Campus Crucifix Initiative organizes student art contest
Rose Androwich | Monday, November 20, 2023
The Campus Crucifix Initiative (CCI), which began in 2019 and displays crucifixes from around the world, has planned a contest for student artists. The initiative is accepting submissions of student-made sculptures and paintings of crucifixes until March 18, 2024.
In addition to the crucifixes already displayed around campus, CCI has crucifixes in the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art. The initiative also has a collection of around 30 to 40 crucifixes on display on its website.
Fr. Austin Collins, vice president for mission engagement and church affairs, said the crucifixes reflect the universalism of the church.
“By getting crucifixes from all over the world, [CCI] shows what the church is. It’s a universal church, and so [the church] is not just one thing,” Collins said. “Sure, it’d be easier just to order 10,000 crucifixes from a company that are all the same size and all of that.”
Mimi Schneider, a student worker for CCI, researches the crucifixes as part of her job. She said the research can be difficult because the initiative gets crucifixes from all over the world.
“The research can be difficult because for a lot of them I can’t find any information. It’s kind of waiting to hear back from the people that know about them,” she said.
But the research is interesting work because of the stories found in each crucifix, Schneider added.
“It’s really interesting work because each crucifix tells its own story, and you can learn a lot about them through the artists because a lot of the times the artist was inspired in some way,” Schneider said. “And sometimes, even the materials tell a story, like what they use to make it. There’s a lot of interesting information.”
Schenider said the contest is a good idea because she thinks students should have a way connect with the initiative.
“I think one issue with the initiative is that we didn’t have a way to really connect with students,” Schneider said. “I think this is a really good way to sort of bridge that gap because a lot of students haven’t even heard about the initiative. And this is a good way for students to not only learn about the initiative, but also get involved.”
According to Schneider, the crucifixes selected by the initiative tell a story because they are often made by hand.
“I think the ones we choose can really tell a story,” Schneider said. ”So these aren’t crucifixes that have been mass manufactured. They’re not from a factory —for example, most of them have been handmade.”
The crucifixes reflect the artists’ unique experience, she added.
“They’re from a different part of the world, from an artist that kind of has their own unique experiences,” Schneider said. “Sometimes the crucifix itself reflects those experiences too.”
German professor Mark Roche said the initiative was inspired by the idea that artworks spark theological reflection.
“Artworks are sources of theological reflection,” Roche said. “They embody in a sense an aspect of the sacramental vision of Catholicism — the idea that the infinite is expressed in the finite.”
Roche said the diversity of the initiative can be seen in many ways.
“Certainly the international dimension presupposes an element of diversity, but there are also different traditions in creating a crucifix,” he said. “Different cultures and regions will emphasize different aspects.”
Roche hopes that the contest will invite students to embrace creativity.
“We hope that students will feel the invitation to be creative, spiritual and artistic in thinking about how they would like to represent Christ on the cross,” Roche said.
Roche was the dean of the College of Arts and Letters for more than decade. He said his field led him to an awareness about the tradition of German crucifixes.
“I was dean of [the College of Arts and Letters] for 11 years, and my field is German studies,” Roche said. “And I was aware of the very interesting tradition of German crucifixes.”
Roche said the German crucifixes mean a lot to him because he knows the German tradition and loves bringing a visual reminder of that tradition to campus. According to Roche, CCI is one of the most diverse committees at the University because of the faculty representation.
Roche highlighted the complex history of a crucifix from Japan.
“If you look at the one from Japan, it’s really quite remarkable,” he said. “It was an underground crucifix because Christianity was outlawed for a period in Japan. So there are a lot of interesting facets to this.”
Roche said the Ukrainian crucifixes are some of his favorites.
“The Ukrainian ones are absolutely gorgeous, if you look at them,” Roche said. “They are so intricate in the woodcarving, gracious in a certain sense. It’s almost as if Christ is floating in some ways, ready to ascend.”
He added that with Ukraine being so prominent in the news, the crucifix has become more meaningful.
“It’s one of the more joyous traditions — it’s beautifully done and from Ukraine,” Roche said. “With Ukraine being so prominent in the news today for students to again have some visualization from Ukraine, that’s very meaningful to me.”