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Pruit Symposium targets art, Christ

Oct. 26, 2000

Annual conference features 9 speakers



Nine acclaimed theologians and art historians are gathering in Waco Hall this weekend for Baylor's annual Pruit Memorial Symposium to try and find common ground between belief and beauty.

This year's theme is 'Interpreting Christian Art' and aims to 'combine the disciplines' of art history and theology, said Dr. Heidi Hornik, associate professor of art history and the conference's organizer.

The lectures address modern issues from several angles, including secular and Christian perspectives.

One goal of the symposium is to reconcile 'two parts to a parallel problem,' Dr. Michael Beaty, director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, said.

'Often art historians do their work without having a sophisticated understanding of the Bible. Theologians sometimes do their work in visual arts with a lack of knowledge in art history. Scholarship is impoverished either way,' he said.

The symposium will include discussions of 16th-century paintings and the interior design of sanctuaries, Hornik said.

Free Church Protestants, a multi-denominational group that includes some Baptist churches, historically worship in more austere churches because of the idea that art is associated with idolatry, a belief that dates back to the Protestant Reformation, Beaty said.

That view will be thoroughly re-examined during the conference.

Both Beaty and Hornik said they stress the importance of 'acts of retrieval,' meaning that 'there are perspectives on art in worship and liturgy that were especially prevalent and vibrant in the past that are less so now, but that would be worth retrieval' for today's worship.

'What this conference is trying to do is draw attention to the role of art in the Christian experience and worship,' Beaty said.

He said he also believes it can 'provide the worshiper the occasion of being reminded of the central themes of our Christian story.'

Beaty said the symposium is put on for Baylor students by Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning to have 'an opportunity to think through how art might express religious truths.'