by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Julie Flanagan had a powerful message for the Archbishop’s Invitational High School Art Exhibit participants here on March 6.
“You artists are the future of our Catholic Church in the arts,” she said. “You have an incredible power over a lot of people by telling them, through your art, [of] the glory of God.”
“And people who really aren’t sure how they feel about their faith, you have the power to change who they are and what they believe,” she added. “It’s an incredible power.”
Flanagan, a Catholic Fine Arts Council member, led an interactive art activity with the students and their teachers during the exhibit’s award reception held at Savior Pastoral Center.
The students present, representing all six archdiocesan high schools, had created art for the exhibit inspired by the theme “Enflame Our Hearts,” based on the October 2019 archdiocesan convocation sharing the same name.
Abigail Rhodus, a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, took home the Popular Choice award.
Her piece, titled “The Annunciation,” was inspired by Mary.
“She’s one of my favorite inspirations,” said Rhodus. “I think what I tried to capture was the moment the angel Gabriel came down to Mary. He told her you are with child.”
“I was trying to show how her heart was enflamed with the Holy Spirit,” she added.
Kansas City, Kansas, Bishop Ward High School junior Cameron Crumble, one of the Juror’s Choice winners, created a piece inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“At school, we had our own Black History Month coming up [before the competition], so I thought of Dr. Martin Luther King because he enflamed a lot of people’s hearts,” said Crumble.
“One man alone can spread that much encouragement to a lot of people,” he added. “Out of all the drawings and art pieces I’ve done throughout my life, I’m very proud of making this one.”
The awards ceremony included an introduction by Lesle Knop, executive director of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas, sponsor of the Catholic Fine Arts Council, which hosts the exhibit.
Father Kent O’Connor, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, shared his musical talents, performing songs set to a slideshow of the art included in the exhibit.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann shared his gratitude for the students’ efforts, telling them “it’s always a highlight for the staff around here to see the art on display.”
“One of the most powerful tools for evangelization is beauty,” he said. “There’s so much in our culture and society and even in a lot of art today that reflects the nihilism in our world.
“There’s a lot of darkness even in art,” he added. “And yet, beauty is something that people are naturally attracted to. Artists are those that are able to recognize beauty and capture it in different ways.”
The archbishop thanked the students for sharing their gifts in a positive way.
“We’re always excited about this day and an opportunity to shine a light on the gifts of our students in our Catholic high schools — and especially this gift of art,” he said.