The Artful Friar

Aug. 7-20, 2003
The Artful Friar
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Artist Friar Brian Haverlock coordinates art show with area teens

Eye-catching drawings in bold colors, of everything from the spiritual to the mundane, decorated the second floor of the Assisi Center on 800 N. Salina St. on July 26. But it wasn’t a typical art exhibition. While the youths who designed the pictures could be the next van Gogh or da Vinci, they were not aspiring artists. Rather, the drawings were a positive way for the teenagers to occupy time during summer months.

“Art gives kids an opportunity to have fun, do something creative and express themselves, besides worry about the dangers of violence on the street,” said Friar Brian Haverlock, OFM, Conv., who coordinated the show.

The 20 designs by students from the Fowler Faith Center were the culmination of two months of art lessons from Friar Brian, a professional artist. The 32-year-old friar has been in Syracuse since May, ministering at the Assumption Church Food Pantry in Syracuse and teaching art classes at the faith center. Both are projects of the Franciscans in Collaborative Ministry.

Each drawing is a form of self-expression, explained Angela Bellamy as she and her peers scrubbed down the floors and walls of the two spacious rooms on the second floor of the Assisi Center –– once the showroom of the Gang funeral home –– in preparation for the one-day show. “Friar Brian taught us to draw in our own way, to start with an idea and then see what it turns into,” Angela said. The 15-year-old proudly displayed one of her pictures; painted in deep blue and gray watercolors was her interpretation of a dove and a cross.

“Our class drew pictures from certain objects. Though they are the same objects, each drawing is unique because everyone sees them differently in their mind,” Angela said. “Their work is amazing,” observed Sue Gorham, who works at Fowler Faith Center. “They are not professional artists, but some of the kids really got into the artistic process.”

Friar Brian, a North Dakota native and nationally known and award-winning artist, is a friar in formation at the Formation House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Twenty of his drawings, framed in black, were featured during the show alongside the amateur creations. Friar Brian sketches in graphite pencil and then glazes his drawings with oil paints, creating a shadowy finish. All the objects in his drawings have artistic and religious significance.

“Before choosing images for a particular work I begin with an idea, something that I find has to be expressed, something from Scripture, my prayer, of my faith journey. Though each drawing is personal, there remains in them some universal message to be grasped by those who engage them,” said Friar Brian.

One of Friar Brian’s symbolically infused creations on display is entitled “Portrait of a Flower.” The drawing depicts a young Latino woman holding a white orchid, symbolizing beauty, fertility and purity. She is wearing an ornate black and white shawl that symbolizes contemplativeness and holiness. On her hand is a bee, symbolizing the Virgin Mary and the sweetness of honey she produces, which is Christ. The bee also signifies good order, spiritual fervor and Christian vigilance, said Friar Brian.

A second picture, called “Eagle Crucifixion,” features the head of an eagle imposed on the body of a baby, with stigmata, the wounds of Jesus Christ. An artist’s palette is shown as a halo; the figure carries a paintbrush. “The heart of this painting is letting go,” Friar Brian said. “In letting go, there’s freedom.” The exhibit also included work by Father Herman Siebert, OFM, Conv., a longtime resident of the Syracuse Franciscan community. Prior to the show, Friar Brian learned of several panel drawings created by Father Siebert, who is now 85. The colorful depictions of such scenes as Advent and Doubting Thomas greeting Jesus were on display, as well as Father Siebert’s original pencil sketches. “He’s been drawing for more than 70 years,” Friar Brian noted.

In May and June, Friar Brian worked with students to create a mural on the front windows of the Fowler Faith Center. The colorful and inspiring piece depicts Jesus flushing the waters of violence and hatred out of Syracuse. “You have several kids who all have their own ideas to include. You think, ‘It’s never going to work,’ but Brian took all the kids’ ideas and made something beautiful from them,” said Gorham. Angela helped to design the drawing, which took about four weeks to complete. “I thought of putting the city in the picture,” she stated, describing the skyline that includes St. Lucy Church in Syracuse, the Carrier Dome and SU buildings behind the waves. “The waves are violence, killing, hatred, vengeance,” Angela added. “Above it is Jesus’ hand coming out of the sky.” Friar Brian departed Syracuse July 29. In the fall, he will return to Washington Theological Union, where he has one more year of academic work to complete a Master’s degree in Theology, with a concentration in word and worship. In March, Friar Brian is scheduled to make his final vows as a Franciscan brother.

According to Friar Brian, he would like to see the show become an annual event. And the youth –– left inspired by his brief stay –– already anticipate his return. “I hope he comes back again and teaches us more,” said Angela. “He’s real cool. I call him my brother.”

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