In The Image

By L.K. O’Connor published in March 2018 ‘Crosstalk’

One Saturday in the fall of 2017 and one Saturday in January 2018, the doors of St. Barnabas, Ottawa opened to welcome artists to an art day called In the Image.

Following a number of British cathedrals on Twitter, I discovered the creative new ways in which cathedrals have begun to use their sacred spaces in recent years. A regular parishioner or visitor would expect to be able to attend services of Mattins, Eucharist, Evensong and Compline, as well as funerals, weddings, baptisms, concerts, and fellowship events. Unexpected events might include abseiling the cathedral, on the outside; a skateboarding event, inside; a candlelit gala dinner in the nave; a midnight organ recital; a Jane Austen festival, complete with a re-enactment of her funeral procession; art exhibitions and installments; a Robin Hood-inspired archery festival on the grounds; an evening of photography by candlelight; a sing-along screening of The Sound of Music; or a day inviting artists to come and sketch, paint, create collages, or take photographs inside and outside the building.

In the Image drew its inspiration from this last venture, and was beautifully simple to organize.

Four hours were set aside, a graphic designer was engaged, and an invitation went out via social media to Ottawa artists to come to the contemplative space of our parish church to practise their art – whether it be painting, sketching, drawing, embroidery, writing, or photography. Artists were invited to bring their own art materials, and no admission was charged.

Everyone who attended remarked on the beauty of the sacred space, with icons, flowers, stained-glass windows, organ pipes, and carvings to catch the eye and move the spirit. They also appreciated being invited in to the church for a time ‘just for them’. Time passed slowly and relaxedly, allowing photographers to roam freely, and sketch artists and writers to sit quietly with their work. A toddler visiting with her mother greeted everything she beheld with wide and interested eyes.

It was a pleasure to welcome artists to our sacred space. Our plan is to make In the Image a regular, once-per-season art event at St. Barnabas.