Placemaking and the Arts
We are, each one of us, situated in a particular place.
As embodied creatures, as members of local communities and churches, as people who live in a specific location in the world, we all experience the importance of place. But what role does place play in the Christian life and how might our theology of place be cultivated?
In this Studies in Theology and the Arts volume, Jennifer Allen Craft argues that the arts are a significant form of placemaking in the Christian life. The arts, she contends, place us in time, space, and community in ways that encourage us to be fully and imaginatively present in a variety of contexts: the natural world, our homes, our worshiping communities, and society. In so doing, the arts call us to pay attention to the world around us and invite us to engage in responsible practices in those places.
Through this practical theology of the arts, Craft shows how the arts can help us by cultivating our theological imagination, giving shape to the Christian life, and forming us more and more into the image of Christ.
"Jennifer Allen Craft is one of the most important emerging voices in theology and the arts today. This book provides a fascinating exploration of the arts in relation to place, a much-neglected topic. Lucid and lively, it deserves to be very widely read."
"This book performs an extraordinary service within the literature of theology and the arts. In far too many cases that conversation has held the arts at arm's length, believing that such cultural entanglements are merely optional. Craft's treatment of art as placemaking resists that foolishness by demonstrating that there is no neutral ground for human life and artistry (i.e., no nonplaced experience). Rather than avoiding the inherent tensions of art and place, she embraces the wonder of God's redemptive activity in a broken world. Through her careful consideration of how the arts enable us to embody a sense of home, experience more rooted and contextualized worship, extend hospitality to friends or strangers, or navigate our place in the world, we come to see that geography and culture mutually determine one another for good or ill. We should be thankful for the ways in which Craft's theological aesthetic of placemaking can restore us to our own imaginations, embedded as they are in specific times and particular communities. More than that, we should accept her invitation to renew these connections with the mutually transformative love of Christ."
"Jennifer Craft offers a profound exploration of how art may help us adjust the ways in which we see and inhabit places, and so live in God's world with greater sensitivity, faithfulness, and love. This engaging book is a rich contribution to the growing conversation about theology and place."
"Jennifer Allen Craft's Placemaking and the Arts is an elegant and illuminating meditation on the importance of our lived environments. We are called, as both stewards and sojourners, to be deeply present to God's sensory creation—first by recognizing our rootedness within it and second by cultivating it as we were made to do. For Craft, the arts should be understood as the fruit of this connection and care, adorning and shaping the world for all of God's children. Drawing on a wide range of theological insights, Placemaking and the Arts points the way toward more humane and hospitable environments today."
"In this marvelous book, Jennifer Craft shows us how God is in the business of making grace happen in our respective places on earth—this soil, this house, this street, this climate, this city, this people. What she offers the reader is not only a sorely needed theology of place but also a compelling vision for how the arts inspire us to create hospitable places that anticipate our life together in a fully emplaced kingdom economy."
"After a couple of generations of neglect and disinvestment, I'm delighted to see that place is being rediscovered within the Christian community as an important aspect of human flourishing. Placemaking and the Arts makes a significant contribution to this movement. In this book Craft develops a comprehensive theological framework for thinking about how the arts can help place us in time, space, and community. And she makes a convincing case for how art must play a critical role in any recovery of place. Many have expressed concern about the place of art in contemporary life; Craft helpfully extends this conversation to consider the role of art in place (and placemaking). Highly recommended."
"This brilliant book engages with a burgeoning interest in both the significance of place and the importance of the arts in God's way with the world, synthesizing the two in an impressively insightful and imaginative fashion. It is highly scholarly and at the same time accessible. I am full of admiration for what the author has achieved and hope the book will be as influential as it certainly deserves to be."
Introduction: Art, Place, and Christian Life in the World
1. Why Place? Why Art?
2. Cultivating Responsible Relationships: The Arts and the Natural World
3. Hospitality and Homecoming: The Arts and the Home
4. Divine Presence and Sense of Place: The Arts and the Church
5. Imagining God’s Kingdom: The Arts and Society
6. A Placed Theology of the Arts: Cultivating Theological Imagination and Sense of Place