University of St. Thomas presents 27th annual Sacred Arts Festival

"Autobiography 2" by Hend al-Mansour

University of St. Thomas presents 27th annual Sacred Arts Festival

The University of St. Thomas opens its 27th annual Sacred Arts Festival on Nov. 1. The festival, open to the public on the university’s St. Paul campus, includes a variety of artistic traditions that articulate humanity’s understanding of the divine. This year’s festival centers on the theme “Expressions of Faith Rooted in the Abrahamic Traditions.”

This year’s festival events include:

  • Art exhibit: “Expressions of Faith Rooted in the Abrahamic Traditions,” Nov. 1-25 in Room 102, O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center, and in the lobby gallery of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center. Free. 

The exhibit includes 40 mixed-media works by three Twin Cities artists: Saudi Arabia-born Hend al- Mansour, Chillon Leach and Sandra Brick. Al- Mansour’s works reflect Muslim traditions; Leach’s, Christian; and Brick’s, Jewish. An opening reception for the artists will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the exhibit spaces.

  • Discussion with director and cast of “Voices of Women From the Abrahamic Faiths,” an upcoming play by the joint Theater Department of the University of St. Thomas and the College of St. Catherine (see below for production information), 12:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, in the Luann Dummer Center for Women, Room 103, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center. The discussion is part of the center’s Feminist Fridays discussion series.
  • Film: “Le Grand Voyage,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium. Free.

Ismaël Ferroukhi’s 2004 film follows a father and his teenage son making a 6,000-mile road trip to Mecca. Every year millions of the world’s Muslims embark on the physical and spiritual odyssey; the pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, required for capable Muslims once in a lifetime. The film won the Luigi de Laurentiis award for best first film at last year's Venice Film Festival.

  • Discussion with artists, 12:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, in the Luann Dummer Center for Women, Room 103, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center. Free. The women’s center’s Feminist Fridays series features a discussion with artists Hend Al- Mansour, Chillon Leach and Sandra Brick, whose works comprise the exhibit, “Expressions of Faith Rooted in the Abrahamic Traditions.” They will discuss their work’s spiritual dimensions and inspirations from their faith traditions.
  • Organ recital: 8:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. Free. Award-winning young Hungarian organist László Fassang gives a recital on St. Thomas’ Gabriel Kney organ.  A feature of his recital will be an improvisation on themes derived from Christian, Jewish and Islamic sacred music. He also will play works by Bach, Pachelbel, Mozart, Vivaldi and de Cabezón.

László Fassang

Fassang won the 2004 Grand Prix de Chartres, the 2002 Improvisational Gold Medal at the Royal Bank Calgary International Organ Festival and Competition, and prizes for improvisation and the Duruflé Prize at the 2002 City of Paris International Competition. Born into a musical family in 1973 in Budapest, Fassang began studying the organ when he was 13. He graduated from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in 1998, then entered the Paris Conservatory. In 2000, Fassang took a year’s sabbatical to become resident organist at Sapporo concert Hall in Japan. Since leaving Japan, he has performed concerts in France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Canada and the United States. He currently divides his time between Hungary and Spain, where he teaches at the Musikene in San Sebastian.

  • Theater: “Voices of Women From the Abrahamic Faiths,” three short plays by women about Christianity, Judaism and Islam, 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 16-19, in St. Thomas’ Foley Theater. Tickets: $5 general admission, free for students, faculty and staff with ID from the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Augsburg College, Macalester College and Hamline University).  Reservations: (651) 690-6700.

              A panel discussion will follow the Nov. 17 performance.

Works include “Sapientia” by Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, a 10th-century Saxon nun believed to be the first recorded European dramatist following the Dark Ages; “The Royal Jewess,” from an 1835 work by Elizabeth Polack, credited as the first Jewish woman melodramatist in England; and “Baghdad Burning,” based on the Web log begun in 2003 by a young Iraqi woman who calls herself Riverbend. She is known as the only Iraqi blogger writing from a woman’s perspective.

For more information about the Sacred Arts Festival, contact festival chair Dr. James Callahan, (651) 962-5856.