Trinity College, Faculty of Divinity, University of Toronto

Professor Schneider Coordinates Sacred Arts Initiative at St Vladimir's Seminary

The Orthodox School of Theology's co-director, Professor Richard Schneider, a specialist in iconology, has been involved in coordinating a new Sacred Arts Initiative at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York.

The initiative is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, and its events between the fall of 2016 and spring of 2018 are designed to explore the seminary’s contribution to the study and practice of the sacred arts.

In the first event, highly influential global scholars and artists took seriously the task of “Rethinking Sacred Arts” at a weekend symposium at Saint Vladimir’s over the weekend of September 16–18, 2016. Participants drew from their respective disciplines and expertise in exploring both historic categories and new ways of thinking about “sacrality” and “art.” The symposium included a public panel discussion on Saturday evening attended by an audience of 75 people.

Coordinating the symposium along with Professor Schneider were Dr Peter Bouteneff, Professor of Systematic Theology at the seminary and SAI Director, along with Deacon Evan Freeman, SVOTS alumnus and PhD candidate in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, and Megan Carlisle Rakowski, a trained archivist and seminary alumna.

“In thinking freshly about what it means to call something ‘sacred,’ our symposium participants reflected on the dialogical relationship between God and the human person,” noted Dr Bouteneff.  ” It is in the human response to God that we create and partake in objects, spaces, words, and sounds that bring us to the encounter with and praise of God.

“Our symposiasts also spoke appreciatively of the unique contribution that the Orthodox world can offer in reflecting theologically on the material world, on human creativity, and on the coming together of the sacred arts in the context of the Liturgy,” he added.  “Their participation in our chapel services made a great impression on them in that regard.”

Among the participants, three were within the Orthodox Christian tradition—sacred music composer Protopresbyter Ivan Moody, Chairman of the International Society for Orthodox Church Music and currently a researcher at CESEM-Universidade Nova de Lisboa; Vasileios Marinis, Associate Professor of Christian Art and Architecture at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Divinity School; and George Kordis, iconographer and former Professor in Iconography (Theory and Practice) at the University of Athens.

Other participants represented a wide spectrum of confessional beliefs and disciplines and included Gordon Graham, Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts, Princeton Theological Seminary; Helen C. Evans, Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Annemarie Weyl Carr, University Distinguished Professor of Art History, Southern Methodist University (Emerita); Peter Jeffery, Michael P. Grace Chair in Medieval Studies and Professor of Musicology and Ethnomusicology, Notre Dame University; Margot Fassler, Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Music and Liturgy, University of Notre Dame; Judith Wolfe, Senior Lecturer in Theology and the Arts, University of Saint Andrews, Scotland; and Mary Carruthers, Professor of English, New York University (Emerita) and Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

The next SAI event will be an international conference, titled, “Sounding the Sacred,” May 1-4, 2017, which will continue the work of the Arvo Pärt Project at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary.

An audio recording of the public panel discussion and a photo gallery are available online.