On June 29 through July 1, 2017, Mormon artists, musicians, and scholars will gather from all over the world to participate in the first-ever Mormon Arts Center Festival. The festival will take place in New York City at the recently established Mormon Arts Center and is co-directed by Richard Bushman, the Gouverneur Morris Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, and Glen Nelson, the founder/director of the Mormon Artists Group.
The newly organized Mormon Arts Center has three goals: to display and perform Mormon art in New York City and elsewhere, to publish scholarship about Mormon art to reach a wider audience, and to establish a comprehensive archive of Mormon Arts from 1830 to the present.
In 1967, President Spencer W. Kimball gave an address at Brigham Young University entitled "Education for Eternity" in which he discussed the gospel vision of the arts:
"In our world, there have risen brilliant stars in drama, music, literature, sculpture, painting, science, and all the graces. For long years I have had a vision of members of the Church greatly increasing their already strong positions of excellence till the eyes of all the world will be upon us. . . .
"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. 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. Such masterpieces should run for months in every movie center, cover every part of the globe in the tongues of the people, written by great artists, purified by the best critics" (Spencer W Kimball, "The Gospel Vision of the Arts,"Ensign, July 1977).
Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Kimball's address, the Mormon Arts Festival aims to celebrate, explore, and inspire Mormon arts while also examining the legacy of President Kimball's message.
The festival schedule involves a keynote address by Terryl Givens, Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond; an academic symposium featuring eleven scholars from renowned universities; a series of concerts and presentations; and an art exhibition entitled "Immediate Present," featuring contemporary Mormon artists such as Caitlin Connolly, Brian Kershisnik, and J. Kirk Richards. Footage from the festival will be broadcast via YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms to allow anyone from around the world to participate virtually in the event.