Throughout history, art has always played a role in religious and faith-based organizations. Some of the world’s most acclaimed works of art are based on religious themes.
Most religions use some form of art to tell their stories or to help focus the mind on contemplation and meditation.
The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit will explore these ideas in a free public program at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 15. This will be a virtual survey of religiously themed works of art in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
The program is hosted by Wendy Miller Gamer, program director for the Interfaith Council’s Religious Diversity Travel program, and Christian Black, gallery professor at DIA.
That same tour is part of the council’s religious diversity travel program for seventh-graders in Wayne and Oakland counties.
“It’s a great program, and we wanted to open it up to everyone and let adults see how it works,” said Miller Gamer. “It will be essentially the same program that we use for kids, but the conversation will be at the adult level.”
For an hour, one or two pieces by religious tradition – Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Native American – will be presented while Black provides details on the piece, period and artist.
The period of the collection extends from the 15th or 16th century to the 21st century.
“I like to choose works of art that are thought-provoking and also tell a story,” says Black. “As humans, we love a good story. “
As a gallery teacher, Black generally works with students and rarely has the opportunity to tour with adults. He hopes to have a deeper level of conversation that delves into the concepts of art. Its main objective for this virtual tour is to show the commonalities and connections between the different religious traditions.
The Religious Diversity Travel program was founded in 2002 with the aim of introducing students to a faith and cultures different from their own.
As part of Michigan’s seventh-grade World Religions Social Studies program, student groups from Wayne and Oakland County have the opportunity to visit six different places of worship and learn about culture and tradition. Each year the program concludes with a trip to the DIA.
After speaking with the school district administration, teachers, parents and faith communities, Miller Gamer decided to keep the Religious Diversity Journey program virtual for the 2021-2022 school year starting in September, and hopes to return to in-person learning in early 2022.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people 12 years of age and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Typically, students are 13 when they enter grade seven, based on their birthday.
“The schools don’t seem to be prepared,” says Miller Gamer. “They’re thinking about bringing the kids into the classroom, and thinking about sending them out of the classroom on field trips is beyond who they are right now.”
Not only do schools need to feel comfortable with field trips, but places of worship need to be prepared to accommodate as many students at once, Miller Gamer notes. She hopes that schools can resume field trips by November 2022.
To register for the DIA Religious Art Virtual Tour, visit detroitinterfaithcouncil.com/events-calendar.