Christendom alumni artists are using their formation in the Catholic liberal arts to guide them in their artistic endeavors. They are true artists who play an integral part in creating a culture of life in our society, for they—unlike many artists today—have a proper understanding of what is true, good, and beautiful.
“Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers,” Blessed Pope John Paul wrote in his Letter to Artists. “Obedient to their inspiration in creating works both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favor of the common good.”
Christendom alumni working in the field of art exemplify Pope John Paul’s vision of the artist. Alumna Mandy Hain says that she is able to create art that is both worthwhile and beautiful thanks to the guidance she received from her Christendom education.
“I am able to pursue art with clarity and integrity,” she says. A philosophy major and literature minor from the class of 2006, Hain loved the literature that she studied on the nature of true art.
“We learned about art’s strict adherence to what is truthful, and its mysterious connection with the Divine,” she says. “Apart from studies specifically on art, my studies in philosophy and theology were helpful on many different levels. For one thing, they taught me how to perceive reality well—or simply to see. As an artist, it is most important to be able to see with one’s eyes as well as with one’s spirit.”
Hain also discovered that it is impossible to create art freely if one is constantly concerned and confused by the nature of art itself. At Christendom, she was able to develop a clear understanding of how to proceed as an artist by reading concise descriptions on the nature of art by the great classical and spiritual writers.
“The writers I studied articulated how important it is that we be able to place ourselves in the presence of what is beautiful, and that we partake in its making,” Hain says. “These are topics that formal art schools treat without any kind of clarity or objectivity, and so I consider my classical studies to be a great gift in my work as an artist.”
Hain uses a combination of classical fine art and classical decorative techniques, including hand-painted ornamentation, gilding, plaster and painted wall finishes, fresco, murals in oil, and iconography in egg tempera. When she is not painting in a church, she works from her home studio in Northern Virginia where she offers classes and also does commission portraits and religious art. One of her works can be seen in the College’s St. Kilian’s Café – a painting of the patron saint by her hangs over the fireplace.
Like Hain, artist and alumnus Ben Hatke found his liberal arts education essential in his study and understanding of art.
“The foundation of reading, classics, and good study habits gave me the basic skills that I needed when, in 2006 I took a year to seriously study art,” he says. “I participated in drawing and painting courses in Florence, Italy, but I also put myself through a sort of intense self-study course focusing on art history and the Italian Masters. Studying history at Christendom helped me to approach primary sources like Vasari’s Lives of the Artists.”
A history major of the class of 2000, Hatke has had great success in portraiture and stills, but has turned to his passion—the combination of art and storytelling—comics. Hatke is currently working on the second installment of his popular Zita the Spacegirl, which was published in February 2011. His work as an illustrator can also be seen in the widely distributed Angel in the Waters, a children’s book that tells the story of a child in his mother’s womb.
“Art and storytelling have been constants in my life,” Hatke says, “and most of the jobs I’ve been drawn to have included those things in some way. My liberal arts degree has given me flexibility. Even though I have had a life-long interest in art, and comics, when I was starting out for college, I was not considering it a vocation. I think if I had devoted four years to a specific type of technical training instead of the broader liberal arts approach, it would have been more difficult to change directions.”
Hatke works from home and says that he tries to make it a beautiful, peaceful, and holy place.
“But my greater workplace is the world and all those I come into contact with through my books and art,” he says. “It really reminds me of the call to be a light to others. That’s how I try to live Christendom’s motto, ‘To restore all things in Christ.’”
Hain believes that her art can be a light to others as well. She quotes one of her favorite scripture passages from the book of Wisdom: “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.”
“To make things beautiful, or to make beautiful things, is to make Him known,” she says. “To reclaim things in His name by stamping them with His reflection, this allows Him to reveal Himself there, where we have brought beauty.”
Hain and Hatke are only two amongst a large group of alumni who have taken their liberal arts degrees and used them in a non-related field of work. There are philosophy majors who are editors and attorneys; history majors who are CEOs and dentists; theology majors who are school principals and computer programmers; classics majors who are journalists and stone masons; political science majors who are fighter pilots and financial analysts; and English majors who are accountants and salesmen. In short, Christendom is helping to form tomorrow’s leaders on its campus today. Click here for more information about what Christendom graduates do.