Architect and Scholars to Discuss Creating Sacred Space March 28

The Sacred Arts Festival at the University of St. Thomas will present “Creating Sacred Space,” a cross-disciplinary dialogue at 7 p.m. March 28 in the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium.

Acclaimed architect John Cuningham and three distinguished scholars – Victoria Young, Jeanne Kilde, and Marilyn Chiat – will examine the construction of sacred space through the lenses of architecture, ritual and social history.

“Creating Sacred Space” is co-presented by the Sacred Arts Festival and the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas. The event is free and open to the public.

“The arts play a vigorous, multidimensional role in the human construction of what is sacred in our midst,” said David Jordan Harris, interfaith arts special consultant at the Jay Phillips Center. “Few subjects strike more resonantly at the core purpose of a Sacred Arts Festival than the theme of creating sacred space.”

Cuningham founded the Cuningham Group in 1968. He earned degrees in architecture from Harvard and the University of Minnesota, where he taught architectural design for 18 years. His acclaimed design for the Episcopal House of Prayer in Collegeville received the 25-Year Award from the American Institute of Architects Minnesota in 2015, given to an exemplary architectural project that has withstood the test of time.

Young, who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, is professor of modern architectural history and chair of the Art History Department at the University of St. Thomas. Her research focuses on 19th and 20th century architecture, with special interests in sacred space and contemporary war museums. She is the author of Saint John’s Abbey Church: Marcel Breuer and the Creation of a Modern Sacred Space, an award-winning book that was heralded in a review by Norman Weinstein for ArchNewsNow as “the first great architectural history of the 21st century.”

Chiat earned a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Minnesota, where she also served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies. Her dissertation on ancient synagogue architecture was published by Brown University under the title of Handbook of Synagogue Architecture. Her work focuses on the role that religious architectural structures play in their communities, providing insight into the history of their congregants and the larger cultural context in which they exist.

Kilde is the director of the undergraduate religious studies program at the University of Minnesota. A cultural historian of religion in the United States, she holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota. Her primary research focuses on religious space and architecture. Among her publications are When Church Becomes Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship and Sacred Power, Sacred Space: An Introduction to Christian Architecture.