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Fra Angelico Institute welcomes Christian artists
BY BRIAN J. LOWNEY, Assistant Editor

WAKEFIELD — Artists, musicians and writers interested in increasing their knowledge and creation of the sacred arts while strengthening their relationship with God through prayer are invited to join The Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts at St. Francis of Assisi Church.

Deacon Paul O. Iacono, who ministers at St. Francis of Assisi, and his wife Jacqueline founded the institute in 2009. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin gave the couple, both retired teachers, permission to implement the institute last fall.

According to Deacon Iacono, the mission of the new organization is “to promote creativity and aid the prayer life of its participants by evangelizing the truth, goodness and beauty of God through the understanding and creation of sacred art.

“We believe that artistic creativity and personal prayer, united with the sacramental life of the church, stand as two lamps that guard the human soul from the depression and evil of the world,” Deacon Iacono said. “The oil which lights these two lamps – and the flame which burns bright is, as St. John has said – Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

Membership in the ecumenical sacred arts guild is open to individuals high school age and older of all levels of ability who seek to deepen their relationship with God through prayer and sharing their talents with others. Noting that Rhode Island is home to many gifted artists who work in many disciplines, the Iaconos hope that the concept of a sacred arts guild will expand to the parish level and have a base parish within every deanery throughout the diocese.

“We feel that there are many individuals with talent,” observed Jacqueline, adding that involvement in a sacred arts guild will bring members closer to God, while also allowing the artists — whether they are painters, woodcarvers, fiber artists, novelists, singers or instrumentalists — to learn from each other, share common concerns and build a vibrant, faith-filled community of creative individuals.

Deacon Iacono noted that the Fra Angelico Institute, named for an early Renaissance Italian painter and Dominican friar, is currently in discussion with The Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies at Providence College to possibly offer programming beginning in 2012. Other goals of the institute are to develop a formal program to teach diocesan seminarians about sacred art, specifically the art of iconography and sacred imagery, and to reach out to Salve Regina University’s School of Design.

“I’ve been interested and prayed with icons for many decades,” the deacon acknowledged. “I wanted to pursue writing and teaching others about them in association with my diaconal ministry.”

Deacon Iacono, who taught humanities and Western civilization at Narragansett High School, began his study of iconography in 2006 at the St. Michael Institute for Sacred Art on Enders Island, Mystic, Conn, where he learned to “write” or paint the centuries-old form of sacred art using both acrylic and egg tempera pigments.

“An icon is prayed into existence,” Deacon Iacono explained, noting that the visual artist “writing” an icon has the same important responsibility as an ancient scribe copying sacred Scripture.

“The icon does not depict – it reveals the goodness, beauty and truth of God, his angels, and saints,” he emphasized. Rather than express their individuality, an iconographer, “working as an instrument of God, must complete a work that is theologically, semantically and aesthetically correct.”

Deacon Iacono has continued his studies by painting icons in the Eastern tradition under renowned iconographers Marek Czarnecki and Anna Pokrovsky Gouriev, and is now committed to the tradition of using egg tempera pigments in the writing of icons.

“It is my firm belief that 21st century iconography continues the two millennia tradition of evangelization through the silent witness of the divine image of God, his Blessed Mother and his saints,” the deacon continued.

He said if there is sufficient interest, the institute will offer icon “writing” workshops for those who are interested in learning the art form, and will also continue to offer adult education lectures through multimedia presentations on various topics, such as a historical overview of sacred icons and sacred images in the history of the church.

The institute’s long range goals include establishing a consortium and network of sacred artists who produce their work in Southern New England, and who clergy could call upon for expert advice concerning any aspect of sacred art, architecture, sacred music or restoration.

For more information about The Fra Angelico Institute for Sacred Art, call 782-6129; e-mail: deaconiacono@cox.net; or log onto the Web site: stfranciswakefield.com/fra-angelico-institute-for-the-sacred-arts/.

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