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Faith expressed in variety of art forms

In an address in 1967 to BYU faculty and staff, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then of the Council of the Twelve, issued a challenge to Latter-day Saint artists:

"We are proud of the artistic heritage that the Church has brought to us from its earliest beginnings, but the full story of Mormonism has never yet been written nor painted nor sculpted nor spoken," he declared. "It remains for inspired hearts and talented fingers yet to reveal themselves. They must be faithful, inspired, active Church members to give life and feeling and true perspective to a subject so worthy."Pursuant to that challenge, the Museum of Church History and Art has encouraged the submission of artistic works in a broad range of media for its 1991 Art Competition, according to Richard G. Oman, senior art curator at the museum.

The current competition is in the tradition established by the museum's first Church-wide art competition in 1987. Considered "very successful" by museum officials, the competition attracted some 1,200 entries from many places in the world and resulted in one of the most popular shows the museum has ever had.

"Our category at that time was very broad," Brother Oman said. We encouraged the submission of anything to do with Mormonism: people, religion, theology, lifestyle and history.

"Our category is much narrower on this particular exhibit, focusing just on the scriptures. But the media are much broader. The art forms of many of the saints outside the United Sates simply are not included under the canopy of traditional painting and sculpture."

Such art forms as quilting, pottery, tapa cloth and batik have been encouraged in the current competition.

"That's not to say that we're in any way down-playing painting or sculpture," he noted. "We expect those art forms to be a major component of the exhibition. But we will also have a full-range of fine art and folk art."

Scandinavian peoples, for example, have long expressed themselves through the media of weaving, and the art curator said some excellent pieces of weaving have been submitted, particularly from Finland.

As of Nov. 12, 236 entries had been submitted, representing 36 countries in North and South America, Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Africa and elsewhere.

Brother Oman said he expects the exhibition will be a physical manifestation of the attempt by Latter-day Saints to meet President Kimball's challenge.

"A lot of LDS artists have felt someday they would like to do their very best work to express their faith, but have wondered where they might exhibit such art. This is the forum; this is the place to do it! We're friendly turf for such art, and we are specifically set up for it."

"If the last art competition is any indication, this exhibition will be hands-down one of the most popular events that has ever taken place here," Brother Oman said.

"I think we're in the midst of the greatest artistic renaissance the Mormon people have ever seen. There are more LDS artists than there have ever been before, and the quality of art is higher than it has ever been in the history of the Church."

The international deadline for the competition has passed, and the deadline for U.S. and Canadian submissions is Nov. 30. By late December, a jury will conduct preliminary judging on the art, based on photo prints or transparencies that are submitted. Artists who pass the preliminary judging will be asked to submit the original piece for final judging by late February 1991. In March, the exhibition will open.

An anonymous donor has funded several prizes of $1,500 each, about 15 prizes of $400 each and several thousand dollars so the museum can purchase some of the art pieces.

Photos of artistic works should be submitted by Nov. 30 to the Museum of Church History and Art, 45 N. West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150. Entry forms may be obtained by calling (801) 240-2299. Artists should include a paragraph explaining how the work of art relates to the scriptures so the artists' insights may be passed on to museum visitors at the exhibition, Brother Oman said.

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