Editor’s note: At CIVA’s biennial conference this past June, Joe Cory was elected to his new role as Board Chair. Please read all about him here!
CIVA: Tell us a little about yourself.
Joe: I am a painter and Professor of Art at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, I hold a B.A. in Art from Central College, a B.F.A. in Studio Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and an M.F.A. from the University of Chicago. My wife Sara and I have been married for almost 20 years and we have four creative kids and one lazy dog. Our love language is hosting dinner parties. In my spare time I enjoy reading, napping, watching football, and hanging out with my goofy kids. My favorite foods include pizza, Asian cuisine, and Coca-cola. I also serve as an elder at Shades Valley Community Church (EFCA) in Homewood, Alabama.
CIVA: When did you first encounter CIVA, and how did you become a supporter and fan of the organization?
Joe: The artist Tim Rollins introduced me to CIVA. He spoke at Central College during my senior year, and I was so enthralled I weaseled my way into having lunch with him in the cafeteria. During lunch he said I should check out this organization that supports artists of faith—CIVA! I observed it from a distance until after graduate school but finally joined when I started teaching at Judson University in 2007. CIVA was the first organization I found where I actually felt supported and encouraged by the other artists I met. As a young artist who was just beginning a family and a career, I felt really isolated and was desperate for encouragement to keep going. CIVA provided that. In the south, we refer to someone’s community of family and friends as “their people.” CIVA is my people.
CIVA: What is it about CIVA that you appreciate most?
Joe: The humility of the artists who belong to CIVA. While living in Chicago and attending highly ranked art schools, I had the opportunity to observe parts of the art world up close. Although this was exciting, especially as a young artist, I was often put off by the lack of humility that many artists displayed. The most incredibly talented and highly recognized CIVA artists have also been some of the most gracious, humble, and giving people I have ever met. I love sitting at a table with them during the conferences and talking shop about making art. I’ve learned so much from them.
CIVA: What drew you to the work of CIVA in particular, and what inspired you to get involved with the work on this level?
Joe: I enjoy having the opportunity to work with talented people who bring unique perspectives to the work we do. It’s a calling to do the work of CIVA and I am fortunate to be part of a team who truly believes in our mission. There is a recognition that Christ is the center of this organization, and that without the Lord, our work is meaningless. I also love that I have CIVA friends from all over the country! I know that I have a couch to sleep on in pretty much any city across the U.S. if I needed it.
CIVA: Tell us a little about some of the visual art you’ve done over the years.
Joe: I consider myself primarily a painter, although I also enjoy mixed media work and printmaking. The work itself has evolved over the past 10-15 years from being more abstracted to more pictorial; however, the underlying themes of the work have remained pretty consistent. I am really interested in using the world around me as a metaphor for the physical and spiritual journey’s we take. I have a lot of ideas in my head but not enough time to complete them all!
CIVA: What do you look forward to in your new role?
Joe: I am looking forward to working with Lawan and the rest of the board to make CIVA stronger so it will be around in another 40+ years! I am also looking forward to meeting our members and continuing to advocate for ways CIVA can better support artists.
CIVA: If you had to choose, what is your favorite CIVA moment or accomplishment in our 40-year history?
Joe: I had the opportunity to attend the 40th Anniversary Board Reunion right before this summer’s biennial conference. It was an incredible evening of celebrating CIVA’s founders and first generation of leaders. We live in an age when a lot of things don’t last and most people won’t commit to much, so to celebrate a group of individuals who showed up for those early conferences and then returned again and again was very special. Our founders really put themselves out there. They had an incredible amount of skin in the game and risked a lot personally in terms of their careers by leading CIVA. It’s amazing to see how the Lord has used their sacrifices to subsequently influence two generations of artists. The fact that CIVA is still around after 40+ years is the result of God’s grace and a long line of highly capable leaders. I am blessed to be sitting in the shade of the trees they planted.