Lauren Pittman Merges Art and Faith
Anderson Artists Guild new member Lauren Wright Pittman has staked out a very unusual path in her journey to merge art and faith.
She initially followed her mom’s path into graphic design with a degree in media design from Middle Tennessee State University and then 10 years at a design firm in Michigan. But she felt pulled toward the Presbyterian Church, getting involved with a young adult volunteer program and spending a year in discernment about her next step toward a vocation. “I was interested in graphic design but also in incorporating it into ministry somehow,” she said.
The volunteer program took her to New Orleans, where she brought some of her acrylic and ink artwork—inspired by the wetlands, music and architecture of her new city—into a gallery where she stills sells her pieces. “That was a big step for me,” she said. “I‘d always been creating but not sharing.”
She spent two years in New Orleans working part time as a campus ministry coordinator. This turned out to be the first step in combining her twin passions: She used graphic design as a way to promote her ministry through mediums like posters and t-shirts. “We offered invitations to come to our space, which can be scary for students,” she said.
Her next stop was the Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, where she and a group of fellow artists asked professors if they could respond to scriptural texts visually through biblically focused art. “It was a way to ask questions in my faith journey visually,” she said. “That’s where things started to turn.”
After graduation, she worked with two other newly minted ministers to create Sanctified Art—a ministry creating visual art resources for churches to use in different liturgical seasons. “I’m trying to expand imagery for Jesus and God so it’s not so narrow,” she said. “That’s becoming more of my full-time work.” She also takes commissions from churches and does logo design and branding for churches and even did a visual mission statement for a church. “It’s outside-of-the-box stuff,” she said.
Even more out of the box is live painting during worship services. She works with the preacher on the day’s text and during the service creates an image that stays with the church. “It’s an entirely different process because you’re not alone,” she said. “Every part of the process is being watched. It takes different shapes and meanings. Sometimes it’s more abstract so people can engage with the piece from their positions and their experiences.” She has traveled to Atlanta for these efforts and will be painting soon at an ordination service in Florida. “It’s a smaller part of my work but is becoming more prevalent,” she said. “It takes some time to get used to it. For some it can be seen as a distraction, but I explain that it’s like the music and prayers—an accompaniment to the whole of worship.”
Pittman moved to Anderson in March when her husband—who is also a minister—accepted a position as associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church.