Ten years of events aimed at wrestling with the deep questions of art, faith, and humanity has led not to answers, but to more questions. The International Art Movement’s (IAM) upcoming event in New York City, “Encounter 10,” centers on 10 questions posed by the Movement, gathering artists and creative professionals from all over the world to interact with issues facing the global creative community.

Engaging the Mystery

One of the speakers at Encounter 10, Jeffrey Overstreet, thinks more questions might be a good idea for Christians. In a recent interview with IAM, he said that Christians often want evidence that they are on the right path, “instead of approaching the world around us with a sense of humility and openness and wonder.” The danger in this, according to Overstreet, is that, “As soon as we decide we’ve got it all figured out, we’re now looking down at other people instead of turning and looking upward into the mystery, open to new things.”

IAM, a New York City-based nonprofit arts organization, strives to cultivate an experience of art that welcomes exploration of mystery. The organization’s vision states, “The world needs artists and visionaries to lead the way in seeing beyond the trivial to the transcendent, bringing synthesis to fragmentation and hope to despair … . Through understanding the culture that is and looking toward what can be, we hope to rehumanize our world.”

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, IAM founder and PCA church member Makoto Fujimura has sought to speak hope into darkness through his art. As a successful artist in Japan and the U.S., Fujimura has emerged as a leading voice on the nature and cultural assessment of beauty, by both creating it and exploring its forms. Recognized by both faith-based and secular media as a cultural influencer, Fujimura consistently challenges the traditional boundaries between the art and faith communities.

Grounded in a Judeo-Christian worldview, IAM looks to Scripture as the framework for addressing questions such as “Why art?” and “What does it mean to truly be human?” Specifically, at Encounter 10, to be held March 4-5, 2010, featured presenters will address such questions as “How then shall we tell stories?”, “Can physical and digital get along?”, “What is the quest(ion) of success?”, “Can faith communities foster artistry and creativity in culture?”, and “How can generosity and philanthropy lead to artistic sustainability?”

Encouragement and Community

Maria Fee, an artist, theology student, and staff member at New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA), has attended all but one of the IAM conferences in the last decade. IAM has featured her artwork in exhibitions and her face is even featured on the organization’s information pamphlet. But, most important to Fee is the encouragement and community she has found through IAM. “Over the years, IAM conferences have encouraged my experiences as a Christian and as an artist,” she says. “The speakers time and again touch on art’s ability to heal, form community, evaluate the human spirit, as well as remind us what it is to be human.”

Encountering Art and Culture

Those conversations among artists don’t take place in a static environment. Although Encounter 10 will be held at the newly renovated Great Hall at Cooper Union—a cultural center since 1858—participants will engage with performances on site and in the cultural goldmine of New York City. The event is designed to not only discuss, but encounter the cultural artifacts that point to the world that ought to be. Along with time to visit the array of museums, galleries, theaters, and clubs of New York City, on-site performers for the weekend include jazz pianist Deanna Witkowski and folk ban Ben + Vesper. Participants will also hear from the winners of juried competitions in music, poetry, and literature.

Featured presenters are as diverse as the art they produce: Dan Siedell (art historian and author of God in the Gallery), Roberta Ahmanson (journalist and philanthropist), Jacob Marshall (Mae drummer), Makoto Fujimura (artist, author, and former National Council on the Arts member), Matt Heard (pastor and wine sommelier), Mark Chambers (avant garde painter), Etsuro Sotoo (Japanese sculptor), Jeffrey Overstreet (author, film critic), and David Sacks (photographer).

Undoubtedly, as these leaders seek to answer the 10 questions posed by Encounter, even more questions will arise in the artistic souls of those who attend. And that will be the fuel for 10 more years of looking up into the mystery to the source of ultimate answers.

For more information about Encounter 10 or the International Arts Movement, visit www.internationalartsmovement.org.

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