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Sister Janet Wright Receives Fra Angelico Award at Artists’ Gathering

August 2, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Janet Wright, OP (Adrian), painter and art teacher, received the Fra Angelico Award July 28 from the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA). The Fra Angelico Award – named after the great 15th-century Dominican artist – is the highest honor that the DIA bestows on its members.

The Fra Angelico Award presentation was one of the highlights of the 2017 DIA Gathering, which brought Dominican artists – visual artists, sculptors, musicians, poets, photographers, film-makers, and other artists – to Weber Center in Adrian July 26-29.

In making the presentation, Sister Barbara Schwarz, OP (Amityville), President of the DIA, said that Sister Janet’s paintings “reflect the voice of God found in nature. Painting is her passion, and spirituality is very much woven into her art.” Sister Janet’s paintings can be seen throughout the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse, and one of her paintings, of corn, adorns the second volume of Adrian Dominican history, Seeds Scattered and Grown, by Sister Nadine Foley, OP. 

Sister Barbara also mentioned Sister Janet’s dedication to teaching art. “For almost four decades, she nurtured the love of art in high school students and for the past 14 years she offered weekly painting classes to the Sisters of Mercy,” Sister Barbara said. In addition, Sister Janet has been active in the DIA, serving on many planning commissions for the Gatherings.

Also during the award ceremony, Sister Mary Boyce, MM (Maryknoll), received the Spirit Award for her service to the DIA. Sister Mary “has been educating and empowering the poor in the United States and in foreign missions,” said Sister Mary Pat Reid, OP (Caldwell). Sister Mary was also honored for her service to the DIA as Vice President, and for helping whenever asked “with a radiant and open-hearted spirit.” 

The 2017 Gathering began July 26 with an opening session in which Sister Joella Miller, OP (Adrian), Chair of the Planning Commission, welcomed the guests. Also on hand to welcome the DIA members were Sister Barbara Schwarz and Sisters Frances Nadolny, OP (Adrian), General Councilor, and Janet Doyle, OP (Adrian), Director of Weber Center. Members of the Planning Commission were Pat Daly, an Associate with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and Adrian Dominican Sisters Barbara Cervenka, OP; Aneesah McNamee, OP; Suzanne Schreiber, OP; Nancyann Turner, OP; and Janet Wright, OP.

The theme for the Gathering, “Response,” reflected the call of the artist to respond to instances of social injustice. Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP (Adrian), a photographer and teacher, followed up on the theme July 27 in her keynote address, “The Art of Käthe Kollwitz.” Making extensive use of slides of the German expressionist artist’s drawings, etchings, and sculptures, Sister Sue explained how Kollwitz used her art to respond to the injustices of her day.

Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP, gave the keynote address.

The keynote address was delivered during the same month as that marked the 150th anniversary of Käthe Kollwitz’s birth. The artist died on April 22, 1945, a few days before the end of World War II. 

“Käthe Kollwitz lived through imperialism, economic depression, the Industrial Revolution, and two world wars,” Sister Sue said. “She developed as an artist and maintained a specific vision as a compassionate social critic, advocate for women and children, and peacemaker. We might even say that she was the conscience of Germany during those perilous years.”

Sister Sue noted that Kollwitz had a particular love for people of the working class and for the women of her day, portraying them realistically, as she saw them, and not the idealized versions sometimes seen in art. She lived through a time of great promise for women – the early 20th Century – but also a time, with the rise of Adolph Hitler, when many of the gains made by women were taken away. 

“For Käthe Kollwitz, awareness of social injustice and commitment to action were focused and integrated, and they reflected a change in her consciousness,” Sister Sue said. A turning point in Kollwitz’s life was the death of her son Peter on the Belgian front during World War I. She became a pacifist, portraying the senselessness of war and the grief of parents who lost their children in war.

Sister Sue concluded her address by inviting the artists to view reproductions of Kollwitz’s work, which were on display in INAI, which houses a gallery adjacent to Weber Center. This building had once been the studio of Sisters Barbara Chenicek, OP, and Rita Schiltz, OP, who for about 40 years had designed worship spaces for parishes, religious congregations, hospitals, and other entities. A panel discussion on art therapy followed.

The Dominican artists spent much of their time attending DIA meetings and art workshops. During the business meeting on July 28, DIA members elected the 2017-2018 Board of Directors: Pat Daly, Associate of Peace, President; Sparkill Dominican Sister Ann Marie Santen, OP, Vice President; Adrian Dominican Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, Secretary; Adrian Dominican Sister Joella Miller, OP, Treasurer; Judith Smith, an Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Membership; and Friars Rudolf Loewenstein, English Province, and Joseph Kilikevice, OP, Central Province, Members at Large.

Father Rudolf presided at the closing Liturgy on July 28. In her reflection, Adrian Dominican Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, noted the diversity of artists at the gathering: poets, musicians, painters, photographers – focusing on Jesus, the storyteller. 

“Jesus seemed always engaged by the mystery at the heart of things,” Sister Barbara said. “He noticed the preciousness of a single bird and the fleeting beauty of flowers. He urged his disciples to see, to pay attention, to live in a world where the miraculous bloomed in the everyday, where God’s presence was so palpable that everything spoke of it.” Artists, she added, “are invited to inhabit and share that world. … We are called to notice and hear the word of God spoken and writ large on the face of the earth.”

The DIA is a grassroots collaboration of artists from the Order of Preachers – friars, sisters, associates, and laity – who are committed to preaching through the arts.

Feature photo (top): Sister Janet Wright, OP, with the Fra Angelico Award

Top: DIA members take in the exhibit of Käthe Kollwitz reproductions in the INAI Studio. Bottom: DIA members take in the exhibit of Käthe Kollwitz reproductions in the INAI Studio.

Former Grand Rapids Mayor Speaks on Sustainability in Local Communities

March 16, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – George Heartwell, former Mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan, spent the day March 15 at the Weber Center speaking to Lenawee County leaders and residents about ways to build a sustainable community in light of the ramifications of global climate change.

In a program for Lenawee County leaders, Mr. Heartwell talked about how Grand Rapids moved from a community dealing with wastewater overflows and localized lead poisoning issues to a sustainable city. In addition to ditching the city’s strategic plan in favor of a sustainability plan, he said, every department moved from a single bottom line measurement of success to a triple bottom line that takes into account economic impact, environmental impact and social impact.

Creating aggressive goals is also critical, he told the group of 40 Lenawee leaders. He spelled out some of the many ways the city has become more energy efficient, offering inspiration for local communities to follow suit.

In the evening, which was open to the public, Mr. Heartwell spoke to a crowd of about 45 residents on the topic of “Climate Change, Cities and the New Reality.” 

Mr. Heartwell emphasized that global climate change is “the most urgent and pressing problem facing humankind today.” Mayors and other local community leaders worldwide play a special role in mitigating climate change, he noted. While national and state leaders focus on more abstract areas, such as their party’s ideology, mayors must deal with more down-to-earth issues: helping their communities through heat waves, crop loss, and the effects of extreme storms. 

“The president doesn’t have to figure out how to stretch an already-tight municipal budget to fund infrastructure improvements to manage extreme rainfalls, but that’s what mayors do,” he said. 

When he took office in 2004, Mr. Heartwell said, he was the 123rd mayor to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Currently, the agreement has 1,060 signatories.  “One thousand sixty mayors have gone on record as saying that they’ll put their best efforts into addressing the threat of climate change.”

Some of the actions taken by mayors include investing in renewable energy, reducing demand for energy by introducing efficiency measures in buildings and service delivery processes, planting trees and expanding park land, protecting sensitive wetlands, and building streets out of permeable materials to absorb the rain.

“We’re doing things large and small in order to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce our production in our cities of greenhouse gasses that lead to warmer global temperatures,” he said.

In recent years, mayors also became aware of the need to adapt to situations already brought about by climate change. “There are still enormous impacts to climate that will affect us for decades, likely generations, to come,” Mr. Heartwell noted. Communities need to make adaptations to these conditions.

Mr. Heartwell represented Grand Rapids as one of five U.S. cities and five European cities that were invited by the International Organization of Cities to develop a model for climate adaptation and resiliency for cities. He was also invited to be part of a White House taskforce to work on community resilience to climate change. The taskforce presented President Barack Obama with 75 strategies for resilient communities facing climate change.

“We concluded that many of the initiatives that worked for adaptation were the very things that were needed in the long run for mitigating climate change,” Mr. Heartwell explained. President Obama in turn issued executive orders in response to those recommendations. 

The election of President Trump has brought some reason for discouragement, Mr. Heartwell said, noting the president’s denial of climate change is reflected in his appointments to head vital organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Still, he remains hopeful. 

“One of the uncontainable forces that has been unleashed during the Obama administration is the power of local government to act in the best interests of its citizens,” he said. “No mayor is going to cave to the federal government if she feels that her citizens are at risk.”

He also takes hope from the initiatives of businesses. “American manufacturing is too far down the road on design and in plant retrofit to turn back now – design and retrofit that’s been done in keeping with the best science that’s available on climate change,” he said. “Business sees too much opportunity today for innovation and for entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies to be deterred.”

Finally, he said, the “juggernaut of American resistance has been unleashed. Masses of people who cherish the natural environment and want to ensure that generations to come will enjoy its beauty and its bounty as they have are ready to take to the streets. … This passion, this urgency and this focus, will not soon be put back into a bottle.” 

What’s important, he added, is that everyone makes decisions that minimize climate impacts, whether it’s choosing to plant a garden, use public transportation or to recycle. He also encouraged everyone to raise the issue of climate change whenever possible, to educate others about climate issues, and to become politically active.

“All of us need to make it a part of our lifestyle,” he said.




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