Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Support Summer Program for a K-12 Catholic School That Will Form Sacred Artists

Earlier this year, I was approached recently by a friend of mine, Dr. Brandon Cook, who lives in Los Angeles, and had a great idea. He proposed the establishment of a Catholic K-12 school in the model of a choir school, which apart from the core subjects, would focus on the rigorous pre-college development of artists and architects who can serve the Church through the creation of sacred art. Young people can benefit from the discipline of learning to draw and paint at an early age; aside from developing a skill, in conjunction with an appropriate broader education, they also develop the sensibilities and taste for what is truly beautiful. An architect clearly requires advanced college-level academic study, but this school could still prepare students for college by sending them to architecture school with what mainstream architecture school will not give them. The aim of such a pre-college education would be to offer a Catholic inculturation and a formation that gives students an understanding of traditional design principles and harmonious proportion that could be applied later on, as well as (e.g.) a deep knowledge of how art and architecture work together in a well-designed church.

This project is in its early days, but I think that Brandon, who has a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies with a focus on art history from the University of Notre Dame, might have come up with an idea that could create a stream of modern masters. I am posting this in order to help generate support for what I believe to be a wonderful and worthy project.

Also, I am hoping that the idea might inspire others to think about doing something similar. It would be a great service to the Church if a number of such sacred art academies could be established throughout the country. Imagine the impact that would have on the culture of faith and also on contemporary culture! Brandon needs students, teachers, and donors at this point - contact him at brandonl.cook@gmail.com.

It is often stated that one of the reasons that the quality of artists today is lower than so many of the past is that in the past artists began their training as boys, as assistants to master artists. This drawing was done by Durer when he was just 13 years old.

While this self-portrait was done by Anthony Van Dyck when he was just 15 years old.
Both had begun their training as young boys, and these examples, for all that they are well executed, do not represent the culmination of their training; rather they both developed further after this. Van Dyck began at the age of 10, and so he had been studying for five years when he painted the self-portrait above. He continued to train after this (ultimately moving to the studio of Rubens), and he was with Rubens at the age of 21 when he painted this portrait of Cornelius van der Geest. We can see how much his technique has improved since he painted that self-portrait, now as a result of 11 more years of painting.

Brandon has now announced his plan to run a two-week summer school in 2022 as a pilot, and also to generate interest from prospective parents, teachers, and donors for the long-term project which will be the establishment of the permanent school. This is in the early days of planning, and will take place at as yet unspecified dates in July. He needs help in the first instance in gathering resources for the pilot, and I would like to put this request out to NLM readers. If any of you are interested in contributing time or money, please contact Brandon at brandonl.cook@gmail.com.
Here is some more information supplied by Brandon first about the proposed summer school, then about the K-12 academy, and then a little more about Brandon himself (I pushed him a bit to supply some personal details!). There will be more postings as the project develops.

“The LA Sacred Arts Summer School 2022, will be hosted by the Byzantine Catholic Proto-Cathedral of St. Mary in Sherman Oaks, California. It will be a two-week summer program for teens and preteens with artistic promise or experience (especially in drawing, painting, sculpture, or architecture) who want to learn about the sacred arts as practiced in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. This pre-college program will help students to value tradition and beauty and to develop their artistic skills in a Catholic environment through liturgical prayer and classes with practicing artists. This inaugural year of our summer school is open to 10- to 18-year-olds. Out-of-state residents may also apply.

The LA Sacred Arts Summer School is a precursor to a larger endeavor, the Antoni Gaudí Academy for the Sacred Arts, a K-12 fine arts and classical liberal arts school in the Catholic tradition. By drawing on the artistic, spiritual, and intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church, the Gaudí Academy seeks to nurture its students in the Catholic faith while equipping them with the skills needed to create beautiful places of worship and to preserve the rich heritage of religious art of the Church, especially in the United States. Inspired by the life and works of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet and the teams of artisans who realized his marvelous creations, the Gaudí Academy seeks not to raise up individual artistic geniuses but to found a community of faithful and Christ-loving artists. If you are interested in supporting or participating in the Gaudí Academy, contact Dr. Cook at brandonl.cook@gmail.

The son of an American diplomat, Brandon Cook was born in Washington D.C., grew up in Virginia, and spent his high school years in Pakistan and Hungary. The arts—especially the visual arts—have played an important role in his conversion to and growth in the Catholic faith. His desire to learn more about the faith and the intellectual and artistic heritage of the Church ultimately led him to complete a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies with a focus on art history at the University of Notre Dame. Further driven to promote and foster a community of Catholic sacred artists among the youth of the Church, Brandon founded the LA Sacred Arts Summer School. In addition to his Ph.D. from Notre Dame, Brandon has a B.A. from Yale University and an M.A. in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently a private tutor and home school teacher in the Los Angeles area.

This is a Catholic start-up, and we are in need of assistance. If you would like to participate as a teacher, administrator, fundraiser or donor, please, contact LA-SASS Director Brandon Cook for more information at brandonl.cook@gmail.com.”

Barcelona Cathedral, original designed by Gaudi, is scheduled to be finished in 2026 after 144 years' work.

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