Co-hosted by Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and UNC Asheville

Kimberly Bartosik, "through the mirror of their eyes." Maria Baranova

October 13-16, 2021

All events offered virtually and in-person

Learn more through UNC Asheville

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and UNC Asheville will convene the inaugural Faith in Arts Institute October 13 -16, 2021. This four-day event will bring together acclaimed artists and scholars to explore the intersections of art, faith, and spirit. Public events will include a tour of the exhibition Don’t Blame it on ZEN: The Way of John Cage & Friends curated by Jade Dellinger, Director of the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at FSW; film screenings; community workshops; lectures, and more.

The Faith in Arts Institute is presented by UNC Asheville and Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center with support from the Center for Jewish Studies at UNC Asheville, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville, the Henry Luce Foundation as part of their Theology Responsive Grant program, and Bob and Carol Deutsch. Kimberly Bartosik’s participation is made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Faith in Arts Conversation Series

In a lead-up to the institute, a series of Faith in Arts conversations have been hosted with a diverse group of artists, curators, faith leaders, and scholars to explore the role of arts in spiritual practice and religious life and the role of spiritual practice and religious life in the arts.


Public Events

The Faith in Arts Institute will be held at UNC Asheville, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, and will be virtually accessible through Zoom. The institute itself will be small, limited to 40 participants. The workshops, contemplative practices, and small group conversations are for Institute participants only. Other events, as indicated, will be open to the public. Public events are free except where indicated.

For the full schedule, including exclusive events for Faith in Arts registrants, please visit

Follow the links below for Zoom access to free public events. Once registered, you will immediately receive the information needed to join us virtually.

Full Institute ticket price: $60 (includes all events, including ticketed performances and screenings)

Wednesday, October 13

7:30 PM“Religion + Art in the 21st Century,” Aaron Rosen (BMCM+AC + Zoom) – The image of the blaspheming modern artist, trampling on all that is good and holy, never fails to grab headlines.  But while some artists simply aim to shock and offend religious sensibilities, they are surprisingly rare.  Contemporary artists who engage seriously with religious traditions, themes, and institutions are much more prevalent and indeed much more interesting.  It is time to set aside old assumptions about the antagonism between art and religion and look again with fresh eyes. In this lecture, Aaron Rosen, a leading scholar on religion and contemporary art as well as a practicing curator and critic, explores some of the key ways in which artists today are reframing how we think about religion and spirituality and driving new approaches to ethical issues including climate care and racial justice.  Rosen will draw on his popular book on the subject, Art & Religion in the 21st Century, with a special focus on works produced since 2020, in a period of seismic change to our moral landscape.

Thursday, October 14

2:30 PM – “African-American and Indigenous Spiritualities, Creativity, and Social Justice,” Rachel Elizabeth Harding (UNCA Highsmith Student Union + Zoom) – This presentation will explore thematic parallels in the work of painters John Biggers (1924-2001) and Daniel Minter (1961). Separated by more than a generation, and each with his own unique professional trajectory, these creative artists share Southern roots, diasporic visions, and sensibilities grounded in both the materiality and the mysticism of African American life. 

4:00 PM – “Original Zen: Its Art Then and Now,” David Hinton (UNCA + Zoom) – The arts were considered forms of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist practice in ancient China, and mountain landscape played an important part in that practice. Hinton will outline Ch’an insight. Then, starting from that understanding, he will discuss how Ch’an shaped the arts in ancient China, and how it migrated to America in the twentieth century, where it shaped poetry and visual-art in fundamental ways, a process in which John Cage and Black Mountain played a major role.

7:30 PM – Film Screening + Talk: “Testify, Beyond Place,” Marie Cochran (BMCM+AC | Free + open to the public) – “Testify, Beyond Place” pays homage to the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as well as its relationship to Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC. The year the film was produced in 2021, marked the 85th anniversary of the church demolition and gravesite removal to make way for the expansion of the campus. A marker at Robertson Residence Hall designates the original site of the church structure and approximately 100 graves. Testify bears witness to this event and provides a context for dialogue about a shared history and honors the resilience of the congregation. Producer/Director – Marie T. Cochran; Cinematography, Sound Design and Original Music – Kevin Slamon; Editing – Kevin Slamon and Marie T. Cochran

Friday, October 15

1:30 PM – Video and Talk: “I Hunger for You,” Kimberly Bartosik (Zoom)

2:30 PM – Conversation: Kimberly Bartosik and Christopher Rasheem-McMillan (Zoom)

3:15 PM “Making Nothing out of Something: Art as a Means of Clearing Ground,” Curt Cloninger (UNCA + Zoom) – Rather than use my art to try and introduce people to God as I have come to know him, I use my art to undermine people’s confidence in their ability to reductively know. I do this by forcing media and language to undo and unsay themselves. Language is revealed as an embodied force in the world, not simply a system of meaning-making. My goal is to begin clearing an open ground where a person might more readily be found by the living God who is there. I will show examples of my artwork, talk about my art practice, and discuss my own faith as it relates to my artwork and my media theory.

Saturday, October 16

1:30 PM – Performance: Music of John Cage – Thomas Moore, piano (BMCM+AC + Zoom) – This performance of solo piano works by John Cage will feature compositions from the 1950s through the 1990s, including the often discussed but infrequently performed 4’33” — Cage’s “silent” piece of 1952 — as well as Variations II (1961), selections from the Etudes Australes (1974–75), and One5 (1990).

2:30 PM – “John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing and Its Inspirational Value for the Visual Arts, Kay Larson (BMCM+AC + Zoom) – John Cage became famous in several ways: By linking his music with Merce Cunningham’s choreography, so that each partner could boldly explore previously unimagined methods of creating. By taking risks with his music in parallel with his urgent quest to envision the qualities of spirit he discovered in Asian practices such as Hinduism and Zen. And by writings that continue, some 80 years after first publication, to provoke and explain by their example. In a recent review of German artist Gerhard Richter’s “Cage Series” of paintings, art critic Jason Farago wrote: “John Cage’s dictum, ‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it,’ could be Mr. Richter’s motto as well.” The phrase comes from Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing,” perhaps the most radical, most important, and most provocative of Cage’s essays. Published in 1961, in Cage’s first book Silence, “Lecture on Nothing” has much to say to creative artists. The lecture is also beautiful and tough-minded, and worth performing in its own right. In all his work, Cage sought to “get himself out of the way” so that vivid encounters with the world could “make their own art.” These methods are still useful and timely.

4:00 PM – “Displaying the Dharma: Buddhist ‘Art’ and the Modern Museum,” Pamela D. Winfield (BMCM+AC + Zoom) – This talk examines the tensions and tactics involved in exhibiting Buddhist visual culture in modern museum spaces. It first critically examines the ideological divide between sacred and secular that reduced powerful Buddhist icons into aesthetic objects within 19th century Euro-American collections of Asian “art.” However, it then also examines how Japanese Buddhist temples, in particular, persevered through periods of persecution, preservation, and paradox, as they ultimately installed temple “treasure halls” (hōmotsukan) that replicated the very kinds of western-style museums that had pillaged their temple treasures a century and a half previously. If the 19th century transferred the temple out to the museum, then the 20th century transferred the museum back into the temple grounds. The result is that both American and Japanese museums need to be understood as hybrid spaces, where the supposed boundaries between sacred and secular are porous and continually negotiated by diverse audiences.

7:00 PM – Film Screening: “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff” (BMCM+AC | Ticketed | Free for students/faculty/registrants) – A hybrid of musical memoir and narrative fantasy, “A Kaddish For Bernie Madoff” tells the story of Madoff and the system that allowed him to function for decades through the eyes of musician/poet Alicia Jo Rabins, who watches the financial crash from her 9th-floor studio in an abandoned office building on Wall Street. Fueled by her growing obsession, real-life interviews transform into music videos, ancient spiritual texts become fevered fantasies of synchronized swimming, and a vivid, vulnerable work of art is born from the unique perspective of an artist watching the global financial collapse up close.