Voices Together

Rachel Epp Buller, we owe them a complicated debt, scratchboard drawing, 6×6″

My creative work does not tend toward religious themes. And yet, I work and live within Mennonite communities, and so there are times when my art intersects with Mennonite identity, often in terms of generational traditions or cultural identities.

Mennonite Church USA recently put together a new hymnal, Voices Together, for which they issued a call for visual art. Anyone who knows the history of Protestant religions will understand the dramatic shift this indicated, formally welcoming visual art into spaces of worship that for centuries refuted its presence. So when I read that they were looking for black-and-white artwork, to be reproduced in a small format, I thought of this scratchboard drawing that I had recently finished. I submitted it to the committee, and it now prefaces a hymn in the Advent section.

Along the way, I also agreed to curate a traveling exhibition of the visual art in Voices Together. Seeing artwork in person is of course an entirely different experience than the small-scale black-and-white reproductions found in the hymnal. Thanks to a grant from the Marpeck Fund, the Voices Together art exhibition opened at Bethel College this fall and will now travel to four other Mennonite institutions during 2022-23. We hosted a variety of online and in-person events, constantly readjusting our plans to the ongoing pandemic. The Voices Together exhibition catalogue, with full-color art and essays by Sarah Kathleen Johnson, SaeJin Lee, and Magdalene Redekop, is available in print at all of the exhibition sites and can also be read online here. I am grateful to our student designer, Oscar Gonzalez, for his work in designing the publication.

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