Art Wednesday: Are you a Patron?

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC asks the question, “Are you a patron?” to all those concerned with issues of faith and art. After the few questions follows an eloquent and concise case for christians investing themselves deeply in art. Enjoy these words from Redeemer. The church throughout history has been a fountainhead for patronage of the arts, until, that is, modern times, when it is more likely to see the church pitted against the art world or withdrawing from it. In such a setting Redeemer’s words are, frankly, a relief.

The Quiz:

Have you attended an arts event or venue in the last six months? (live music concert, museum or gallery, play, dance performance, independent film, etc.)

Do you have a favorite art form that you particularly enjoy experiencing and learning about?

Do you occasionally attend different types of arts events/venues, besides your favorite?

Do you have a favorite artist or arts organization whose work you follow closely?

Do you ever spread the word about a particular arts event or artist?

Do you sometimes look through the Arts section in newspapers or magazines?

Have you financially supported an arts organization or artist (outside of purchasing tickets) in the last year?

Do you know an artist, are you involved in his/her life, and are you actively supporting his/her career?

Scoring:

  • If you answered “yes” to 7 or 8 of these questions, you rock! You’re definitely the kind of patron we want to see everyone at Redeemer becoming! Keep up the great work!
  • If you answered “yes” to 5 or 6 of the questions, you’re also a patron, actively supporting the arts. Maybe think about the questions you responded “no” to, and consider how you might bring that into your arts and culture experience. And let us help you become even more engaged in the arts through our Arts Month and Culture Club events.
  • If you answered “yes” to fewer than 5…well…we have lots of opportunities for you to learn and grow as a patron! Attend Arts Month events, and join our Culture Club for monthly arts outings around the city.

Why Be A Patron?

The word “patron” comes from the Latin patrōnus, meaning “advocate,” which in turn came from pater, meaning “father.” Patrons can simply be customers (when you give a store your patronage), or they can be be protectors (patron saints). In the arts, we use the word “patron” to describe anything from a casual observer (buying a ticket but not engaging any further) to the strongest supporter (providing significant financial and other support).

The arts need real patrons – customers, yes, but also protectors, advocates, and “fathers.” Why? The benefits of the arts are intangible, and are therefore not easily measured or defended. The arts don’t tend to be financially profitable, and can sometimes challenge audiences in uncomfortable – but necessary – ways. Artists don’t tend to advocate well for themselves – we need those whose lives have been influenced by the arts to communicate the value of what we do to others. But the effort is worth the price. In a recent fundraising letter, Dance Theater Workshop, a NYC dance advocacy and performance non-profit, wrote:

In times of uncertainty, what we choose to stand behind can be brought into question. Is it wise to invest precious financial resources in art and the people who create it when each new day can seem more tumultuous than the last? The answer is simply, yes. It is in times such as these that art can have its greatest impact. Art has the power to change our world view, to open up and re-invigorate our perspective, and now, more than ever, the work of art-making deserves the ferocity of our attention.

Christians, and the Church, have a mixed history of arts patronage. Some of the greatest works of visual art and music ever created were commissioned to the glory of God by churches and individual Christians. But, particularly in recent times and with some art forms, the Church’s message has sometimes been less positive about the value of the arts in the world, and in Christians’ lives.

Redeemer’s mission is to “renew the city socially, spiritually, and culturally.” In a talk, Tim Keller said, “The best way to help the world is through the arts.” Redeemerite and author, Ted Scofield, writes:

Christians cannot abdicate the arts to secular society. We must consume, study, and participate in the arts if we are to have a seat at the table. Whether it has a religious theme or strikes us as irreligious, we must be patrons if we are to have an impact on how the world interprets and responds to the arts. We cannot be wary, we cannot be afraid, we cannot be self-righteous. Christians must look, listen, read, and experience the arts if we are to lead our culture to renewal.

Thanks to the Center for Faith and Work and also to Critique.

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