Program Leaders:

The Artists

Macky Alston

A document filmmaker, Alston is Director of Auburn Media and Executive Director of the Hartley Film Foundation. Alston is both an educator on issues of media and religion and a regular writer and reviewer on film and religion. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary (M.Div.), he comes from a long line of ministers in the American South and grew up exposed to the power of religion.

The film in the program, Family Name, explores the legacy of slavery in America today. It aired nationally on PBS in 1998, winning the Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival, the IFP Gotham Open Palm Award, and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Historical Programming. (Siskel and Ebert gave Family Name "two thumbs up, way up.")

Alston's most recent documentary feature, Questioning Faith, explores what happens to people's spiritual convictions when crisis strikes. It aired nationally on HBO and Cinemax in June 2002 and met with critical acclaim.

Since 1998, Alston has been a partner at River Films, a documentary film company in New York City. He has received grants for his productions from the Ford Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, HBO and PBS.

At Auburn Media, a division of the Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Theological Seminary, Alston has developed a program that offers religious expertise to the world of the media and media expertise to the world of religion. The goal of Auburn Media is to cultivate, support and promote engaging, balanced programming on religion, spirituality and ethics in the broadcast media.

He also directs the Hartley Film Foundation, a public charity that supports documentaries on world religions, spirituality, ethics and well-being.

Bill Viola

Chosen to represent the United States at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995, artist Bill Viola is recognized internationally for his work in video and sound installations. For the last 25 years, Viola has used innovative multimedia technologies to explore the phenomenon of sense perception as a language of the body and avenue to self-knowledge, integrating many disciplines and philosophies to reveal contemporary art's relevance to the to the modern world. His views have deep roots in mysticism, poetry, philosophy, Eastern Art, shamanism, Chinese Taoism, Sufism and Zen Buddhism.

His scholarship on art is equally cross-cultural and historically expansive. He finds inspiration in Renaissance frescos that adorn the ceilings of Italian churches, Islamic painting as well as in the diagramic visual language of Tibetan mandalas. Viola's chief concern today is to focus on the connection between our inner and outer lives, on the conception of the self as part of the whole.

In 1997, the Whitney Museum organized a 25-year survey of his work that traveled to major museums in the United States and Europe. He has just completed his most ambitious project, Going Forth By Day, a five part projected digital "fresco" cycle in High Definition video. Following the completed of a four-month exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Bill Viola: The Passions, traveled to the National Gallery London in October 2003. Hailed as the 'Rembrandt of the video age,' he was the first ever contemporary artist to be featured in a major one-man show at this prestigious gallery.

Recipient of numerous awards and honors including a 1989 MacArthur Foundation grant, he has created over 123 videotapes and multimedia installations since 1973, which are shown in art museums, galleries, and on public television worldwide. The Messenger was first installed in Durham Cathedral in northern England.

Presenters and Panelists:

Troy Messenger is the Director of Worship and a Lecturer in Worship and the Arts at Union Theological Seminary. Previously, Messenger directed the Nightwatch program at St. John the Divine where he hosted 3000 young people a year on weekend programs exploring the life, ministry, and arts of the world's largest gothic cathedral. Messenger is a musician and minister. He has written Holy Leisure: Recreation and Religion in God's Square Mile.

Robin Jensen, ARC Fellow and Director, is the Luce Chancellor's Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville. She is the author of Understanding Early Christian Art (Routledge, 2000), and two books currently in press including Face to Face: The Portrait of the Divine in Early Christianity (Fortress, 2004); and The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian Community (Eerdmans, 2004). She is currently working on a book on the architecture and iconography of Christian baptism expected from Brill Publishers in 2005.

Lisa DiFranza is Literary Manager and Education Director of the Portland Stage Company of Portland, ME. She has worked on Ritual and Theatre in the Masters program at Andover Newton Theological School. Earlier, she was a faculty member in the Drama Division of the Julliard School in New York City.

Eileen D. Crowley works with the many languages of media, art, worship, theology, and theological education. As a liturgist (MA, University of Notre Dame; Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary, New York City), and media producer, she has pioneered scholarly research in the growing phenomenon of media arts in worship. Ms. Crowley is currently completing a book entitled Liturgical Art in a Media Culture (Liturgical Press) and is lecturing on the topic at seminaries and denominational conferences.

Mary McNamara is Executive Vice President of Union Theological Seminary. She formerly served as Director of the Inter-Church Center in New York City.

Erling Hope is a sculptor focusing on contemporary liturgical art who investigates the influence of objects, images, and the built environment on religious sensibility. He served as artist-in-residence at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston and is a Director of ARC and co-chair of its Program Committee.

Geoffrey Fairweather, an ARC Director, is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Music, and Philosophy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He founded and conducted the National Chorale of Jamaica and National Choral Orchestra of Jamaica and from 1972-1986. For the past eleven years he has conducted the New York Labor Chorale. Recently this group performed in Carnegie Hall as well as outside Lincoln Center. He has been a Fellow of Trinity College of Music in London as well as a student in the Juillard School in New York.

Norris Chumley is a producer/director/writer, who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Union Theological Seminary in New York where he received a Masters degree in 2002 in theology and media. His work has been featured on PBS, NBC, ABC, A&E, USA, Showtime/The Movie Channel, HBO/Cinemax, and WNET/13. He created Mark Twain's : The Diaries of Adam and Eve (for PBS's American Playhouse), Getting the Love You Want, (PBS, with Oprah Winfrey, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt), and the Gospel According to Jesus (HBO/Cinemax). He has earned numerous awards including the SONY/American Film Institute's Grand Prize in Video for his documentary, Little Mike.

David Jasper, ARC Fellow, is Professor of Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow. An Anglican priest, he was previously Principal of St. Chad's College, Durham University. He earned a degree in English from Cambridge, and three degrees in theology (MA, BD, DD) from Oxford with a Ph.D. from Durham University. His book The Sacred Desert will be published in April (Blackwell).

Janet R. Walton is Professor of Worship at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Professor Walton's research and teaching focus on ritual traditions and practices in religious communities, with particular interest in aesthetic dimensions, feminist perspectives and commitments to justice. Her books include Worship and Art: A Vital Connection, Sacred Sound and Social Change, co-edited with Lawrence Hoffman, and Feminist Liturgy: A Matter of Justice.

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