By faith Abraham . . . looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10).
Three decades ago, most Christians in the visual arts faced an impossible situation: the art world did not respect their faith and the Church did not value their vocation. It was difficult to be a serious Christian and a serious artist.
In 1977 Eugene Johnson had a vision. Gene, a ceramicist, professor, and preacher, served on the faculty of Bethel College. Buoyed by the enthusiastic support of his art faculty colleagues, he hosted a conference for Christian artists that drew some 170 participants from across North America to St. Paul, Minnesota. Two years later a similar conference was held at Calvin College and Christians in the Visual Arts became an official organization.
In 1979 Ed Boevé became CIVA’s first president and in the years to follow other artists like Ted Prescott, Alva Steffler, and Don Forsythe took their turn to lead CIVA and its Board of Directors to invent and develop the young organization’s program and identity. In 1993 CIVA members elected artist and entrepreneur Sandra Bowden to serve as its board president. Sandra held this position until 2007 and during her fourteen year term CIVA’s membership and influence enjoyed remarkable growth.
After a lengthy search, CIVA’s Board of Directors invited Dan Russ, Ph.D., to become the organization’s first Executive Director and, in 2002, the CIVA office was relocated to Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts college in North Shore Boston. Dan held that post for a year until Gordon College invited him to become the Director of their Center for Christian Study. One year later, Tyrus Clutter, M.F.A., then faculty at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, agreed to move to Boston and serve as the organization’s new Director. Tyrus held this position until June, 2008.
Eight months later, Cameron Anderson, M.F.A., agreed to serve as CIVA’s second Executive Director. In February 2009 Cam, an artist and a writer, finished a 30-year term of service with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and assumed the leadership of CIVA. During his first six years as Executive Director, the CIVA Office remained at Gordon College and Cam convened meetings in various locations commuting from Madison to Boston and points beyond. By the spring of 2015, it became clear that CIVA would be better served by gathering a local team of supporting staff and locating a suitable space in which to host collaborative and strategic meetings. Thus, in June, 2015, the CIVA Office moved to Suite 212, 849 East Washington Avenue, in the heart of Madison, Wisconsin.
Besides Cam, CIVA’s “Madison Team” now includes: Web Design and Communications Coordinator, Barry Sherbeck; Membership and Exhibits Coordinator, Kate Austin; Board Treasurer, Bill Montei; and Editor, Dawn Anderson. CIVA’s Designer, Ned Bustard, continues to provide his expertise long-distance. With this team in place, and along with the generous collaboration of artists and other skilled professionals, CIVA is poised for a new era of growth and opportunity as it engages in Serious Art and Serious Faith.