A document filmmaker, Alston is Director of Auburn Media and
Executive Director of the Hartley Film Foundation. Alston is both
an educator on issues of media and religion and a regular writer
and reviewer on film and religion. A graduate of Union Theological
Seminary (M.Div.), he comes from a long line of ministers in the
American South and grew up exposed to the power of religion.
The film in the program, Family Name, explores the legacy
of slavery in America today. It aired nationally on PBS in 1998,
winning the Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival,
the IFP Gotham Open Palm Award, and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding
Historical Programming. (Siskel and Ebert gave Family Name "two
thumbs up, way up.")
Alston's most recent documentary feature, Questioning Faith,
explores what happens to people's spiritual convictions when crisis
strikes. It aired nationally on HBO and Cinemax in June 2002 and
met with critical acclaim.
Since 1998, Alston has been a partner at River Films, a documentary
film company in New York City. He has received grants for his
productions from the Ford Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation,
the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New York State Council on
the Arts, HBO and PBS.
At Auburn Media, a division of the Center for Multifaith Education
at Auburn Theological Seminary, Alston has developed a program
that offers religious expertise to the world of the media and
media expertise to the world of religion. The goal of Auburn Media
is to cultivate, support and promote engaging, balanced programming
on religion, spirituality and ethics in the broadcast media.
He also directs the Hartley Film Foundation, a public charity
that supports documentaries on world religions, spirituality,
ethics and well-being.
Chosen to represent the United States at the 46th Venice Biennale
in 1995, artist Bill Viola is recognized internationally for his
work in video and sound installations. For the last 25 years,
Viola has used innovative multimedia technologies to explore the
phenomenon of sense perception as a language of the body and avenue
to self-knowledge, integrating many disciplines and philosophies
to reveal contemporary art's relevance to the to the modern world.
His views have deep roots in mysticism, poetry, philosophy, Eastern
Art, shamanism, Chinese Taoism, Sufism and Zen Buddhism.
His scholarship on art is equally cross-cultural and historically
expansive. He finds inspiration in Renaissance frescos that adorn
the ceilings of Italian churches, Islamic painting as well as
in the diagramic visual language of Tibetan mandalas. Viola's
chief concern today is to focus on the connection between our
inner and outer lives, on the conception of the self as part of
In 1997, the Whitney Museum organized a 25-year survey of his
work that traveled to major museums in the United States and Europe.
He has just completed his most ambitious project, Going Forth
By Day, a five part projected digital "fresco" cycle
in High Definition video. Following the completed of a four-month
exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Bill Viola:
The Passions, traveled to the National Gallery London in
October 2003. Hailed as the 'Rembrandt of the video age,' he was
the first ever contemporary artist to be featured in a major one-man
show at this prestigious gallery.
Recipient of numerous awards and honors including a 1989 MacArthur
Foundation grant, he has created over 123 videotapes and multimedia
installations since 1973, which are shown in art museums, galleries,
and on public television worldwide. The Messenger was first
installed in Durham Cathedral in northern England.
Presenters and Panelists:
Troy Messenger is the Director of Worship and a Lecturer
in Worship and the Arts at Union Theological Seminary. Previously,
Messenger directed the Nightwatch program at St. John the Divine
where he hosted 3000 young people a year on weekend programs exploring
the life, ministry, and arts of the world's largest gothic cathedral.
Messenger is a musician and minister. He has written Holy Leisure:
Recreation and Religion in God's Square Mile.
Robin Jensen, ARC Fellow and Director, is the Luce Chancellor's
Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt
University Divinity School in Nashville. She is the author of
Understanding Early Christian Art (Routledge, 2000), and
two books currently in press including Face to Face: The Portrait
of the Divine in Early Christianity (Fortress, 2004); and
The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian
Community (Eerdmans, 2004). She is currently working on a
book on the architecture and iconography of Christian baptism
expected from Brill Publishers in 2005.
Lisa DiFranza is Literary Manager and Education Director
of the Portland Stage Company of Portland, ME. She has worked
on Ritual and Theatre in the Masters program at Andover Newton
Theological School. Earlier, she was a faculty member in the Drama
Division of the Julliard School in New York City.
Eileen D. Crowley
works with the many languages of media,
art, worship, theology, and theological education. As a liturgist
(MA, University of Notre Dame; Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary,
New York City), and media producer, she has pioneered scholarly
research in the growing phenomenon of media arts in worship. Ms.
Crowley is currently completing a book entitled Liturgical
Art in a Media Culture (Liturgical Press) and is lecturing
on the topic at seminaries and denominational conferences.
Mary McNamara is Executive Vice President of Union Theological
Seminary. She formerly served as Director of the Inter-Church
Center in New York City.
Erling Hope is a sculptor focusing on contemporary liturgical
art who investigates the influence of objects, images, and the
built environment on religious sensibility. He served as artist-in-residence
at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston and is a Director
of ARC and co-chair of its Program Committee.
Geoffrey Fairweather, an ARC Director, is Adjunct Assistant
Professor in the Department of Art, Music, and Philosophy at John
Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He founded and conducted
the National Chorale of Jamaica and National Choral Orchestra
of Jamaica and from 1972-1986. For the past eleven years he has
conducted the New York Labor Chorale. Recently this group performed
in Carnegie Hall as well as outside Lincoln Center. He has been
a Fellow of Trinity College of Music in London as well as a student
in the Juillard School in New York.
Norris Chumley is a producer/director/writer, who is currently
a Ph.D. candidate at Union Theological Seminary in New York where
he received a Masters degree in 2002 in theology and media. His
work has been featured on PBS, NBC, ABC, A&E, USA, Showtime/The
Movie Channel, HBO/Cinemax, and WNET/13. He created Mark Twain's
: The Diaries of Adam and Eve (for PBS's American Playhouse),
Getting the Love You Want, (PBS, with Oprah Winfrey, Harville
Hendrix and Helen Hunt), and the Gospel According to Jesus
(HBO/Cinemax). He has earned numerous awards including the SONY/American
Film Institute's Grand Prize in Video for his documentary, Little
David Jasper, ARC Fellow, is Professor of Literature and
Theology at the University of Glasgow. An Anglican priest, he
was previously Principal of St. Chad's College, Durham University.
He earned a degree in English from Cambridge, and three degrees
in theology (MA, BD, DD) from Oxford with a Ph.D. from Durham
University. His book The Sacred Desert will be published
in April (Blackwell).
Janet R. Walton is Professor of Worship at Union Theological
Seminary in New York. Professor Walton's research and teaching
focus on ritual traditions and practices in religious communities,
with particular interest in aesthetic dimensions, feminist perspectives
and commitments to justice. Her books include Worship and Art:
A Vital Connection, Sacred Sound and Social Change, co-edited
with Lawrence Hoffman, and Feminist Liturgy: A Matter of Justice.