It started on a six mile stretch of Philadelphia. 1,267 stencils spelled out, word by word, the text of 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient Love is kind…” the words were woven into the streets and neighborhoods of the City of Brotherly Love.
Two years later, all 1,267 stencils could be found in various locations across Wheaton’s campus, spelling out the same message of love.
“Though I speak in the tongues of men and angels…” stretched above the doors into Edman chapel, “…but if I have not love…” worked its way down the staircase of Adams Hall. New York Artist Gene Schmidt spent four days installing the text with the help of facilities staff, art professors, and student coordinator Tamara Thompson ’13.
The exhibit, named “Lovetown,” was more than an art display. In bringing the installation to campus, Billy Graham Center Museum Coordinator Eric Durbin was looking to involve the entire community. For a text about loving others, Eric and his team wanted to do just that.
Eric, Tamara, and student worker Megan Mitchell ’13 organized a sweatshirt workshop that took the Lovetown project to Community Centers, Windsor Retirement home, the Community School of the Arts, and Beamer Center. Community members and Wheaton students decorated more than 600 Lovetown sweatshirts with words from 1 Corinthians 13. Using paint and stencils, participants spelled out words from the passage, such as “Love,” “Peace,” and “Joy,” in a myriad of languages and designs.
“How do you say “love” in Norwegian?” One student shouted across the Stupe at a Lovetown Workshop, and within an hour the word “ELSKER” was painted across the front of his sweatshirt.
In March, Wheaton hosted a community event celebrating the opening of the exhibit as well as the release of President Ryken’s book, Loving the Way Jesus Loves, which incorporates photography from the exhibit’s original installation in Philadelphia. The event included an interview with artist Gene Schmidt, a panel discussion on “loving your neighbor” in the city of Wheaton, a book signing of Dr. Ryken’s book, and a reception in the Sacred Arts Gallery of the Billy Graham Center Museum.
Professor David McNutt moderated the panel discussion that featured Lon Allison, Director of the Billy Graham Center; Michael Gresk, Mayor of the City of Wheaton; Hanibal Rodriguez, Pastor of La Iglesia Del Pueblo; and Leah Samuelson, Visiting Instructor of Art. Each panel member brought perspectives on reaching out in one’s city and the role of art in bringing a community together.
The exhibit, which included the installation of the text as well as 40 Alicia Hansen photographs from the “Lovetown” installation in Philadelphia, was on display around Wheaton’s campus and at the Billy Graham Center Museum through May 2012.