If you believe that our journey should continue into the next quarter century, I’m asking you take a couple minutes to read the letter below. If everyone—and every non-profit like Image—got the “George Bailey” treatment, I think it would reveal just how big a difference we can all make. Thanks to your generosity, past and present, Image is in a position to extend and deepen the change we’ve made to this point. All of you remind me, again and again, that it’s a wonderful life.
Advent and Christmas blessings,
This story begins with two old friends talking in a hallway.
You may recognize one by his trademark porkpie hat. Linford Detweiler, one half of the band Over the Rhine, is having a quiet chat with Greg Wolfe, the founder and publisher of Image.
The hallway around them is bustling with people who have come from all over the United States and beyond. You might recognize some of these people. You may even recognize the location.
Linford and Greg are talking about converging anniversaries. Over the Rhine and Image are both celebrating their twenty-fifth year. Linford asks Greg if he knows when the two of them first met. Neither can quite remember.
Linford begins to speculate. What if they had never met? He later recalled:
Suddenly it all went quiet. The hallway and the cafeteria were empty except for a few summer students. I glimpsed a world in which Image Journal and the Glen Workshop had never existed.
I was a little like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life. And like George, glimpsing this alternate reality scared the living shit out of me.
You see, those of us who found Image in its early years and eventually discovered the community that has grown out of these Glen Workshops have come to embrace these ongoing gifts with a sense of inevitability. We feel like we have stumbled home somehow, found our tribe—what is more inevitable than eventually finding your way home? And the trouble with what feels like home is that it’s so easy to take it for granted—it’s all too easy to assume it’s always been there and always will be.
As with most good things, Image and the Glen required someone approaching two roads diverging and taking the one less traveled, the one with no roadmap, the one that made mentors raise a few eyebrows and perhaps express some disappointment or even veiled disapproval. I was reminded that a world without Image and the Glen requires only a small leap of the imagination.
The world without Image and the Glen is one where the lights have dimmed a little. The hallways have gone a little quieter, missing conversations no longer taking place. Some artists would undoubtedly go back to their corners and the old isolations of having to explain it, justify it, rather than returning home to the real work and spiritual discipline of just trying to make it good.
These conversations (and subsequent artistic collaborations) would not have taken place without Image and the Glen.
Image is a hallway, a place between the worlds where people meet and recognize one another. Some are passing through, on their way to a room where they’ll undertake some purposeful task, or just to the fresh air outside. Some linger together, remembering the past. Others dream of a future, handing each other manuscripts to discuss later. All are traveling, passing through.
Image is also a room in its own right, a place where artists linger to wrestle with their motivations and their metaphors; where faith is an intrinsic, welcome, and engaged part of cultural dialogue. In this incarnation, Image becomes a venue for the artist and her audience to explore without premature judgment, building on what has come before and pointing to what might become later, but always, always, working in present possibility.
A space in that room is crucial for younger artists. Current Milton Fellow Dyana Herron, who is currently in residence writing her first full-length book is but one example of Image’s many conduits to the culture at large, of which Image Journal is the prime and founding instance.
But we should also mention Good Letters: daily blog entries from a curated group of writers and thinkers. In one year, 286,000 people read Good Letters, which is hosted on Patheos.com, the largest online aggregator of writing about faith.
Then there are the published works, the literary prizes, and the gallery showings that can grow out of an artist’s publication in Image. The New York Times recently cited Christian Wiman’s poem “The Preacher Addresses the Seminarians” as “a near-masterpiece.” It was first published in issue #81.
Greg Wolfe, the novelist Paul Elie, and the poet (and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts) Dana Gioia had a lively ongoing public debate during this past year about whether great Catholic writing is endangered art form. (You can guess our position on that one.) Image hosts these kinds of conversations—with and in the culture at large—on a regular basis.
Should these conversations take place? Are they doing us and the world around us any good? The Jewish poet Ilya Kaminsky recently wrote us:
Thank you, for what you do every day. Image is far more than just a literary magazine. You really have changed something in how people think.
You decide whether these conversations take place today and in the next year, through your support of Image. That support enables us to do such things as:
• Equip young artists of faith through scholarships and fellowships;
• Ensure that the best quality work gets the best possible showcase in the public square;
• Enlarge an online presence for artists and their work.
These conversations do not take place on their own. They need to be encouraged. And you’re just the person to do that.
You’ve already taken part in these conversations. Together, we can make sure that they continue, and that there are more of them taking place in hallways, private rooms, and public places.
Twenty-five years of provocative, fruitful conversations, ensuring that the artistic life and the spiritual life continue to be inextricably linked.
Let’s make sure that that the twenty-sixth year is just as engaging.
This fall/winter, we need to raise a total of $220,000 in order to make sure that we can do that. You are one of the few who understand why that’s important.
Yes. We’re talking to you. Will you join us?
P.S. Many of our supporters are artists themselves, with limited resources. One way to see those small gifts go further is to make a monthly or quarterly recurring gift.