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Dominican School opens Sacred Arts certificate program

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placeholder March 14, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
Holy Week & Easter Liturgies

Dominican School opens Sacred Arts certificate program

Artists and architects: The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley invites you to a new certificate program in Sacred Arts, created to help you understand how Catholics use art in worship.

Applications for the program, which will begin this fall and assumes a working knowledge of a specific fine art medium or architecture, are being accepted.

"Our offerings in general category of religion and arts, anyone can study any topic that relates the fine arts to religion in general," said Father Christopher Renz, OP, dean of the school.

"The sacred arts offering is different in that we want to focus the use of fine arts in Catholic worship and liturgy," he said. "Because of who we are, we want to look at that from the philosophical and the theological perspectives."

Many of the school's students, are drawn here "especially to engage in a program in a M.A. program dedicated to religion and the arts," said Rev. Michael Morris, OP, professor of religion and the arts.

"The certificate program is for artists themselves," said Father Morris. "Instead of engaging in a big MA program, they can take a number of courses and gain a certificate."

"It brings them closer to the church insofar as they are educated about religious art and liturgy," he said. "They will get a great sense of how they can contribute their talents in the service of the church."

The Dominicans, in particular, have an abiding interest in the sacred arts. "We have a rich history between the sacred arts and fine arts and our own preaching tradition," said Father Renz.

Father Morris is in the midst of completing his book, "The Lives of the Eminent Artists of the Dominican Order," to coincide with the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Dominican order.

"In it, I have artists, writers, painters, sculptors, actors, actresses, Nobel Prize winners, authors," he said. "It's a wonder array of evidence that Dominicans have been involved in the arts."

The connection between the Dominicans and the arts is strong.

"They're all searching for truth," he said. "They want to share that truth, which is basically preaching."

Father Morris attended USC on an arts scholarship; after graduation, he joined the Dominican order.

"Even though I was in the practice of art, everything turned academic joining the order. It's a very academic order," he said. "I took my love of art history and asked if I could go on for a PhD in art history."

His timing was perfect: The Dominicans had just joined the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Art and religion had been separated on the secular campus far too long and it was time to bring them back together," he said, noting the influence of Jane Dillenberger, the program's founder and Leopold Ettlinger, who was Father Morris' "marvelous mentor. "

GTU's "first generation of professors in religion and the arts" are all dead, he said.

"I'm the link between them and the new generation here at GTU," Father Morris said. "I absolutely enjoy my teaching years. I feel like I'm just getting my stride."

In addition to teaching religious art history and religious film history, Father Morris serves as director of the Santa Fe Institute, the arts arm of the Dominicans.

Founded as a liturgical institute in the 1960s, the focus has shifted to the arts.

"We turned it into a research institute," he said. The institute is entrusted with 12,000 volumes dedicated to religion and the arts, and an art collection that includes what Father Morris called "the largest collection of biblical movie posters in the world."

"We want to set up ourselves as an information resource center and consultation agency," Father Morris said of the Berkeley-based institute.

Works from the collection are often displayed at the Blackfriars Gallery on the Dominican School campus, where the public is invited to view the art during business hours. "Part of the mission of the school is where we engage the contemporary culture in conversation," said Father Renz.

"We'll have an exhibition in the fall that looks at two examples of Dominican arts through the lens of fine letterpress printing," Father Renz said.

 
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