August 13, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Nancy Murray, OP (Adrian) – a theatrical performer who has portrayed St. Catherine of Siena in a one-woman performance throughout the world – received the Fra Angelico Award July 27 from the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA). The Fra Angelico Award – named after the great 15th-century Dominican artist – is the highest honor that the DIA bestows on its members.
The Fra Angelico Award presentation was one of the highlights of the 2018 DIA Gathering, which brought Dominican artists – visual artists, musicians, poets, photographers, film-makers, and others – to Weber Center in Adrian July 25-29.
In bestowing the award following the closing Liturgy on July 27, Pat Daly, a Dominican Associate and President of the DIA, described Sister Nancy as the “epitome of itinerant preaching,” traveling “from coast to coast and to foreign lands” to preach the message of St. Catherine of Siena. Like St. Catherine of Siena, Pat said, Sister Nancy is a “colorful, strong, passionate, and enthusiastic woman.”
The DIA also presented the DIA’s Spirit Recognition Award – in absentia – to Sister Lorraine Ferguson, OP, a Dominican Sister of Hope, for her service on the DIA Board, her institution and facilitation of an artists’ retreat, involvement in past gatherings, and the recent publication of a book featuring her watercolor paintings and reflections.
Dominican Artists from 11 U.S. Congregations and the US Central and London Provinces attended this year’s Gathering. “One of the highlights of our time together was sitting with each other and sharing our individual art form and talking about what motivated us to create the piece(s),” Pat said. “It is in this sharing with each other that we give and receive encouragement, mentoring and affirmation of who we are as Dominican Artists who continue to preach God’s Word through our art.”
The theme for the 2018 Gathering was “The Arts: Yearning for Unity.” Fran Belmonte, a theologian who had presented the keynote address at the 2014 DIA Gathering, wove that theme into her keynote address in 2018.
“Artists contribute to the unitive nature of the arts,” she said. “Every time a person in this room creates another work and goes through the process of struggle for that work, they make art more unitive than it was before. … The arts evoke the unitive and integration into the receiver.”
Fran gave the example of her love for Fra Angelico’s work, The Annunciation. “Fra Angelico put me in touch with the thousands of others who have seen his painting,” she said. “We may not have seen it in exactly the same way, but our souls were evoked and we are connected to each other by this evocation.”
Fran also spoke of the artist’s role in transforming our fractured society into a fractal society. Fractals, she explained, are a set of mathematical algorithms designed to measure things that are difficult to measure, such as coastlines. What is important for artists to note, she added, is that fractals form a repeated pattern. “Fractals show that the world can have a pattern,” just as artists see patterns in their work, she said.
The yearning of the arts for unity is a “mystery to believed,” Fran said. “When arts are in unity, they do their part to make the world whole. When the arts preach, they enable the audience to see holistically.”
On Thursday afternoon, participants had the opportunity to attend two sessions of workshops, dealing with such topics as Playing the Ukulele, Lament and the Art of Rebellion, the Art of Gourds, and a Japanese Tea Ceremony. On Friday morning, Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Isabel Rafferty, OP, gave a presentation on the St. John’s Bible, the first Bible since the invention of the printing press to be hand-written and illuminated. Friday afternoon gave the artists the opportunity to share their art with one another.
The 2018 Gathering culminated Friday night in a Gala, an evening of poetry, music, and dancing, followed by a social.
The DIA is a “grassroots collaboration of sisters, friars, laity, and associates of the Order of Preachers,” dedicated to preaching through a variety of arts. Adrian Dominicans serving on the planning committee included Sisters Joella Miller, OP; Janet Wright, OP; Sue Schreiber, OP; Barbara Cervenka, OP; and Nancyann Turner, OP.