Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his “Letter to Artists” about discovering in the fine arts a “depth of the spiritual and religious dimension.”
Referencing the late pope’s work, Shawn Dougherty, coordinator of Franciscan University’s Fine Arts Society, said that the society aims to allow students the same opportunity.
Dougherty acknowledged the widespread variety of fine arts offered in the local community, dispelling the commonly-held notion that “fine arts” refers only to theater.
“We go see ballets; we go to the opera; we see theater, dance, and we try and do a museum trip every year,” said Dougherty. “There’s a really wide spectrum of fine arts events that we see.”
One of the main roles of the Franciscan University Fine Arts Society is the scheduling and transportation of students to Pittsburgh in order to expose them to a variety of fine arts presentations.
Dougherty said, “When we take students to Pittsburgh to see a show, they’re seeing really, really good stuff. We never know exactly what we’re going to see, but I try to be very careful in selecting shows that students will be interested in, ones that demonstrate the power of good art.”
Pittsburgh trips prove beneficial for students; however, as the society expanded its influence Dougherty said that he understood the necessity of allowing students to experience fine arts without leaving Franciscan.
“The next step was to begin bringing events to campus,” he said.
The difficulty in securing fine arts events on campus is not due to lack of talent, as indicated by the Fine Arts Society’s most recent presentation and the insight which followed, said Dougherty.
“We brought in Eric Genuis, a composer and piano player, who was really, really good,” said Dougherty. “He kept talking about … the importance of beauty as a reflection of God.”
Rather, the difficulties in providing fine arts on campus are twofold: lack of financial backing and lack of space, said Dougherty.
Still, Dougherty said that the students hold the power to facilitate positive change.
“I would love to see students take initiative, so that the students who attend a fine arts event then start looking and going on their own,” he said. “If the students said that it was really important to them, it would happen.”
Dougherty said that he is looking to host at least one more event this year; although, he said that “it’s going to be difficult to book them.”
The society itself seeks to highlight beauty by an often undervalued medium, said Dougherty.
“The fine arts are really underrated as (a) source of evangelization,” said Dougherty. “I think that the good and the true are a little more obvious. Beauty is not quite as obvious, although when we approach something that’s beautiful, it grabs us in a way that gets us very close to God.”
The Fine Arts Society has provided rides from campus to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “Peter Pan” and to the Filter Theatre/Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Twelfth Night,” and it will be providing transportation later in the semester to “The Illusionists,” a Broadway show that Dougherty personally recommended.
“‘The Illusionists’ will be fun for the students,” said Dougherty. “It’s sleight of hand but on the big scale.”