by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “This is one of my favorite events of the year,” proclaimed Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at the annual Archbishop’s Invitational High School Art Exhibit here.
The beauty on display at this year’s event, held on March 4 at Savior Pastoral Center, was a source of hope for the archbishop.
He gathered with the artists — high school students from around the archdiocese — to enjoy their artwork, which adorned the walls of one of Savior’s vast hallways.
Family members, principals and teachers were also in attendance.
This year’s event, sponsored by the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas (CFNEK), included music by the St. James Academy, Lenexa, band and a light breakfast.
Eight awards were doled out — half to Abigail Rhodus, a senior from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.
Two of Rhodus’ pieces earned her three Juror’s Choice awards and one Popular Choice award.
“It means the world to me,” she said.
During the last invitational held two years ago, Rhodus was new to art and decided at the last minute to enter a piece titled “The Annunciation.” The painting earned her the Popular Choice award.
This year, her painting of a young child looking up to the stars, titled “Reaching for Joy,” took home the same honor.
“It’s a funny coincidence,” she said. “I put the two together, and it’s really weird because Mary’s face is looking down at the child reaching up just by the way they’re oriented.
“It’s really cool to put them together and see how my art has completed itself throughout the years.”
Rhodus said she’s thankful for a competition where she can express her faith freely.
“Being here, I really feel at home,” she said, “because I can use the Catholic inspiration that I really enjoy.”
Allison Carney, associate superintendent of schools, was the emcee of the invitational. She expressed her thanks to CFNEK for sponsoring the event and to the young artists for their participation.
Father Anthony Saiki, rector of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas, said the introductory prayer.
He asked God to bless the artists, “who have provided such beautiful pieces — works to manifest truth, beauty and goodness.”
“We ask you to bless them as they, in their works, through their mediums, pursue you and aspire to hope and goodness and show all the world the universal, the transcendent and the eternal,” he prayed.
Julie Flanagan, a Catholic Fine Arts Council member, also prayed for the students while they worked on an art activity, which included heating a piece of copper over a small candle then engraving it.
She encouraged them to take advantage of experiences like the invitational.
“Like you students, I was an artist in high school and grade school,” she said, “but I didn’t have the opportunity to where I could use my voice, my talent [and] my tools to shout for joy the word of God.”
“You’ve got this beautiful opportunity,” she continued. “Thank you for sharing your incredible colors and your talents.”
Archbishop Naumann emphasized the importance of art’s role in church history and thanked the students for carrying on that tradition.
“Hopefully, it’s an encouragement to you to continue to use these gifts that God has entrusted to you to give him glory and praise him,” he said. “Art does that by its very nature.”
Although not everyone is an artist, he added, beauty is for everyone.
“There are artists,” he said, “and then there are those of us who get to enjoy art. We may not have the gifts, but to appreciate beauty is to honor God.”
For a full album of photos from the art exhibit and the artwork, click here.