Indiana Church’s Atrium Doubles as Art Gallery

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The church atrium at South Bend (Ind.) Christian Reformed Church was designed solely for after-service chatting, but it is now displaying works of art from the community as well.

Visitors to the art gallery at South Bend CRC enjoy a show.

“The idea of a gallery had been in my head since the atrium was built [in 2003]” said David Banga, director of worship and arts for the church. “It was perfectly suited to it.”

About four years later Banga approached the church council about making the space an art gallery. They were in favor of the plan; the church paid a stipend for a curator and set aside funds to provide snacks at opening receptions.

The gallery’s first show, in 2008, was by Linda Freel, an art professor who is a member of the congregation. Since then, the gallery has hosted about ten shows a year.

The space fills a need in a university town where there are many artists but “incredibly few venues,” said Banga: “The fact that we are doing this is encouraging to the community.”

Many artists have sold paintings that showed at the church, said Banga, many purchased by members of the congregation. “We have a lot of professors, lawyers, and doctors who are interested in buying from an artist,” he said.

After services, the opportunity to gather around and examine artwork helps to start up conversations. “I think it exposes people to art who would never see art otherwise,” said Freel. “I also think it is important for the children to see art.”

The curator ensures that the work is appropriate for the context of a church and for children to view. Some of the works shown have had a Christian theme, including several works shown by current curator Ramiro Rodriguez.

“A church is not what you typically think of when you think of an art gallery, but churches have had a long tradition of being sponsors of art,” said Rodriguez.

“Many galleries won’t hang something that has an overt Christian connotation,” said Banga.

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.

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