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Religion and the Arts Program


....a place
where paintings and poetry
are a source of teaching and learning.

....a community
where music and dance
offer glimpses of God.

....a graduate program
where imagination and creativity
are honored and nurtured.

....a daily celebration
of the conversation
between theological inquiry
and artistic expression.

United Theological Seminary’s Religion and the Arts Program:

  • supports the educational mission of the seminary by providing students, staff and faculty opportunities to engage the arts in learning both inside and outside of the classroom. The engagement of the arts takes place through the exhibition program, artists-in-residence, coursework, worship and the spiritual formation of our students.
  • supports and contributes to the work of churches, faith communities and artists by providing opportunities to explore the intersections of the arts and religion.
  • provides a vehicle for experiencing and expressing the sacred through educational and experiential opportunities that engage the arts in relationship to the church’s ministry and personal spiritual growth.

The Religion and the Arts Program began with a grant from the Luce Foundation and is funded in part by the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Endowment Fund for Religion and the Arts.

Summer Institute in Spirituality and the Arts

Express yourself creatively and spiritually for four fulfilling days! The Summer Institute in Spirituality and the Arts is an annual, 4-day event offering participants the opportunity to explore the intersections of art and religion in their personal lives and faith communities, leaving them refreshed for their work in the world. Ideal for sabbaticals; continuing education credits available. More...


The seminary has four rotating galleries that feature exhibits by groups and local and national artists. Occasional seminary community art shows are exhibited as well. Being surrounded by art contributes to the imaginative experience of United's students, becoming an extension of the classroom learning experience. More...

Art Studio

The classroom wing houses a colorful and well-stocked art studio that is available as a creative break between classes, a gathering space for working on projects and a place where students can process what they are learning in their classes. Numerous art supplies and materials are available for student use. More...

Artist-in-Residence Program

This program brings artists to United to live, teach and work within the community for varying periods of time. The presence of artists makes for a creative and dynamic learning environment. The ability to observe the imaginative process assists students in creative thinking and encourages thoughtful reflection.

Our 2013-2014 artist-in-residence is popular local poet and author Susan Deborah (Sam) King. Sam will lead three events during her tenure at United: a chapel service/book discussion, and two workshops: "Divinations: A Discernment Process" and "Writing from Dreams." More...


Degrees with Concentrations in Theology and the Arts

  • Master of Arts - Theology and the Arts concentration (M.A.T.A.)

    Among other achievements, a graduate of this concentration will understand the arts as a means of theological reflection and religious expression. More...

  • Master of Divinity - Theology and the Arts concentration

    Among other achievements, a graduate of this concentration can conceive of art as a form of spiritual development for the individual and within the life of a community. More...

  • D.Min. students also have the opportunity to develop a concentration in the area of the arts.

“As I’ve lived into pastoral ministry, the emphasis on arts at United Seminary has served me well by helping me discover that ministry is an art, not a science. Finding words that serve a diverse community is an art. Helping a community imagine all that God calls our lives and our world to be is an art. Encouraging a community to embrace the way of the Christ is an art. United taught me what the Spirit moving in the church will never let you forget: pastoral ministry is an imaginative and creative understanding.”
- Todd Smith Lippert ’03, M.Div., Senior Minister, First UCC, Northfield, Minn.

“What could be more fitting a partner for constructive theology than the arts in the enterprise of discipleship and imaginative reconstruction of new ways of thinking and dwelling. To be sure philosophy, social, and natural sciences are vital disciplines for constructive theology to relate with and integrate. But the arts offer something essential and distinctive, so much so that constructive theology would be an orphan without it. Moreover, constructive theology would really not be true to its calling if it were not in itself a form of art or an artistic enterprise.”
- Eleazar S. Fernandez, professor of constructive theology, “Constructive
Theology, Art, and Prophetic Imagination,” Spring Convocation address, 2005


The seminary offers a variety of academic courses where the arts (music, visual arts, literature, drama, movement) are the primary subject matter. Courses are taught by faculty and adjunct faculty with expertise in the arts, theology and the church. The arts are also integrated into traditional courses such as theology, the Bible, preaching and Christian education. These courses are open to students in degree programs, non-degree students and church professionals.

Theology and the arts classes for the 2013-2014 academic year:

Bearing Witness: The Power of Story - Sarah Bellamy, instructor

Imagining God through Art: Engaging Theology and Religious Imagination through the Arts - Paul Myhre, instructor (an online course)

Theological & Spiritual Reflections on 20th Century Art - Wilson Yates, instructor

Theological Interpretation of the Arts - Jann Cather Weaver, instructor

Theology in Contemporary Film - Jann Cather Weaver, instructor

Collaborations with Arts Institutions

The seminary is located in a metropolitan area known for its dynamic and thriving arts community, including the internationally recognized, multistage Guthrie Theater; Minnesota's only professional African American theatre, Penumbra Theatre; the expanded Walker Art Center, founded in 1927, and its adjacent Sculpture Garden, which attract more than 600,000 visitors per year; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), housing one of the finest and most wide-ranging art collections in the country; and the Loft Literary Center, one of the nation's leading literary centers. The Twin Cities is also home to an abundance of other arts institutions, has more theater seats per capita than any other city, and offers numerous musical groups with national and international reputations.

The seminary has collaborated with many of these organizations, including the Guthrie, Penumbra, Walker Art Center, and MIA, as well as various other arts organizations in the Twin Cities, and, by virtue of its location, offers a rich learning environment for those interested in accessing these types of institutions.

National Identity

United’s Religion and the Arts Program has received numerous grants from the Henry Luce Foundation which helped establish the program and has provided ongoing support for the program’s work at a national level. Awards have included funding for two national theology and the arts consultations and a national technology project.

“Our task is an exciting one: to explore the relationships of theology, spirituality, and the arts. It is to ask how a work of art can engage our spirits and invite us on to Holy Ground.”
- Wilson Yates, emeritus professor of religion, society and the art

Resources for the Community

The Religion and the Arts Program provides resources for the broader community (local and national), including churches, faith communities, artists and religious leaders interested in the arts, as a means of congregational renewal, a tool for ministry or a path for spiritual growth. The program also assists others in networking and finding resources.

ARTS Magazine and SARTS

ARTS magazine, published by United and the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies (SARTS), explores the relationship between theology and visual, musical, theatrical and liturgical arts. ARTS is recognized as the single publication devoted to the arts in theological education while also serving clergy, artists and scholars of religion.

Religion and the Arts Contact Information
Cindi Beth Johnson

Religion and the Arts

Summer Institute in Spirituality & the Arts
M.A. in Theology & the Arts (M.A.T.A.)
M.Div. Concentration in Theology & the Arts
Auditing a Course

Contact Renee Flesner, 651.255.6138, to join
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