“Nourish” is the theme of the 33rd annual University of St. Thomas Sacred Arts Festival, which runs through the end of the month. The festival, open to the public, is a celebration of sacred art and an exploration of faith.
This year’s theme of "Nourish" was chosen by the festival’s planning committee for several reasons. According to committee chair Dr. Julie Risser, “The term ‘Nourish’ connects with feeding the soul, the spirit and the body – something that is timely for this cold and sometimes dreary time of the year. We all need a little warmth and physical as well as spiritual nourishment as we look at the gray sky and step in cold, slushy puddles.”
In addition, "Nourish" complements an initiative of the university’s English Department. Each year, the English Department chooses a Common Context to focus class readings, discussions and interdisciplinary learning. This year, the theme for the Common Context is hunger. Risser believes making the connection between the festival and a conversation among the larger community is important. “The festival is enriching a concept that is already being discussed in the classroom within our students’ core curriculum. It helps us generate more interest and make relevant connections.”
Festival events are free and take place on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. The remaining events include:
- “Robyne Robinson: A Global Perspective of Art, Design and Philanthropy,” now through April 13, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center lobby gallery. The exhibition features a selection from the jewelry designs and personal art collection of Robyne Robinson. Robinson has collected ethnic, modern and contemporary art from all parts of the world for the past 20 years. Her combined passions for culture, design and travel eventually led to a collection of keepsakes from her adventures – a river stone from Germany, silver milagros from New Mexico or ceramic beads from Greece. Robyne revived a childhood talent for collecting unusual items and stringing beads to create her ROX jewelry line, sold in 26 jewelry stores and boutiques around the world. Her designs tell stories of where she has been and why the people and places were special to her. In addition, the beaded and dyed bags for ROX jewelry are an international philanthropic collaboration – handcrafted by a group of South African women, their fair trade project with Robinson returns money to the community, and they in turn provide books and clothing for orphaned children as well as support missionary work.
- Paintings by Anil Chaitya Vangad, on permanent display in the Anderson Student Center. A Warli artist from western India, Vangad bases his images on traditional paintings that women made inside their homes. The works celebrate community, nature and food. In the large piece, “Maunt & Cool Devata Laxmi,” the artist uses rice paste on ground created from an earth-based pigment. At the bottom of the image people transport, prepare and market food. Rising from this area is a large mountain. Individuals travel up the rocky environment, to reach the top where a flag has been placed. Some rest and eat along the way. The smaller work, "Tarpa Dance," also celebrates community. In the center a man plays an instrument created from a gourd. People will link arms and dance around the musician.
- “Nourishing Bodies and Souls: An Exploration in Music and Movement,” 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, Woulfe Alumni Hall, Anderson Student Center. UST Concert and Liturgical Choirs will perform with Eclectic Edge Ensemble. A contemporary jazz dance company with a diverse repertoire, Eclectic Edge Ensemble collaborates with local musicians, choreographers and other artists to create musically and theatrically inspired work. The company aims to present a fresh perspective on jazz dance in the Twin Cities, creating accessible performance experiences that connect to audiences through the pure joy of movement.
- Melanie Rae Thon Fiction Reading, 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium. Thon’s most recent books are the novel The Voice of the River (September 2011) and In This Light: New and Selected Stories (June 2011). She is also the author of the novels Sweet Hearts, Meteors in August and Iona Moon, and the story collections First, Body and Girls in the Grass. Thon’s work has been included in Best American Short Stories, three Pushcart Prize Anthologies, and O. Henry Prize Stories. She is a recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Writer’s Residency from the Lannan Foundation, and a fellowship from the Tanner Humanities Center.
- Film: “Of Gods and Men,” 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium. “Of Gods and Men” is a 2010 French drama film directed by Xavier Beauvois, starring Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale. Its original French language title is Des hommes et des dieux, which means "Of Men and of Gods" and refers to a verse from the Bible shown at the beginning of the film. It centers on the monastery of Tibhirine, where nine Trappist monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Algeria, until seven of them were kidnapped and assassinated in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War.
- Lecture, “Robyne Robinson: Impact of Global Urbanism on Art and Design,” 6 p.m. Friday, March 16, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium. The lecture is related to Robinson’s exhibit “A Global Perspective of Art, Design and Philanthropy.”
- Panel: "At Table: Steps to a Well-Nourished Life,” 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, Room 378B, Anderson Student Center. The panel, co-sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, features four community members who will discuss how our spiritual traditions and ethical commitments shape the food we grow, cook, and savor. Panelists include David Harris, the Interfaith Arts Special Consultant at the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Ward Bauman, executive director of the Episcopal House of Prayer, Gunnar Liden, executive director of Youth Farm & Market Project, Leili Tajadod Pritschet, artist and native of Iran, and Jerry Sweeney, catering manager at the University of St. Thomas.
For more information about the artists and events, visit https://www.stthomas.edu/saf and "like" the Sacred Arts Festival on Facebook.