by Olivia Martin
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On March 1, a team of judges and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann assembled at Savior Pastoral Center here to call the shots — on pieces of art that students from area Catholic high schools entered in the 2018 Archbishop’s Invitational Art Exhibit.
A total of eight works of art were selected as examples of sacred art exemplifying the theme, “The Joy of the Gospel.”
“Christ was the first work of sacred art,” said Caroline Gatschet of Hayden High School in Topeka, recipient of the People’s Choice award. “Then, after that, sacred art has to show something human.”
Her piece — “His Mighty Hand” — illustrates just that, with Christ’s crucified hand reaching down and grasping man’s in mysterious fraternity.
“I wanted to show the joy of the Gospel happening in real life,” said Renee Howard of Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, recipient of one of five Juror’s Choice awards.
In describing her piece “First Two Friends,” which shows two girls laughing and hugging, Howard said a traditional image of Jesus doesn’t need to be present for the joy that comes from the Gospel to be communicated.
Fellow Juror’s Choice award recipient Brooke Trompeter of Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison explained the motivation for her piece: “I wanted to show how sin tries to enter our hearts, but Christ keeps it from coming in.”
Mavis Ding, also from Maur Hill-Mount Academy, however, entered the exhibition due to a budding interest rather than a firm foundation.
“I am not Catholic. I’ve learned a lot about the Bible at school and I wanted to enter,” she said. “I have read some of the famous stories from the Bible, and this one (about the loaves and the fishes) is one of them I like.”
Father Gerard Alba of Holy Trinity Church in Lenexa, an artist and an architect himself, was a juror in the exhibition. The prizes, he said, were awarded based on creativity, technique and then theme.
“All three of those things have to be present,” he said, emphasizing that the judging process had not been a small task.
Moreover, to even make it to the archdiocesan exhibit, the young artists had to make it past some stiff competition in their respective schools.
There, they were required to submit their artwork to their art teacher, who then selected the pieces that would continue on to the exhibition. Many students had their work selected for the first time this year.
Kathryn Robards of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas (CFNEK) made her debut overseeing the exhibition this year. She has found the work gratifying but difficult — difficult in the sense that it’s impossible to choose a favorite among the entries.
“Everything has been so different, all art is so different,” said Robards. “It’s been my favorite part seeing the artwork come in and seeing how the students have reflected on the theme.”
The artists’ reception included morning prayer and eucharistic adoration, a musical performance by Father Kent O’Connor and a presentation of St. John Paul’s “Letter to Artists” by Father Alba.
The event concluded with the presentation of the awards and a blessing, both the work of Archbishop Naumann. He encouraged all artists in the room to take heart, for nothing wins people over more profoundly than beauty.
Student artwork will be on display through April 30 at Savior. Select pieces are available for purchase. Contact the pastoral center at (913) 721-1097 for more information.