“Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation – as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on – feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole”
St John Paul II Letter to Artists 1999
St Patrick’s Artists – A Catholic Christian centre for art – A Brief Overview
Fr Digby Samuels first invited artists to come to St Patrick’s in 2003 with the idea of ‘evangelising the culture’. And so we started with two main aims. Firstly, to bring together artists wanting to develop their work in a supportive Catholic Christian setting. Secondly, to reach out to the local community and beyond by exhibiting our artwork, and through workshops and other activities. It is an ecumenical project – artists coming from a variety of Christian backgrounds and also involving many people from non-faith backgrounds, set in and part of the Catholic parish of St Patrick’s, Wapping, East London.
We continue to be very grateful to the parish for having us in the Old School building – a wonderful Victorian building with high ceilings and steeped in the history and prayers of the community for over 150 years – to develop our creative gifts and put them at the service of the gospel and society:
- Supporting Christian Artists in London – Artists have been renting studio space in the Old School since 2004 – currently 12 Christian artists have studio space in the Old School Building at St Patrick’s, creating an environment for mutual spiritual and creative support.
- Exhibiting our Artwork and Arts based events In 2004 we organised an exhibition “Drawn into the Light”, involving artists from across London. Since then we have held events and exhibitions in the St Patrick’s Church and parish hall – on the Assumption of Mary and other themes. ‘Through the Eyes of Mary’ in 2014 was a music and words event with a display of artworks organised to raise funds for Jesuit Refugee Services. This autumn, for the first time, we are exhibiting as a group at the Hurtado Centre, as part of Wapping Open Studios event with artists opening their doors across the local area. Inspired by the theme of Resurrection we are collaborating with a team led by Rebecca Gormally for an exhibition at the Hurtado Centre and then at Farm St planned for Easter 2017. (see Events). Recently some of the artists helped to judge and present prizes for an art competition of local school children run by the Hurtado Centre, which was very joyful.
- Theology talks for the Artists – To open up the imagination of the artists to scripture and theology we have had the opportunity to hear some very inspiring talks, poems and been part of discussions, most recently from Fr Damian Howard SJ, from the Wapping Jesuits and Sarah de Nordwall.
- Art Workshops – We have run many different workshops and courses in the Old School. The first courses were in figurative drawing in the wonderful high ceilinged old classrooms. From 2005 – 2013 the top floor of the Old School provided a very welcoming home and beautifully lit studio space for a monthly life drawing day, run by a small team and starting with a quiet prayer meditation. Out of this group came a monthly watercolour painting group and the St Patrick’s Out and About Group which meets in parks, museums and places all over London to draw and paint. Also creating a strong community spirit.
- Art and Spirituality Sr Sheila Gosney rjm (with a background in Art Education and spiritual direction) helped us right at the beginning and was inspired to run art and spirituality days and creativity courses at St Patrick’s. These are great fun and also provide a wonderful setting for deep encounters of prayer through creativity and are for everyone. You don’t have to be an artist! They are very supportive and have helped some of us journey together, and been an oasis for others to just dip into. They have been extremely popular, gathering religious and laity from all over London and beyond. Sr Sheila Gosney rjm is now running St Joseph’s spirituality centre – http://www.stjosephsrjm.com – in Felixstowe but travels to lead retreats and workshops. A full programme carrying on with Sr Sheila’s work is being led by Judy Ann Masters at the DeMazenod Centre, Tower hill (neighbouring parish to St Patrick’s).
- · Art Workshops for Children/ teenagers – this year we ran the first Arts Day for the youth of the Westminster Diocese, which was very rich and enjoyable and hope to build on this.