A Sayville congregation is forming a new partnership with local artists to both foster faith and support the community arts.
The Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ has converted the east wall of its historic sanctuary into a gallery space, where artists can display and sell their works.
The Rev. J. Gary Brinn, who recently celebrated his first year with the church, introduced the idea of contemporary art in the Sanctuary during the spring.
“The Congregational tradition was pretty austere,” Brinn said. “But the church universal has always worked with artists of all types to tell the story of our faith.”
Brinn, who has a studio art degree from Hunter College in Manhattan, recently delivered a sermon titled “Crazy Art Dudes” as part of his credentialing process for the United Church of Christ. In a previous assignment he initiated an art contest for installation art in a church sanctuary.
“Artists tend to be at the margins,” Brinn said. “That's exactly where the UCC wants to be.”
The first show, hung this summer and on display through the end of September, features paintings by Sayville native Michelle Yozzo Drake, a published author, coach and professional speaker.
As an artist, Yozzo Drake relies on color, texture and movement on canvas to speak for her. Her paintings begin as an expression of prayer - spiritual and abstract - and represent a contemporary view of Christian faith.
Upon completing the hanging of her body of work "Art of Prayer" in the Sanctuary, Yozzo Drake said, "to see my body of work in the context of the church, for me, as an artist, was very powerful."
The artist will be sharing her thoughts about her prayer paintings at the artist reception on September 23 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The show can also be seen during regular worship hours, or by making an appointment with the church office by calling (631) 589-1519.
"To know Michelle is to be blessed by her ability to inspire, not only through her art but as a person who is deeply connected to the people and world around her," said Pat Snyder, East End Art Council executive director.
Pastor Brinn has been pleased with his congregation's response to this innovation in the worship space.
“Quite a few told me that they initially thought this was a terrible idea,” Brinn said. “Now that they've seen Michelle's work, they're on board and excited to see who will be on display next."