November 9th, 2021
Don't miss the last chance to see “Voices Together,” an exhibit of original artwork from the hymnal of the same title, in the Regier Gallery, closing this Friday.
The exhibit currently in the Regier Art Gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center is something out of the ordinary in that it marks the first time a Mennonite hymnal has included visual art in its pages.
At first glance, “Voices Together” might not appear so. It’s a collection of drawings, paintings, prints, digital illustrations, mixed media, paper cutouts and one photograph by various artists from the United States and Canada, organized by Bethel Professor of Visual Art and Design Rachel Epp Buller, Ph.D.
However, the exhibit takes its name from a new hymnal, Voices Together, a multi-year project by Mennonite Church USA (with which Bethel is affiliated) and Mennonite Church Canada that was completed in late 2020.
Unlike any other Mennonite hymnal before it, and few other Protestant Christian hymnals anywhere, Voices Together includes visual art.
The pieces in “Voices Together” the exhibit are the originals (in most cases) of those found in Voices Together the hymnal.
“This exhibit showcases the 12 works in the hymnal plus a few more that the artists wanted to include with the exhibit,” Epp Buller said.
“Voices Together” is in the Regier Gallery through Nov. 19. Gallery hours are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with no admission charge.
One of the pieces is her scratchboard drawing, “We owe them a complicated debt,” one of two by Kansas artists (the other is Matthew Regier of Matfield Green) in the hymnal.
“Several years ago, I responded with a call for art [for the new hymnal],” Epp Buller said, “and my drawing was accepted.
“Sarah Kathleen Johnson, a member of the Voices Together Hymnal Committee and Visual Arts Committee, first floated the idea of a traveling exhibit to the artists and asked if anyone would be willing to coordinate that.
“I eventually agreed to do it, in the hopes that it would offer a platform for some collaboration with faculty at other Mennonite institutions.”
Epp Buller succeeded with that goal when the Marpeck Fund, which has a specific aim of fostering cooperation among the North American Mennonite colleges, universities and seminaries, and which is overseen by the deans of those institutions, agreed to fund “Voices Together” as a traveling exhibit.
After its start at Bethel, it will travel to Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., in January 2022, Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ontario, in March, and Goshen (Ind.) College in September.
Marpeck funding has also allowed the production of an exhibition catalog with an introduction by Epp Buller; an essay by Johnson and SaeJin Lee, co-chairs of the Visual Arts Committee, on the process of, and motivation behind, including visual art in the hymnal; statements from the 12 artists; and an essay by Canadian literary scholar Magdalene Redekop on her personal journey with considering the visual art in Voices Together.
The catalog is also online at https://issuu.com/bethelcollege1887/docs/voices_together_publication_design-single_page_pdf
“Since [the Regier Gallery doesn’t] often host exhibitions with overt religious themes, I think this show will speak to a different part of our wider community,” Epp Buller said.
“We’ve had visits from church youth groups and adult Sunday school groups, and I hope that the exhibition will facilitate some re-thinking about the possible role of visual arts in worship.”
Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #15 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #31 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, both for 2021-22. Bethel was the only Kansas college or university selected for the American Association of College & Universities’ 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, and has been named a TRHT Campus Center. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu