Hanging an art exhibit inside of a church can be a bit tricky but it doesn’t need to be difficult. I’ve listed here some guidelines that will help the artists in your church to make smart politically correct choices and will help you to determine the most practical places to display art.
- Never hang any artworks that do not have religious subject matter in the sanctuary of the church. This is very important. Artists can unintentionally insult the congregation by doing this or can be deeply wounded if they assume that this is a possibility before getting shot down over the suggestion. The only exception to this rule is if you are displaying a textile exhibit. These are traditionally hung in Christian sanctuaries everywhere and people are not likely to be disturbed by the suggestion. It is true that the Lord made little green apples but, it is not generally acceptable to display these in the sanctuary as a tribute to your own artistic merit. There is a difference between an artist producing Christian subjects and an artist who is a Christian painting any subject. Don’t fall into the political mishap of displaying lemons as though they are icons or bible lessons. Lemons are great and when these are hung in just about any other room in a building, people like them. Sanctuaries are to be treated reverently though. The key to this is understanding that the sanctuary is a place to worship God not the artist. When the artist paints or sculpts about the ideas that are preached about by God then, he is submitting to the will of God. Just like everybody else who dresses modestly, sings music to glorify God, and speaks about the serious concerns of God’s people. Put God first in the sanctuary, not yourself.
- Church entry halls should also be treated carefully when considering topically appropriate subject matter. The front entrance is an introduction to the church. Be selective about what is hung here at all times.
- Hallways can be popular places to exhibit but most people will not linger in them while going to church on Sundays. Children also get a bit rowdy in hall ways, and artworks can be damaged here. If you choose a hallway, make sure to select one that is strategically located away from Sunday School rooms, bathrooms, and unattended out of the way parts of the building. Hallways leading to large cafeterias, libraries, offices, and meeting halls make good display spaces.
- For small exhibits we suggest a library or even better, the church parlor. This room type is a wonderful setting and often comes with a door that can be locked during times when the show is not open.
- Some churches set aside specific walls in their buildings where artworks are always displayed. This is a great idea! If your church hosts an ongoing ministry outreach to artists, this kind of space can be used on a regular basis and will come in handy. Try to get a supply closet near this wall cleared out and designated to your art ministry. This closet should have a lock and only be used by the artists to store works as these are alternated. The display wall need not be enormous at all. It could be quite modest to suit the needs of a Biblical illuminator’s guild, as these works do not usually exceed the size of a small page in a book. Some churches have glassed in cases for displaying items and these are marvelous for displaying small illuminated manuscripts.
- Be careful not to hang a show on a wall that kids bounce basketballs off of during the week or that Sunday school teachers must navigate around with a moving partition wall. If people will need to take artworks down during other festivities and put them back up again, then you should not display art in these facilities at all. Works are likely to get damaged during these events and handled by people who do not have the same value for your work. This is just a fact of life and it is best to avoid the situation all together. Have a show for one night only if this be the case.
Note. If you should have a wide variety of topical entries into your church art exhibit reserve the religious submissions for the public spaces. After all, this is a church art show, not a ordinary space and artists must learn to grow up and conduct themselves accordingly to the limitations that all kinds of people will expect of them everywhere else. The church should not be treated as though it is the very least to consider or respect. It is God’s house and should be cared for more reverently. Professional artists are well aware of the expectations required of them during a professional exhibit in a museum or in a gallery. These prerequisites are much more demanding in the real world than they are in the forgiving environment of a church. At the very least, the artist should do what is considered respectful to those he or she is dealing with directly.