Christian Artists Seminar

August 5 - August 10 2017


The growth of the Seminar with regard to target area 3, that of involving as wide a range of art forms as possible, was to some painfully slow. The first period of 5 to 6 years was a time for getting over teething problems and for consolidation. This was almost exclusively in the area of music. A wide range of styles were encompassed, broadening out from ‘gospel’ to classical, from choral to rock and even heavy metal. This was not only in the performance aspect of the Seminar but also in the workshops. The number of technical and motivational workshops grew from 130 in 1982 to over 300 by 1988, with topics ranging from drum technique and synthesizer programming, to choir conducting, songwriting and publishing rights.

The second period of growth was in the mid 1980s when dance, mime and theatre were introduced. This again was a 3 to 4 year process, not due to lack of will on the part of artists or participants but because the churches (mainly those Protestant denominations of a pietistic tradition) needed education in the use of such art forms, especially with regard to their use within churches themselves. The Christian Artists organisation expended much effort to promote these forms through their literature and preseminar publicity and publications. Articles were written for the Christian press and explanations given whenever invited. In traditions where the body is seen as inherently evil many hurdles had to be overcome. Progress was slow but starting out from a base of simple liturgical forms the Seminars came to encompass European genres of mime, pantomime and clowning as well as classical ballet and contemporary dance. Interpretive movement brought a colourful and inspiring dimension to both concerts and workshops, and puppet theatre and whiteface mime crossed language and cultural barriers.

The third and most difficult period of artistic expansion was the integration of the visual arts. Although many Christian painters and sculptors had gained recognition in the world at large (e.g. Janeric Johansson from Sweden and Britt Wikström from Holland) powerful notions of artwork being virtually blasphemous within church walls still dwell in many of the reformational and nonconformist traditions, particularly in northern Europe. La Rivière himself has written several publications articulating biblical precedence and theological justification for the use of corporeal and visual art forms within the church*7). After some degree of nervousness the CA-Council gave the go-ahead for their incorporation and in 1987 the first exhibition was prepared carefully, and a few workshops were introduced on this theme. This experiment to not only explore the use of painting and sculpture, but to encourage the artists themselves who had in many countries found their work misunderstood and unaccepted by the Church met with a warm response. But conflict was never far away and in 1991, after an exhibition by a German artist was judged to be “New Age”, there was a significant and negative backlash. This reaction meant that Christian Artists lost some of its hard won credibility amongst Christian groups around Europe and La Rivière’s own judgement was called into question. It took several years to re-build trust amongst some groups and artists. With the change in 1994 to a smaller seminar with top-quality on stage and in workshops and with a new type of plenary meeting total credibility was back very soon.