All of Image’s programs are informed and nourished by several foundational values:
Incarnational humanism. We believe that there is a mystery at the heart of being human, a depth and density that is also an opening for the divine. Like an underwater cavern filled with enchanting creatures we hardly ever get to see, literature and art has the capacity to take us down to these depths and explore the profound questions of being human. And we are not surprised to find these depths are often God-haunted.
We believe that human creatures, made in the image of a divine creator, live most fully into their nature when they are creative. As God formed people from muddy clay and breathed life into them, so do artists find ways of locating spiritual things in earthy materials. By its nature, art moves us from the general and abstract and into the particular and concrete. Each artform does this in ways unique to its medium. In this way, art is constantly incarnational: the transcendent is given flesh.
Image has often quoted the enigmatic observation Dostoyevsky made in one of his notebooks that “beauty will save the world.” We see this more as a provocation or conversation-starter than a mission statement. Coming from a novelist whose work grapples with all the horror of the human condition and the failures of overconfident programs for justice and human happiness, we take it less as a statement about the power of beauty to soothe and console than as a gesture toward the hope at the end of a long journey.
This is also why we are committed to fostering art that contributes to the culture most broadly rather than art produced for a religious subculture. We are committed to being a faithful presence in the mainstream of artistic culture and literary communities because we believe art informed by religious faith and cultivated with excellence can be an offering for a wider world.
We live into the fullness of being human when we cultivate the imagination. Art, in that sense, is one of the ways we refuse the reductionism of a pragmatic culture bent on consumption and production. Artists and writers remind us that human beings aren’t just economic or political animals; not just homo faber or homo economicus but, as historian Johan Huizinga put it, we are homo ludens, humans made to play.
Archaic avant-garde. The mystery at the heart of the Christian faith is that the invisible is made visible, the Word becomes flesh. This is the mystery echoed in our artistic endeavors: painters plunge their imagination into the invisible and bring up something we’ve never seen before; writers conjure characters that put souls on the page for us to see and contemplate ourselves.
So our Christian faith doesn’t paint us into a corner, it gives us a palette for audacious artistry. The imaginative wells of the Christian tradition give us the boldness and courage to be innovative, venturesome, unapologetically contemporary, even avant-garde. We have no investment in traditionalism. We see the tradition as a creative gift, not a constriction to resent, a well to drink from, not a weight to throw off. We embrace the catholicity of this tradition across time and space and see in the many streams of Christian faith diverse gifts for contemporary creativity.
Anchored hospitality. Confidence in this anchor of incarnational Christianity enables and motivates a hospitality that is open and capacious rather than defensive or threatened. As such, Image is a Christian organization that is hospitable to all faiths, as well as to those who struggle with faith, because our convictions motivate us to convene a wider conversation for the sake of our neighbors and the common good. While much of the work we publish engages with Christianity in some form, we also have a special place in our pages for Judaism and Islam, with which we share a history and sacred texts. But from the anchor of historic faith, Image invites any artist sincerely wrestling with the questions faith awakens, even if those are a believer’s doubts or an agnostic’s temptation to believe. This might include a Buddhist fiction writer whose imagination was shaped by a Catholic childhood; a Hindu poet who writes about the Bible; an essay by an agnostic writer who struggles with a genuinely irritating Christian whom she meets in her home-birth class; an angry ex-fundamentalist haunted by what he left behind; or paintings by a prominent, religiously unaffiliated artist whose work reveals a spiritual undercurrent.
We do not judge art by whether it reflects right belief, or can be used to make an argument for right belief. Rather, we believe that art that grapples honestly with transcendent questions finds its way toward truth. In a time when faith is often politicized, and those of other faiths painted as strange or alien, we find that the closer we look, the more we have in common with sincere grapplers of any religious tradition. Any art that grapples honestly with a religious question—which is to say, a human question—is ours.
Creative pluralism. We believe that the God who created the world in which we find ourselves—a cosmos that includes 200 billion galaxies and 2,700 different sorts of earthworms and forty-five different kinds of hostas—takes a special delight in creative diversity. Image does not identify religious art with any pristinized era or privileged style. We want to reflect a wide array of styles, voices, and genres that speak to different people in different ways.
We have room for quiet reverence, for the contemplative mode. We have room for humor. We have room for the formal and for the experimental. For figuration and abstraction. For long reads and (very occasionally) flash fiction. For bronze sculpture and video art, for oil painting and graffiti. We reject didactic and polemical art, but we also have room for anguish, rage, and thirst for justice. We have room for muddle and mess. We have room for wonder and awe. In each age, this needs to happen in new ways, which is why our focus is on contemporary work.
Across our publications, programs, and platforms, we curate contemporary writing and visual art that exhibit aesthetic excellence and speak to wide audiences.
- We publish award-winning fiction, poetry, essays, interviews and visual art in Image, our flagship journal. With over 100 issues and a 30-year history, Image has established itself as a selective, celebrated literary quarterly. Publishing the work of both established and emerging writers and artists, our pages have featured notable artists such as Chimimanda Adichie, Carolyn Forché, George Saunders, Mary Gordon, Louise Erdich, Shane McCrae, Katie Ford, Maggie Smith, and many, many more. Work first published in Image has been selected for publication in Pushcart anthologies, Best American Poetry, Utne Reader, Harper’s, Poetry Daily, and more.
- We publish ImageUpdate, a weekly newsletter that provides both original content and curates content from around the web at the intersection of art, faith, and mystery.
- We host online visual art exhibits such as our recent Home Alone Together exhibit.
- We publish online features such as Redeeming the Time, a series responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and the national conversation around systemic racism.
Through an array of programs, we support artistic creation by providing opportunities for training, practice, and apprenticeship in writing and the visual arts.
- We provide training for writers and artists through the annual Glen Workshop. Part creative workshop, part arts festival, part spiritual retreat, this intensive week-long experience is an opportunity for writers and artists across an array of genres to deepen their craft under the guidance of world-class faculty.
- We support writers and artists in the moment of creation through the Milton Fellowship, a year-long residential fellowship for a Black writer to complete their first book.
We aim to be a premier venue for meaningful dialogue about faith, literature, and the arts.
- Image convenes writers and readers, artists and art-appreciators around different kinds of events such as lectures, symposia, readings, digital studio visits, and more. These include our 2020 Summer Stage Series, quarterly events featuring writers & artists in the journal, [an annual Dallas Image Lecture,] and more.
- Image partners with organizations that resonate with our work, such as our L’Engle Seminars in partnership with the L’Engle estate.
- The Great Hall gathers a community of those who share an appreciation for the arts and desire to invest in their creation and forge friendships with like-minded patrons. We curate resources and experiences to help this community deepen their understanding and appreciation.
Around all of this work, we are building a growing global community of writers, artists, and readers who find in such art something that speaks to profoundly human needs and desires.
Celebration contemporary writers and artists, and how their work animates a flourishing society, suffuses all of our work.
- We recognize excellence in poetry through the Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize for Canadian poets whose work wrestles with the beauty and complexity of religious faith.
- We celebrate artistic achievement with the Levertov Award, given annually to an artist, musician, or writer whose work exemplifies a serious and sustained engagement with faith. Past recipients include Bruce Cockburn, Patricia Hampl, Kathleen Norris, Richard Rodriguez, Luci Shaw, and Franz Wright.
- To celebrate the excellence of their work, we nominate writers and poets for recognition by prestigious prizes and awards. Material first published in Image has appeared in the Pushcart Prize anthology, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Best American Spiritual Writing, O. Henry Prize Stories, The Art of the Essay, New Stories from the South, Best Christian Short Stories, Best Christian Writing, and Best American Movie Writing.