Imago, Write! Canada and attitudes toward art

I had the privilege of attending two arts-related programs last week and thoroughly enjoyed both.
On Wednesday, Imago presented Art in the City—a showcase of local and regional performers and artists. Dale Nikkel, Kevin Ramessar and Mike Janzen wowed us with their music; the cast of Lost & Found Theatre tantalized us with an excerpt from a new play—which I may just have to go and see to find out how it ends—and visual artist Heidi Brannan had us looking at stone and glass in a whole new way.
Then, starting on Thursday I was part of the faculty at Write! Canada, an annual conference for writers who are Christian, held at the Guelph Bible Conference centre. Again I had the chance to meet with old friends, make new friends, help writers improve—it was neat to see how two of the people whose manuscripts I critiqued, made  second appointment to show me how they’d used the critique to make improvements to their work. Usually, after these writers leave the appointment area, you never hear from them again or know if your remarks were accepted or rejected. The highlight for me was sitting through the screenwriting classes of Sean Gaffney, writer of the Veggie Tales episode King George and the Ducky.
One of the things I like about attending the Write! Canada Writers’ Conference each year is the chance to score free books. The organizers usually have an eclectic collection of books that have come into their possession that they decide to give away.
This year was no different and I was able to find a little gem called Historical Attitudes that have Shaped the Church’s use of the Arts by Matthew R.S. Todd (and published by Word Alive Press). While I haven’t finished the book yet, a couple of comments in the first chapter made me think again about why the arts have had such a difficult time finding acceptance in churches as a whole.
Looking at the history of the early church, Todd writes about how Plato’s philosphies began gaining ground in the church. “This was bound to have a negative impact on the Church’s attitude towards the arts, as Plato had a negative view of the cognitive aspect of art…Plato…considered ‘imagining as the most superficial form of mental activity and the lowest form of knowing subject to illusion.’ Images fashioned by the artist and poet were therefore considered to be deceptive and removed from reality.”
So, has this attitude changed? My first thought is "no." But I’m going to keep reading the book to see.
Robert White is the Administrative Director for Artists in Christian Testimony Canada and author of Chasing the Wind, winner of the Word Alive Press 2010 publishing contest non-fiction prize.