A deacon from Rhode Island, Paul Iacono, dropped me a line several days ago, alerting me to an ongoing project he and his wife have undertaken, called the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts:
The purpose of the Institute is to unite personal prayer, and creativity within the sacred arts, to the new evangelization of the Church. We hoped to create a model which is replicable in other parishes and Dioceses around the nation…
…The Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts operates with the permission and blessing of our bishop, his Excellency Thomas Tobin D.D, and we are found on the Diocese of Providence’s web site.
Turns out, the Institute for the Sacred Arts was also featured in The Rhode Island Catholic last year:
According to Deacon Iacono, the mission of the new organization is “to promote creativity and aid the prayer life of its participants by evangelizing the truth, goodness and beauty of God through the understanding and creation of sacred art.
“We believe that artistic creativity and personal prayer, united with the sacramental life of the church, stand as two lamps that guard the human soul from the depression and evil of the world,” Deacon Iacono said. “The oil which lights these two lamps – and the flame which burns bright is, as St. John has said – Christ and the Holy Spirit.”
Membership in the ecumenical sacred arts guild is open to individuals high school age and older of all levels of ability who seek to deepen their relationship with God through prayer and sharing their talents with others. Noting that Rhode Island is home to many gifted artists who work in many disciplines, the Iaconos hope that the concept of a sacred arts guild will expand to the parish level and have a base parish within every deanery throughout the diocese.
“We feel that there are many individuals with talent,” observed Jacqueline, adding that involvement in a sacred arts guild will bring members closer to God, while also allowing the artists — whether they are painters, woodcarvers, fiber artists, novelists, singers or instrumentalists — to learn from each other, share common concerns and build a vibrant, faith-filled community of creative individuals.Deacon Iacono noted that the Fra Angelico Institute, named for an early Renaissance Italian painter and Dominican friar, is currently in discussion with The Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies at Providence College to possibly offer programming beginning in 2012. Other goals of the institute are to develop a formal program to teach diocesan seminarians about sacred art, specifically the art of iconography and sacred imagery, and to reach out to Salve Regina University’s School of Design.
“I’ve been interested and prayed with icons for many decades,” the deacon acknowledged. “I wanted to pursue writing and teaching others about them in association with my diaconal ministry.”
Deacon Iacono, who taught humanities and Western civilization at Narragansett High School, began his study of iconography in 2006 at the St. Michael Institute for Sacred Art on Enders Island, Mystic, Conn, where he learned to “write” or paint the centuries-old form of sacred art using both acrylic and egg tempera pigments.
“An icon is prayed into existence,” Deacon Iacono explained, noting that the visual artist “writing” an icon has the same important responsibility as an ancient scribe copying sacred Scripture.
“The icon does not depict – it reveals the goodness, beauty and truth of God, his angels, and saints,” he emphasized. Rather than express their individuality, an iconographer, “working as an instrument of God, must complete a work that is theologically, semantically and aesthetically correct.”
And speaking of icons: if you’d like to know more, check out how a Romanian nun is helping spark a renaissance in sacred arts in the current issue of ONE.