New center calls for an awakening to beauty

Angela Beatrice
Staff Writer

Beauty is important because it “transforms people, because it stops you in your tracks. It speaks to a truth inside you only you can understand,” said one of the collaborators in the new Center for Beauty at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

John H. Walker, who holds a master’s degree in fine arts in acting, is assisting Paul Symington, who holds a doctorate in philosophy and is the dean of the school of philosophy and theology, to found the Center for Beauty, which was created by Symington this year.

The center will host lectures on how Christians can recognize beauty in a way that inspires conversation. Walker said the institute prepared to reclaim beauty as the evangelizing legacy of the Catholic Church.

Walker said the center’s mission is “(awakening) people to their role in experiencing beauty” and, through this revelation, reviving a joy that directly points to Christ.

Walker connected the awe felt when one beholds something beautiful — like the ocean, a Monet piece or trees changing in autumn — with the astonishment Christ evokes when he approaches and says, “Follow me.”

Through lectures and guest and faculty speakers, the center manifests what beauty prompts each person to do: share that transformational moment in which Christ spoke to you.

“Beauty is an evangelizing tool as much as theology, literature or academia,” Walker said. “In fact, it’s what the Catholic Church has been using for 2,000 years when we first made up a stained window.”

In each window, a truth of the Catholic faith is painted for all people, Walker said. It is done in such a way that encourages one to look for a long time.

Walker said this analysis prompts conversation, perhaps not between two people, but between the beholder and God, who is beheld in all because he created all. This interaction sparks joy, transforming the person bathed in stained glass’ light so they walk away clothed in color. These colors of awe and wonder are made evident, causing people to ask, “Why are you so happy?”

Walker said this happiness, which is the joy of Christ, wants Catholics to set it on a hill visible to all. Therefore, it needs apostles.

“Why not become apostles of beauty?” Walker asked. “We’ve forgotten that beauty is our legacy.”

As Christ is the divine creator, Walker said he seeks all men through works of creation and speaks to them through the beauty of creation. Beauty and her sisters, truth and goodness, reveal different iterations of the same truth in a way that is accessible and non-threatening, Walker said.

Walker said the Center for Beauty seeks to translate those transcendental moments into understandable ones, providing the tools for people first to seek and recognize beauty, and then to discover how to share the truth revealed with others.

Walker said this truth is both individual and universal. It is “God crying out to you … (wanting) to have a relationship with you,” he said.

In a sense, the center works to reveal that God has done all of this — trees shrouded in ice, a moon orange behind night’s clouds, robins composing in branches — for each individual, Walker said.

The Center for Beauty is not reserved for those studying a bachelor of arts degree.

Walker said, “You may not be an artist, but you might be the most insightful, … or you are someone who just loves a beautiful painting … and you make yourself available to that.”

The center’s next event is Monday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery, where Linus Meldrum, who holds a masters in fine arts, will be speaking on “Tintoretto’s Lamp: Putting Flesh on Invisible Bones.”

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