A trip to the Art Institute of Chicago…

Fall 2014 CARE grant recipient, Professor Rossitza Schroeder, traveled with her “Icons and Their Audiences” class from the Graduate Theological Union to visit, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections at the Art Institute of Chicago. Student reflections and photos are included below. Enjoy! Dr. Schroeder and students will be co-curating our Spring 2015 exhibition, Present Absence: Icons from the Collection of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, in the Center for the Arts, Religion, and Education’s (CARE), Doug Adams Gallery.

CARE offers grants in support of projects that center on religion and the arts, with priority given to GTU students, faculty, and staff. Visit our website to apply! Spring 2015 deadline is February 23.

Colette and Yohana

Colette Walker, GTU Art & Religion Doctoral Student

Our class, Icons and their Audiences, taught by Prof. Rossitza Schroeder, had the extraordinary opportunity to view an impressive exhibition of Byzantine icons in Chicago this term, a trip made possible by a generous grant from CARE. As a class, we were able to visit the exhibition “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections” at the Art Institute of Chicago, where we were able to see numerous icons firsthand – including ones we had studied in class. I found that seeing them in person greatly enhanced my own understanding of how believers may have experienced them—for  example, it allowed me a visceral sense of the “presence” often referred to in connection with icons. Engaging with the physical objects also allowed us insights and triggered conversations that we may well not have had otherwise, such as our recognition that as contemporary scholars, encountering the undeniable marks of time and use (and in some cases abuse) visible on many of the works brought to mind forcibly for us the historicity of the icon—and the simultaneous recognition that such signs of age and wear likely would have been experienced quite differently by Orthodox believers in the Byzantine era. In addition, the opportunity to walk through the physical space of the exhibition and analyze the choices made by its curators and designers was incredibly inspiring and useful for us as we prepare to co-curate our own exhibition, “Present Absence: Icons from the Collection of the PAOI,” for the Doug Adams Gallery this coming Spring.

The Only Proof the Three of Us Went to Chicago

Yohana Junker, GTU Art & Religion Doctoral Student

Thanks to the support of CARE, our class “Icons and Their Audiences,” under the mentorship of Dr. Rossitza Schroeder, had the unique opportunity to visit the Art Institute of Chicago and take a close look at the exhibit Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections. The exhibit presented exquisite artworks from the Byzantine era, ranging from painted icons, mosaics, illuminated manuscripts, liturgical textiles, to architectural portions of a church iconostasis and metal adornments. Some of the works in display had been presented to us in the literature studied in class. But having the opportunity to see these icons and works ‘live’ allowed us to pay attention to the ways in which seeing may have lead the way into believing in Byzantium. These spectacular objects were displayed as to allow very close viewing, so we were able to examine the mastery in which they were crafted as well as to imagine how the Byzantines handled them. Indeed, these icons have endured numerous interactions throughout the centuries and they continue to spark interest of a large audience—we were quite surprised at the number of visitors this exhibit received. This trip has also given us creative ideas on how to co-curate CARE’s Spring 2015 exhibition: Present Absence—Icons from the Collection of the PAOI.

A sneak peek of the exhibition