ago that my article on the gallery gave them a bump from views on their website to individuals walking in their front door.

On Wednesday night (same night we saw Grace), my fiancée and I were invited to an open house at the New Jerusalem Studios. We were excited to attend, most especially me, because I first remember when Ruth and Geoff Stricklin were searching for space where Ruth could create her own sacred art. Although I have seen her work at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center located on the campus of Arizona State University and at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix, I was excited, as was my fiancée, to see where such beautiful art begins to take shape.

As you will see from the pictures that are interspersed through this post, the sacred art is large, meant to cover walls and ceilings – and is absolutely stunning! Like sacred music, sacred art has the tendency to raise our eyes, mind, and soul towards Heaven itself. These images that Ruth has created does that for me and I imagine anyone that comes into contact with them.

New Jerusalem Studios focuses on large liturgical art which is theological in nature. The studio not only can create the image itself, but has the knowledge and capability of designing the image before it is produced on the canvas. Along with the sacred art images, New Jerusalem can assist you in the creation of beautiful sacramental art, such as pews, flooring, sanctuary furniture, architectural pieces, and even lighting. A reasonable restoration can be created at an affordable cost.

Liturgical art created correctly, that is produced within the mind and heart of the Church, can change one’s life instantaneously. I remember walking through the Vatican Museum in 2000 – at times I couldn’t speak because of the sheer beauty that was before my young eyes. Even today as I write this post, it’s difficult to express on “paper” what I witnessed those many years ago in Rome.

The reason I bring this up is because for so long we have been held captive by modern art (as well as modern music) which lacks a true sense of beauty. In my opinion, modern art has no real form to it, it lacks distinctiveness and any real aesthetic appeal, and for the last 50 years or so, that’s how Catholic structures have been designed and built.

The good news is that a lot of this modern art is starting to cease within the Catholic Church. Churches are either being built or being redesigned again with a theological sense. I can’t tell you how many parishes that I have read about in recent years who are transforming their modern Catholic churches into works of beauty, and at the heart of these renovations is the sacred art that New Jerusalem Studios can design and produce.

I would encourage you to check out their website, browse around a bit, especially look at the projects page – you will be blown away to see what Ruth is creating in this quaint studio in Phoenix, Arizona.

To conclude, I leave you with the words of Pope St. John Paul. In his Letter to Artists, he quotes Fyodor Dostoevsky’s, The Idiot. Under the title heading, “The Saving Power of Beauty”, the Polish Pope says,

People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm [of wonder] if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world.”

Sacred Art is Inspiring and Flourishing…in Scottsdale, Arizona

In his April 4, 1999, Letter to Artists, Pope Saint John Paul II said this in regards to sacred art,

“Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration!” In this spirit of profound respect for beauty, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium recalled the historic friendliness of the Church towards art and, referring more specifically to sacred art, the “summit” of religious art, did not hesitate to consider artists as having “a noble ministry” when their works reflect in some way the infinite beauty of God and raise people’s minds to him.”

This quote mirrors perfectly what I experienced yesterday during my first visit to The Sacred Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. I can honestly tell you that sacred art, as John Paul II speaks of it, is very much alive and well in this inspiring and flourishing gallery. I had heard many wonderful things from friends about this place, but was not expecting to experience what I did with my own mind and heart. Two of the pieces were so moving, that I was nearly brought to tears just looking at them. It’s transcendent – like walking into a beautiful ancient basilica – you forget that you are in the middle of downtown Scottsdale.

In a world filled with waves of relativistic thought and art, The Sacred Art Gallery is answering the call, in their own way, of the Council Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and the words of Pope St. John Paul II by allowing a space to exist where sacred art can be viewed, commissioned, and bought by the individual person. Because sacred art like this is often not seen in secular galleries, and Phoenix doesn’t have a museum with such art, this charming gallery is filling the void for those who are seeking goodness, beauty, and truth through the art that has spanned the centuries in the Catholic Christian world.

With the rise of more beautiful churches being built again, there is going to be a need for those churches to be filled with beautiful art. I can think of no better place to assist in this new endeavor, this new Renaissance, than The Sacred Art Gallery. If you have the means of supporting your diocese or parish by seeking a commissioned piece, I would encourage you to reach out to the galleries page for Commissions. If you want to assist in a project being overseen by the gallery, here is their Patron page.

Not only does The Sacred Art Gallery display sacred pieces, but also if you are local to the Phoenix Metropolitan area or spending an extended period of time in the area (when it doesn’t feel like the surface of the Sun), they offer classes and workshops, most notably an Icon Writing Workshop.

A part from the beautiful sacred art experienced yesterday, I was also grateful for the guidance from Grace Minton Rivera, one of the art consultants at The Sacred Art Gallery. You can see her passion for the sacred art hanging all around her because each time she talked about a piece her eyes lit up and it was as if she was talking about it for the first time.

To conclude, I leave you with the words of Grace after asking her – what the response has been from people passing by or walking into the gallery. She said,

“So this is really just a spectacular place because of what happens when people step into the gallery. Sometimes someone will walk through the door, take a look around and say “Huh! So this is like, a church place.” And then they’ll turn around and walk straight back out the door. Others will come into the gallery and walk around the entire thing, looking at every piece of art and expressing their negativity for all of the pieces. They will stand in front of a sculpture of Mary in audible disgust. Nevertheless, they continue on through the entire place.

But there are times when something really amazing will happen. I’ll watch someone walk through the door and it’s like they automatically just shed a layer off of themselves. Almost like that feeling that you get when you walk into your house or your church. It’s a visible feeling that you see on these people, the feeling of being at home. That layer that you keep on yourself when you go along your way in the world to protect yourself kind of comes off when you go into a place and feel like you’re at home. It’s so beautiful to see because this gallery is really like a home for us all. The imagery that you experience in the paintings and the sculptures are familiar. They depict the stories of our faith and they visually connect us to our heavenly family.

When people walk through the door and are able to shed that layer it reminds me of the universality of our faith and the reason why we’re here, in this gallery, in the middle of Scottsdale. This gallery is a home. It doesn’t just belong to the owners and it’s not just a place where we hang art. The Sacred Art Gallery belongs to Catholics and Christians. It’s a place where you can walk in and shed that layer, and connect with something truly beautiful.”

I encourage you to share this article with your family and friends, because beauty such as this must be experienced, shared and reflected by us all.

Note: Images reproduced with the authorization of the Sacred Art Gallery.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Truth, Beauty and Sacred Art

In recent days, I have had the privilege to view some new sacred art recently created in Northern Italy. To say that this art is beautiful would be the understatement of the month. As a child and adolescent growing up in the Catholic Church, I was subjected to some rather grim churches and terrible art. It was as if we were trying to destroy truth, beauty and sacred art and replace it with relativism, ghastly, and ugly modern art.

In a time when the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are coming to fruition, let us also reap the bountiful beauty of the Church’s sacred art and allow our parishes to be filled with art that reflects the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Communion of Saints. Catholic Churches should represent the Heavenly Kingdom and not the lower levels of the Inferno.

Stain Glass Window in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Cottonwood, AZ

Stain Glass Window in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Cottonwood, AZ

So what does the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach on sacred art?

In paragraph 2513, it states: The fine arts, but above all sacred art, “of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands. Their dedication to the increase of God’s praise and of his glory is more complete, the more exclusively they are devoted to turning men’s minds devoutly toward God” (SC 122).

To read more on sacred art in the Catechism, please see paragraphs 2500-2503. I would also check out The Foundation for Sacred Arts and the June 23, 2014 article from Catholic News Agency. I would also encourage to check Steve Bird Art for some fantastic paintings, drawing, and sculpture.

Interior of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper, IN.

Interior of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper, IN.