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

More details to come

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 the southeast premiere performance of through the mirrors of their eyes, by Guggenheim Fellow Kimberly Bartosik; 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. The presentation of  Kimberly Bartosik’s through the mirrors of their eyes was 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 at the Kittredge Theater at Warren Wilson College. 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

Registration fee: $60 (includes all events, including ticketed performances and screenings)

Wednesday, October 13

7:00 PM – Live music at BMCM+AC – more information to come

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) – more information to come

3:30 PM – Music by Alicia Jo Rabins (UNCA) – more information to come

4:00 PM – “Original Zen: Its Art Then and Now,” David Hinton (UNCA) – 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 – “You Can’t Tell it / Like I Tell: Danced Spirituals as Liturgy,” Christopher-Rasheem McMillan (UNCA) – In this talk, Christopher-Rasheem McMillan will situate ‘Danced spirituals’ as African American liturgical devices that synthesize meaning-making, corporeal expression, and disidentification through the black body. McMillan returns to Susan Manning’s work “Dance Spirituals” with a focus, not on the authenticity of danced spirituals as they relate to race and gender, but on a polyvalent liturgical frame that can contain expressions of artistry and expressions of spirit, in productive tension. McMillan will locate “ the work of the people/liturgy’ as embodied, corporeal, and responsive to the context from which it is made. He will look at Helen Tamiris’s The Negro Spirituals, Ted Shawn’ s Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen and Ronald K Brown’s ‘Order My Step’ as case studies that speak to the public organization of a body in space as a liturgical and artistic act, grounding the choreography as a meaning-making in and through live religious experience.

3:15 PM “Making Nothing out of Something: Art as a Means of Clearing Ground,” Curt Cloninger (UNCA) – 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.

7:00 PM – Performance: Kimberly Bartosik’s through the mirrors of their eyes (Kittredge Theater – Warren Wilson College | Ticketed | Free for students/faculty/registrants) – Created on the heels of I hunger for you (BAM 2018), Kimberly Bartosik’s through the mirrors of their eyes brims with compassion and violence. The piece begins inside of a storm. A crowd of children runs through. They know which way to go: they are the bearers of direction. Featuring the extraordinary Joanna Kotze, Dylan Crossman, Burr Johnson (Bessie Nominee, Outstanding Performer), and a trio of young performers, the piece is infused with reminders of time, its wild rush forward, its holding patterns, and our abilities to navigate pathways of destruction and renewal

Saturday, October 16

1:30 PM – Performance: Music of John Cage – Thomas Moore, piano (BMCM+AC) – more information to come

2:30 PM – “John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing and Its Inspirational Value for the Visual Arts, Kay Larson (BMCM+AC) – 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.

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.