Taking Stock: Back From A Great Art Conference In Chicago

I’m just back from an excellent weekend in Chicago, where I attended the Catholic Art Guild’s Annual Conference, which this year bore the theme, “Formed In Beauty”. Although it’s only the second year that the Guild has put on this conference, word has clearly started to spread among those who care about the arts, as I met people from all over the country who came to attend the conference events: clearly a very positive sign for conferences to come. In fact, I had several instances of friends from social media, none of whom live in Chicago and none of whom I had ever met in real life, coming up to me and introducing themselves by their Twitter or Instagram handle, which is always a fun experience.

While the Conference itself took place on Sunday, there were also associated events on Friday and Saturday. This included the Mozart Requiem Mass for the Feast of All Souls Day on Friday, and an in-depth drawing demonstration with live model by artist Juliette Aristides on Saturday. This also left one plenty of time to go explore the pleasures of Chicago in the Autumn, and I got to enjoy watching the sun come up over Lake Shore Drive, snapping pictures of the diverse and interesting buildings for which Chicago is world-renowned, having a very thorough beard “sculpting” at a celebrity-frequented barbershop, and enjoying food and adult beverages at several excellent restaurants.

The Conference day began with a magnificent Mass at the equally magnificent church of St. John Cantius, home of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. If you’ve never begun your day with Mozart – in this case, one of his Missae Breves – you’ve no idea how it puts a spring in your step. We then adjourned to the Drake Hotel, one of my favorite places on the planet, for the rest of the day’s events. This included a luncheon, talks on architecture, music, painting, and sculpture by some truly brilliant practitioners of these arts, interaction opportunities with vendors, and a formal dinner, followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A. I was privileged enough to be allowed to adopt my best Dick Cavett persona and moderate this closing event with the day’s invited speakers; I’ll post the video from the Guild’s YouTube Channel when it’s made available.

I also had the opportunity the night before the Conference to have a lengthy sit-down with one of the presenters, Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Expect an article encapsulating our conversation to appear in The Federalist in the not-too-distant future. This is assuming that I can edit such a wide-ranging conversation, covering everything from Susan Boyle to chainsaw log carving competitions to Pointillism, down into something under 2,000 words. He’s certainly one of the most engaging interview subjects I’ve ever had the privilege to have a chat with.

My sincere thanks to Guild President Kathleen Carr, Father Joshua Caswell, and all of those involved in putting on a splendid and thought-provoking event, and for graciously allowing me to participate. Whenever the next Conference is announced, I highly recommend that you put it on your calendar and plan to make a weekend of it. You’ll be supporting the work of an organization dedicated to returning beauty, truth, and craftsmanship to the arts, and have the opportunity to meet others who genuinely care about these things, in one of the world’s great cities.

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4 thoughts on “Taking Stock: Back From A Great Art Conference In Chicago

  1. Thank you for introducing me to the Catholic Art Guild. I still need to check out its website, but I looked at its Youtube channel and found your “Cloudy Witnesses” talk. I enjoyed it (and my 9yo daughter watched some of it with me; she was there when you were talking about the painting of the Canaanite woman imploring Jesus to heal her daughter), and included some of my thoughts on it in today’s one thousand words: http://www.collectingthoughtspress.com/diy-freedom-and-art/

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    • Thank you so much for all of this. I appreciate your taking the time to watch, comment, and write in your blog. As it happens, in my personal art collection I have a number of Modern/Contemporary works in various styles, so believe me I understand your point of view, but bear in mind that this was a lecture for a specific audience on a specific topic. You don’t talk about how much you love Ella Fitzgerald if you’ve been invited to give a talk to the Palestrina Society. Thank you again and kind regards!

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  2. I was afraid I would somehow misrepresent you, no matter how careful I was in choosing my words. I understand the forum at which you were speaking. Perhaps I was wrong in bringing one of my biggest pet peeves into the discussion. I’m a lifelong Catholic, who started homeschooling the first of my six kids 18 years ago. In the early years, when we lived in Littleton, Colorado, I was very active in a Catholic homeschool group, and continued with it for a few years, via the online forum, after we moved to Maine 13 years ago. I jokingly say that I have PTSD from my experiences with other Catholic homeschooling moms and the rather narrow view of the world that prevails in that culture (and it’s not just Catholics; fundamental Protestants can be worse). Those old wounds have gotten chafed a bit by my daughter’s freshman experiences at a very small Catholic college filled with homeschool “graduates,” and some of the most annoying aspects are the comments about modern and contemporary art made by her fellow students and art professor. What’s more, just the other day, I read, and wrote about, Flannery O’Connor’s comment on a priest who thought that Rouault was “not a good religious artist.” She thought the priest was nuts, and I tend to agree.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my post and reply to my comment. By the by, have you ever read “God in the Gallery” by Daniel Siedell?

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