Molded for Metaphor
Past and present Redeemer art faculty discuss the necessity of fostering a creative environment on campus.
5 min. read
September 15, 2022

This fall, during its 40th anniversary, Redeemer’s legacy will be celebrated visually through an alumni art exhibition.

“It’s going to be encouraging for current art students to see what our alumni have accomplished,” says associate professor of art Phil Irish. “It’s a unique viewing experience full of possibility for the wider community and new creative directions.”

Associate professor of art Phil Irish

In early spring 2022, the university put out a call for graduates to submit artwork that showcases “the diverse artistic visions of Redeemer alumni.” Titled “enCompass – Alumni Art at Redeemer’s 40th Year,” the exhibition opened on September 6 and will continue until November 4, 2022, with a special gala reception during Redeemer’s 40th anniversary celebration. While exciting on its own, the alumni exhibition also coincides with the completion of The Path, another campus art feature that was installed to the west of the Charis Centre earlier this summer. Created by husband and wife team Veronica de Nogales and Edwin Dam (known collectively as Dam de Nogales), The Path is designed like a wavy line with spaces that allow viewers to sit and become part of the work itself. In doing so, they’re able to “enter, pursue and explore” what it means to be true to the path God has set before them amidst the distractions and challenges that come with intellectual and emotional development. 

“We live by story and metaphor. The Path is probably the biggest step Redeemer’s taken to display bold art that’s going to redefine the space around it in a beautiful way,” says Irish. 

Betty Spackman, former head of the art department, strongly believes that the spiritual insights and vulnerability good art inspires are an essential element of Christian university education.

We live by story and metaphor. The Path is probably the biggest step Redeemer’s taken to display bold art that’s going to redefine the space around it in a beautiful way.

“The arts are one of the places where you can be open-ended with what you say,” says Spackman. “We’re allowed to freely question things and explore the places and stories that don’t have answers and touch on brokenness. When I was at Redeemer, the studio was often a space where students could wrestle with the things they were learning and let God speak to them through their drawings.”

Betty Spackman, former head of Redeemer’s art department.

She elaborated that, for creative people, this should translate from personal reflection to practical applications of Christ’s love.

“In a place like a hospital, where people need an environment of restoration, that expression of faith, life and love comes through interior decorators and architects who know how to build a space that’s healing and uplifting. If we want to bring hope to the world, we need to bring beauty to it.”

Brittany Burdick, an art alumna and adjunct art history professor at Redeemer, looks forward to how the upcoming alumni exhibition will demonstrate how graduates have continued to live out this vital calling.

If we want to bring hope to the world, we need to bring beauty to it.

“It’ll be interesting to see how far we’ve come as a community,” she says. “We’re looking over 40 years but also at everything these alumni have recently created.”

In alignment with the exploratory nature of faith advocated by Spackman and pieces like The Path, Burdick credits the growth and vision of the Redeemer Art Gallery with giving students the opportunity to ask tough questions within their own work and critically engage with visiting artists from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. 

Adjunct art history professor Brittany Burdick ’15

“They’re able to build empathy and better understand the wider community in Hamilton and across Canada.”

The chance to look back often comes with renewed enthusiasm for the future. For Irish, teaching at a university that encourages innovative, Christ-centred artwork opens up myriad opportunities for student growth. 

“Seeing a student connect with a certain artist is completely energizing. Throughout their four years here, they grow in their literacy of what art can be, and I find that really exciting.” 

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