Saturday, March 04, 2017

Bringing Education in Sacred Arts Into the Mainstream - Take Workshops for Credit

I am pleased to announce that Pontifex University is now offering studio credit for its Masters in Sacred Arts through established teachers offering workshops around the world. As the first three in a number of developing partnerships in a range of artistic pursuits (more news to follow soon), students on the MSA program now have an option of taking studio credit through icon painting courses run by the following partners: OQ Farm, Bethlehem Icon Center and Hexaemeron.

Just to give you an idea, typically one 5-day course with project work earns one credit at the Masters level. Students pay the teacher for the course as normal, and when they complete to the satisfaction of the teacher, they pay $150 per credit to Pontifex University. offers icon painting and icon carving through a series of 5-day workshops around the US and Canada. Their expert teachers include masters Jonathan Pageau, who carves icons, and Marek Czarnecki.

The Bethlehem Icon Center has courses and even a two year diploma taught by director and founder Ian Knowles. Classes are in English and you work alongside local Palestinian Christians; the Melkite Patriarch of Jerusalem is a patron of the school. The school offers short courses which are extremely good value, and the savings on the cost of the class alone would pay for a large proportion of travel and accommodation, which is very reasonably priced in Bethlehem. The next one is in April, ending the day before Holy Thursday.

And last but certainly not least, the OQ Farm is an artists’ retreat in beautiful Vermont in New England, which offers a series of workshops through the summer. Keri Wiederspahn, the director, herself an accomplished icon painter, has arranged for well known Greek iconographer George Kordis and Russian icongraphers Anton and Ekaterina Daineko to teach residential workshops in this spectacular setting. They are organized for the latter part of the summer and fall. In addition, in the fall, I will be teaching a Way of Beauty retreat at the OQ Farm, in which attendees learn about and experience the traditional formation of artists, so that they understand how it engendered creativity and an ability to apprehend beauty. It is appropriate for artists in any creative pursuit.

This is the next stage in bringing the teaching of traditional arts further into mainstream education for both artists and potential patrons, offering high quality courses that we hope will raise the standard of art in our churches, help to evangelize the culture, and draw people to the faith. My personal goal is to see sacred art viewed as a profession with the same respect given to architects. That won’t happen, however, until there is evidence of high quality art that serves the liturgy of the Church. This process of education will need to draw in all people, patrons, artists and worshipers, if it is to be successful.

Below, George Kordis, who teaches at the OQ Farm; an example of icon relief carving by Jonathan Pageau; and Ian Knowles teaching in Bethlehem.

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