Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Chichester Workshop for Liturgical Art - Call for Apprentices

An Authentic Formation as a Master Sacred Artists in the Manner of Medieval Guilds

Last month, I featured the Chichester Workshop for Liturgical Art in two posts (on October 10 and October 17.) This week I want to explain more about what is going on there, and why I think that this provides a unique model for the re-establishment of authentic traditions in sacred art and the evangelization of the culture, one which should be a prototype for others.

Martin Earle working on a mosaic of the Pantocrator.
As you can see from this page on their website, they are offering a series of training opportunities for gifted artists in 2024. If you are a skilled artist who is looking for an opportunity to work on real commissions under the direction of a Master, and wish to serve the Church, then please consider applying through this page. The workshop has been established under the leadership of the renowned iconographer Aidan Hart and two of his senior former students, who are now masters in their own right, taking commissions and teaching others to the highest level.
This is also a call for enlightened patrons to want to help establish an updated system of apprenticeship which mirrors the medieval guild system in its teaching practice. By doing so, they will not only be contributing to the creation of work that will inspire faith and right worship for centuries. They will also be helping to train those masters who not only continue the tradition through their own work, but also pass it on to others what has been established by training them.
The Chichester Workshop for Liturgical Art was established under the patronage and support of the Anglican Bishop of Chichester, the Right Rev. Dr Martin Warner, and is multidenominational. Aidan is Orthodox, and his colleagues, Jim Blackstone and Martin Earle are Anglican and Roman Catholic respectively. Each has a fully liturgically centered understanding of what the Church is, and understands deeply how to harmonise the form and content of sacred art with the right worship of God within their denominations. You can see their individual work on their websites here: Aidan Hart, Jim Blackstone, Martin Earle. They are able to take commissions in the US as well as the UK.

This is a workshop in which each Master takes on apprentices in a focused, traditional model, tailored to the individual strengths and weaknesses of the students, and brings them up to the Master level quickly. They take on people who already have a high degree of artistic ability and training, but need the final, high-level training - post-doctoral level, if I can call it that - that produces the person who is capable of taking on commissions in painting, sculpture, mosaic, stained glass or fresco, and can also teach others in these disciplines.
These Masters will only consider students who are committed to the mission of evangelization, and want to pass on to others in turn what they learn. Each student is carefully selected. They must be open to direction, have a strong mission-oriented faith, and have the artistic talent. In this sense, the project works more on the Medieval guild model of bespoke personal training and formation than that of the Academy model that developed in the High Renaissance, and which is used in the ateliers that teach classical naturalism today.
The Workshop’s mission is also a way of training multipliers - artistic missionaries, so to speak - who can re-establish and propagate an authentic paradigm of tradition, on which will hand on the positive experience and wisdom of past generations.
I spoke to a typical student, who is a Roman Catholic and member of an Anglican Ordinariate church Maryland. He approached Aidan after completing three years of training in classical naturalism in the academic method at an atelier in Baltimore. He recognised that his training, which imparted great skill in drawing and painting, did not give him the additional formation that would enable him to paint liturgical art which is truly in harmony with the sacred liturgy of the Church. He will travel regularly to the UK to work alongside Aidan in his workshop, spending focused periods with the other Masters in order to learn specific skills, such as mosaic.
This is where you, dear readers, come in. This is a call for patrons of the arts. The high level students are there, but funding is needed to pay for the time of these Master artists to teach them. Every hour spent with a student is one in which these professional artists are not earning a living as an artist for their families.
If you are interested, you can help in two ways. One is to fund a student by paying tutorial fees, plus room and board. Perhaps you know an artist in your own congregation whom you would want to support, and who could in turn create beauty in your own church. Funding such a person would be establishing a local model of art creation in which all the congregation will feel part of what is happening, and so will want to safeguard what it is created. They will feel personally involved and engage with it more readily in their worship.
The cost of such a training would be less than the fees at a conventional art school or classical naturalism atelier, perhaps of the order of $15,000 per annum all in. Some require just part of a year to complete the program, while some will require perhaps a full year or even two.
Alternatively, and perhaps even more excitingly, you or a group of you could commission a large scale work or a number of transformational works for your church. Then Aidan, Martin or Jim would be able to pay the apprentice to work on the commissions directly. This is the most efficient and effective way to see positive results.
Just to inspire you with what is possible, you could contribute to the transformation of a church in the way that the patrons who funded Martin Earle did at Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, England.
And to explain how it works: when I was a learning to paint, Aidan taught me fresco by letting me assist him in two projects. One was at the hermitage in Shropshire, the Monastery of St Anthony and Cuthbert. At first I assisted in a lot of the non-artistic work of the project, while observing what Aidan was doing all the time, and talking to him. Ultimately, I did paint minor details in the fresco itself as my teacher gained confidence in me, in this case, the drapery painted on the walls.
Art of the quality that Aidan, Martin and Jim create will inspire worshipers and future artists for generations. You or your parish could commission, for example, a rood screen or a reredos, and the frescoes on the walls, to create a fully interactive schema of art that engages all during the act of worship.
I would be available to advise on how to design such schemas if anyone needs help in this regard.
I encourage those with funds or with access to them to consider very carefully the value of such beauty and become enlightened patrons who play an absolutely vital part in the evangelization of the culture, which in turn will have an effect on the Church and the wider culture, potentially, for centuries.
A mosaic of St Dominic by Jim Blackstone
Those who are interested in commissioning work can contact myself through thewayofbeauty.org or the workshop direct: https://www.chichesterworkshop.org/, or the artist from whom you wish to commission something: Aidan Hart, Jim Blackstone, or Martin Earle.

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