Mission, Vision & History

CIVA’s mission is best expressed in three primary and longstanding commitments. CIVA and its members are:

Called to Creative Work

Artists create culture. They have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hands to make. The genius of Christian community is that all who belong are invited to participate, invited to bring their skills and their passions to contribute to the greater good. As men and women bear God’s image by all kinds of creative expression, CIVA equips those called to the visual arts to flourish in their holy vocation and to pursue it with excellence.

Devoted to the Church

The visual arts help the Church to rehearse and remember the biblical story. The visual arts help congregations worship more deeply. The visual arts help Christian communities build a bridge to the non-believing world. The visual arts deepen times of personal devotion and prayer. As the Church awakens to its need for art and the artists who make it, CIVA deploys its expertise and resources to help the Church embrace the visual arts and bring work of quality and substance into its centers of worship and learning.

Present in Culture

Culture is that place where we “live and move and have our being,” that place where, each day and in every way, God’s people either magnify the presence of God’s Kingdom or diminish it. As the world needs the salt, light, and leaven of those who follow Jesus, CIVA cultivates an incarnational presence in contemporary culture that is marked by serious art, learning and practice, intellectual rigor, prophetic voice, serious pursuit of faith, and a spirit of hospitality.

History of CIVA

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.

Eugene Johnson

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 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, 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 agreed to serve as CIVA’s third Executive Director. In February of 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.

In January 2019, Lawan Glasscock, long-time CIVA member, became CIVA’s fourth Executive Director. Her history in Classical Archaeology and experience as a consultant for philanthropists and non-profits make Lawan an ideal fit for the role. Together with the Madison Team CIVA is poised for a new era of growth and opportunity engaging in Serious Art and Serious Faith.