The Mormon Arts Center has a three-fold mission: to display and perform Mormon art in New York City and elsewhere; to publish scholarship and criticism about Mormon art to reach a wider public; and to establish a comprehensive archive of Mormon Arts, 1830 to the present.
Among the Center’s current projects are:
- Publication of a comprehensive history of Mormon film.
- A conference on teaching Mormon arts to be held in Salt Lake City, January 20, 2018.
- An online encyclopedia of Mormon arts beginning with a volume on Mormon music.
- A Mormon arts festival in New York City in June 2018 focused on film, music and art.
- A recital of Mormon piano works at a New York venue such as Carnegie Hall.
Meet the Directors
The Mormon Arts Center is led by Richard Bushman and Glen Nelson, co-executive directors, Allyson Chard, managing director, an executive board, advisory board, and volunteers. It is an independently-funded, non-profit organization that celebrates and studies Mormon Arts.
RICHARD BUSHMAN, Co-Director
For some time now, I have been contemplating the creation of a Mormon Arts Center in New York City. The Center’s goal would be to create a nurturing metropolitan home for Mormon artists and to foster a deeper and more inclusive understanding of their work.
The idea grows out of the belief that Mormon arts (visual arts, drama, film, music, dance, fiction, poetry) are resources to be cultivated for the good of our common enterprise—the formation of a diverse, rich, and elevating Mormon culture.
The Center would provide a site where Mormon art could be viewed, heard, criticized, and appreciated. Artists can convey Mormon culture to audiences who are oblivious to more conventional forms of communication. By situating Mormon arts in the contexts of other thought-systems and histories, the Center would be a bridge to Mormonism for people of diverse outlooks. No better place could be found for such a project than New York City, the art capital of the world.
As a tentative first step toward such a lofty, permanent entity, a committee led by Glen Nelson and myself has begun work on an ambitious, four-day Mormon Arts Center Festival to take place in the Summer of 2017 in New York City. We are encouraged by the enthusiastic response from Area and local Church authorities as well as Mormon artists and arts organizations. We hope others will find merit in this promising new venture and join us in bringing it to pass.
GLEN NELSON, CO-DIRECTOR
Hello. Let me tell you a story.
A young concert pianist studying at Juilliard approached me one Sunday morning. She was programming her master’s degree recital and wanted to perform at least one work by a Mormon composer as a way to express her own LDS belief. “Where can I go,” she asked, “to find the Church’s archive of classical music?” The short answer is: nowhere, it doesn’t exist.
Regretfully, I would have a similar response to queries about a digital archive of Mormons’ paintings, biographies of Mormon composers, monographs on LDS architects, designers, poets, filmmakers, or choreographers, and academic scholarship using Mormon Arts to illustrate concepts about the larger entity of Mormonism—all of the traditional hallmarks of cultural scholarship. Unfortunately, those things are rare with us. And there are consequences for it.
Every year, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, young BYU grads come to New York to begin advanced degrees in the arts. I like to take them to lunch, and as something of a parlor game, I ask them what Mormon artists they admire. I regret to report that their answer, without exception, is the same: that they know none other than their immediate peers and their professors. How can that be? Furthermore, they ask whether it is possible to be a Mormon and an artist, as if there were no precedent for it.
It is unthinkable to imagine a student from Howard University unfamiliar with great African-American artists; one could not imagine a student from Bryn Mawr ignorant of great women artists—further, those artists would speak to their identity and give them voice—but LDS students (and the membership, generally) are largely unaware of our most accomplished artists from 1830 to the present. Maybe the time is here to address the problem. The first step is to engage tastemakers and scholars regarding Mormon art itself. I hope you’ll join Richard Bushman and me in the conversation.
ALLYSON CHARD, MANAGING DIRECTOR
My involvement with the Mormon Arts Center project began one serendipitous day in March of 2016. I had recently moved to New York City and found myself in an unfamiliar church building on the Upper West Side, where my husband had a speaking assignment. It was there that I met Richard and Claudia Bushman. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Richard told me he had an idea he was working on and asked if he could email me the prospectus. The document was titled, “Prospectus for a Mormon Arts Center.” I was intrigued. Richard had no idea at the time–but my professional background includes event planning and promoting the arts in education. I knew this was a project I believed in and I was eager to get involved.
Over the past year, I have had the privilege to work with Glen Nelson and Richard and Claudia Bushman on this inspiring initiative. As the scope of the arts center expanded, so has the size of our talented group of volunteers. We now have an executive board of eight, a festival committee of sixteen, and an advisory board of twenty.
I currently serve as the managing director. In short, I help coordinate the logistics of the event and ensure everything runs smoothly. I have been amazed by the overwhelming support and excitement surrounding not only this event but also the overall initiative. Please join us in this exciting journey of promoting and recognizing the arts in Mormon culture.