Curating art in churches

Detail of ‘A World to Come’ by Bettina Furnée. Photograph by Edmund T Smith

Detail of ‘A World to Come’ by Bettina Furnée. Photograph by Edmund T Smith

Emma Smith with visitors to  Euphonia  at St Michael’s & All Angels Walthamstow

Emma Smith with visitors to Euphonia at St Michael’s & All Angels Walthamstow

Victoria Burgher,  Crown , 2019 at All Saints Leyton

Victoria Burgher, Crown, 2019 at All Saints Leyton

Naomi Maxwell,  The Intercessions – Worth , 2019 Installed as part of Praxis and Promiximty at St Edmund’s Chingford

Naomi Maxwell, The Intercessions – Worth, 2019
Installed as part of Praxis and Promiximty at St Edmund’s Chingford

Hannah Whittaker,  Parquet Picioare , 2019 installed at St Margaret’s Leytonstone

Hannah Whittaker, Parquet Picioare, 2019 installed at St Margaret’s Leytonstone

This two-year initiative focuses on forming partnerships to deliver contemporary art exhibitions in Anglican churches and cathedrals. Recent case studies and guidelines for curating temporary exhibitions have also been drawn up.

Current projects

All Saints and St Andrew, Kingston, Cambridge CB23 2NG
13 July – 1 October. Open daily 10am – 6pm
An installation by Bettina Furnée responding to medieval wall paintings at All Saints and St Andrew, Kingston

Bettina Furnée’s newly commissioned installation imagines the Wheel of the Seven Acts of Corporal Mercy, one of a number of scenes of judgement and moral conflict depicted in the church’s medieval wall paintings, being ‘turned again’ for a contemporary audience. Presenting a cast of seven symbolic creatures sewn into robes inspired by church vestments, the work playfully considers morality beyond good and evil, and the capacity of art to hold together contradictory positions.

In connection with Wysing Arts Centre’s Open Studios Day, Project Curator Laura Purseglove will lead a Q&A session with the artist Bettina Furnée on 17 August at 2pm. No booking required, just turn up.

Take the Barton road, followed by the B1O46 through Comberton. The church is accessed via a left turn (Church Lane) which comes up just before you get to Bourn.

Kindly supported by Allchurches Trust, the Jerusalem Trust and the Headley Trust.

Four artists respond to the theme of fellowship in a series of installations for churches in Waltham Forest

Emma Smith, Euphonia
Holy Trinity, 4 Holloway Road, Leytonstone 26 July – 12 August
Euphonia is an interactive sound installation based on artist Emma Smith’s research into the musicality of human communication. The work invites visitors to become part of the installation, to add their own voices to the space and, in doing so, to author the score itself.

Holy Trinity opening times:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1.15 - 4pm
Sundays 12.30 - 5pm

Naomi Maxwell, Praxis and Proximity
St Edmund’s, Larkswood Rd, Chingford E4 9DS 8 July – 1 September
Documentary photographs celebrating acts of fellowship in Waltham Forest, structured around the liturgy of the Eucharist.

Opening times:
Thursdays 9.30am - 12pm
Saturdays 10am - 11am
Sundays 9am - 12noon
St Edmunds is also open on Sundays for services at 8am and 10am and Thursdays for morning prayer at 8.30am and a service at 12.30pm with lunch afterwards. Visitors are welcome to join in with services and view the artwork around these times.

Victoria Burgher, Crown
Exterior of All Saints, Melbourne Rd, Leyton E10 7HF 10 June – 1 November
Crown is a public artwork in the form of a wreath of individually made metal-foil chrysanthemums produced by the artist Victoria Burgher in collaboration with school groups and the local community. As the work is installed on the exterior of the church, it can be seen at all times.

Hannah Whittaker, Parquet Picioare
St Margaret’s, Woodhouse Rd, Leytonstone E11 3NG 6 July – 1 September
Inspired by the church’s lively Romanian Orthodox congregation, Hannah Whittaker presents an installation of tessellating tiles which sit on top of the existing church floor and are personalised by members of the community.

Opening times:
Coinciding with Leytonstone Art Trail
8 – 12 July 10am - 3pm
15 – 16 July 10am - 3pm
St Margarets is also open for services on Sundays at 10.30am, on Wednesdays at 7.30pm, and Thursdays at 10am. Visitors are welcome to join in with services and view the artwork around these times.

Kindly supported by London Over the Border, Allchurches Trust and the Jerusalem Trust.

Case studies

Case studies of temporary visual arts projects in churches and cathedrals are available here:

All Saints, West Dulwich: a long duration, participatory residency

St Michael's, Discoed: an annual, themed, multi-artist exhibition and fundraiser

St John on Bethnal Green: short term rolling exhibitions with a community focus

St Paul’s Bow Common: site-specific art with professional installation and community impact

Art in Romney Marsh: an annual, site-specific festival across multiple rural churches

Coventry Cathedral: performance piece 

Salisbury Cathedral: an installation with a focus on community participation and education

Sheffield Cathedral: an exhibition in a citywide event showcasing works from private collections

All Saints, Skeyton: an exhibition in a rural area showcasing local art for sale

Commissioning New Art for Churches: a Guide for Parishes and Artists

A pdf to download with details guidance on commissioning new permanent works of art as well as temporary exhibitions. Published in partnership with ChurchCare.

Past projects

The first Art in Churches project was a site-responsive installation hosted by St John the Baptist church in Newcastle. Ritournelle (once more, from the top) by Katia Kameli is the result of a short residency in Summer 2017, programmed in collaboration with Platforma, an arts and refugee network. This site-specific art work filled the small diamond panes of glass with coloured film, in patterns that recalled design and architecture motifs native to some of the primary countries from which refugees and migrants relocate to Newcastle. Countries and designs referenced include Punjabi Phulkari and Congolese Kuba textiles and Iraqi mosaic design.
Wanting also to create a sound work, Kameli invited migrants and refugees from the city, as well as members of the church choir, to sing a song which reminds them of home. These songs were recorded in situ at St John the Baptist and were available to listen to in the church.
The residency, production and installation of the work was managed by Laura Purseglove, Project Curator for Art and Christianity and the Church Buildings Division of the Church of England.
Kindly supported by Allchurches Trust, Arts Council of England, the Jerusalem Trust, the Headley Trust and the Pea Green Boat Community First Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

'A Light Shines in the Darkness', a touring exhibition of artists' films organised by Paul Bayley with Film and Video Umbrella. The programme included:
Suki Chan, Still Point
Alexander and Susan Maris, Uriel
Melanie Manchot, LEAP after the Great Ecstasy
Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone, Everything Made Bronze
Kathleen Herbert, Stable
Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, The Carrier’s Prayer

Christian partner in the Three Faiths Forum Urban Dialogues exhibition.

20 January 2011
All Hallows on the Wall: Host to Jeffrey Charles Henry Peacock evening event.

13 October – 3 Decmber 2010
Wallspace gallery: 'Commission’ an exhibition of contemporary art in British Churches.

26 June – 13 July 2006
City of London Festival: three works by Yoko Ono at St Paul's Cathedral.

27  June – 13 July 2005
City of London Festival: INSIGHT included works by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Adele Prince, Victoria Jones, John Newling, and Rebecca Horn.

November 2004
St Edmund the King & Martyr, Lombard Street: Tom Gidley Your actual

July 2004
St Stephen's Walbrook: Simon Hitchens In the Presence of Absence


Banner image: Katia Kameli, Ritournelle (once more, from the top), 2017