Visual art plays a significant role in the healing and flourishing of humanity. Artists are capable of testifying to the deepest truths of human experience in its myriad configurations and overlapping layers of interdependence. The visual arts accomplish this through an ability to portray honestly all aspects of human experience, regardless of their desirability, political acceptance, or conformity to social ideals. But art is capable of more than description and diagnosis: art has the prophetic power of imagining new, more just modes of being in the world.
In a similar way, spiritual and religious practice at its best is an act of imagination-formation, offering the practitioner vistas for seeing the world in new, provocative configurations and demanding the instantiation of justice through the call to religiously-motivated action.
While the relationship between contemporary art and religion is difficult and often oppositional, the time has come to re-imagine this relationship not through aesthetic or formal similarities, but through the lens of social justice.
Bringing together celebrated and emerging artists from a range of visual disciplines, the Institute for Art, Religion and Social Justice invites the art world and the general public to explore this mutual relation through exhibitions, performances and public lectures held at Union Theological Seminary.
Looking back to a time when theological schools were central places of social and artistic innovation, the Institute seeks to recreate this traditional locus in a contemporary context, opening up the experiential, historical, theoretical, and pragmatic intersections between art and religion, through a revitalized exploration of social justice. The Institute offers intentionally public access to this network of intersections, seeking to generate new modes of action and interaction among the broad, diverse constituencies exploring this in their work and their lives.