Mormon Arts, Volume 1 Lorin F. Wheelwright and Lael J. Woodbury, eds. Brigham Young University Press, 88 pages, including one 12″ long-playing record, $13.95
Each year Latter-day Saints the world over join together with the College of Fine Arts and Communications at Brigham Young University to produce a delightful and engaging schedule of concerts, plays, musicals, recitals, original readings, symposia, and art and photographic exhibits that reflect Mormon values and Mormon culture. This joyous celebration of aesthetic expression is the annual Mormon Festival of Arts.
At the first Mormon Festival of Arts, held in 1969, emphasis was placed almost entirely upon painting, sculpture, and photography. Very little was done to encourage artistic expression in music, drama, literature, and dance.
The following year, however, efforts were made to encourage audible as well as visual artistic contributions. Ensembles, solo concerts, plays, and literary readings, when combined with art exhibits, gave added dimension to the growing festival.
In its third year the festival was even more comprehensive than previously. Contributions poured in from numerous artists. The festival’s widening influence began spreading beyond the perimeters of the BYU campus.
With this growth has come the publication of Mormon Arts, Volume 1, a publication that will now allow a larger audience of Church members and their friends to enjoy examples of the festival’s artistic expressions.
This book contains reproductions and selections of some of the best creative efforts of festival contributors. A broad sampling of paintings, carvings, and photographs from past festivals has been replicated here along with examples of the prose, poetry, and drama of Mormon writers.
Full-color reproductions of C. C. A. Christensen paintings, depicting scenes from the early history of the Church, have been included as a special feature.
Of particular interest to readers is the companion recording enclosed in this volume. In conjunction with the reproductions of musical scores, photographs, paintings, and sculpture in the book itself, selections from the audible arts are presented on the accompanying recording. Thus, readers may experience a variety of artistic expressions.
Along with excerpts from Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the BYU Oratorio Choir, under the baton of John Halliday, performs original hymns of contemporary Latter-day Saint composers. Included also are Dr. Lael Woodbury’s reading of “The Healing” and excerpts from the Mormon musical drama, The Order Is Love.
But Mormon Arts, Volume 1 is more than a collection of sights and sounds. It also raises and discusses provocative issues. As the reproductions in this book well illustrate, Mormon theology, history, and values seem to provide abundant substance for the fashioning of art. However, questions arise:
1. What is the relationship between Mormonism and the arts?
2. Will Mormon theology, history, and values give rise to a recognizably distinct artistic expression?
3. Will that expression become integral to Mormon culture?
4. Is there a Mormon art?
It may be too soon to expect completely satisfactory answers to these difficult questions.
By combining a provocative text with vivid and moving audible and visual reproductions, Mormon Arts, Volume 1 and Mormon Arts Recording 1 will hopefully give readers an increased awareness and appreciation for the expanding dimensions of Mormon arts.