Wednesday 19 October 2011

Guide on Commissioning New Art for Churches

Jonathan Evens represented commission4mission at the launch today by the Church Buildings Council of the Church of England of their guide on Commissioning New Art for Churches at St Stephen Walbrook, London. The guide aims to encourage parishes to embark on the adventure of commissioning new art for their churches.

Much of the information in the guide is aimed at parishes, but it will also provide an insight for artists and other interested parties. It is not only promoting the commissioning of artwork such as painting, stained glass or sculpture, but also wants parishes to consider other options such as kneelers, processional crosses or vestments.

The guide, richly illustrated with examples of recent commissions throughout England, has been developed through consultation with a working group chaired by artist Mark Cazalet. Mark Lewis was commission4mission's representative at a consultation event earlier this year as part of the process which produced the guide. 

The guide includes details on what parishes should consider, how to write briefs and commission and choose artists as well as the legal framework. This is the first time that the Church of England has produced a guide of this type and it hopes that this will make parishes realise that commissioning artwork - both permanent and temporary - can be very straightforward.

To complement the launch of this innovative guide, the Church Buildings Council is delighted that the Jerusalem Trust has agreed to donate a prize for £10,000 to be awarded to the parish that makes the best case for commissioning a new artwork applying the guidelines.

Anne Sloman, Chair of the Church Buildings Council, said, "The Church has always been a significant Patron of the Arts in this country and we are determined that this tradition continues into the 21st Century. The Guidelines are intended to help our 16,000 parishes with this process. We are very grateful to the Jerusalem Trust for the Prize which will encourage parishioners to use the guidelines creatively to work with artists to achieve a distinctive legacy."

Mark Cazalet, Chair of the Working Group, commented, "The launch of Commissioning New Art for Parishes is an exciting and overdue initiative from The Church Building Council; it sets out clear, concise guidelines for getting the most out of the commissioning process, and ensuring the best results. The advice it contains was gathered from key figures at all levels and backgrounds in the field, representing the experience of: artists, commissioners, funders, Diocesan Advisory Committees, diocesan chancellors, clergy and parishes. It aims to be the comprehensive single document for all those starting out on commissioning a new art work for a parish church.

Bishop of Chelmsford Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell noted: "The word that was made flesh in Christ has also down the ages been made paint and stone. On canvas and cardboard and marble and glass, artists have delighted and disturbed us with their own interpretations of the Christian story. The tradition of commissioning art for the church is as important today as it ever was; not just for telling the story of Christian faith, and not just for adorning Christian worship and buildings, but for celebrating the endlessly inventive splendour of God. For it is in the image of this creative God that we are made, and it is when we turn our minds - and hands! - to beauty, as well as truth and goodness, that we most reflect this gracious God."

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London and Chairman of the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division, also commented: "The unfolding drama whose author is God seeks artistic expression in every generation. The Church needs to engage with contemporary artists in order to explore afresh the forms which divine truth should be taking in the here and now."

For further information and to download a copy of the guide, visit

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