ARC is the result of the 2017 merger of The Society for Arts, Religion, and Contemporary Culture (SARCC) and the Association for Theopoetics Research and Exploration (ATRE). Things start with SARCC...
The organization that will become SARCC is founded. The executive director was Marvin Halverson, a protestant theologian whose vision was the inspiring spark. The founding board included Alfred Barr, founder of the Museum of Modern Art; Paul Tillich, theologian; and Amos Wilder, Bible Scholar. Fellows begin to be named honoring those whose work has substantially forwarded dialogue between the arts, religion, and contemporary culture.
The SARCC magazine Directions begins to be published, introduced by board member Stanley Hopper with these words:
It is essential that religion and the arts be released from their cultural isolation.
SARCC begins to offer three gatherings a year, open to members and fellows for discussion and reflection on topics decided upon by the board. These continue with regularity through 2010.
SARCC partners with St. Peter's Church in New York City, a hub of art, music, and religious innovation in Christian circles. Better Meyer, SARCC's executive director, shifted her offices there for the mutual benefit of both organizations.
Board member Charles Henderson, executive director of The Association for Religion and Intellectual Life, organizes the program “Television 1984: Art, Myth, or Thought Control.” Scholar Leslie Fiedler offered that soap operas and novels be considered as “a kind of secular scripture.” Members in attendance were struck by Fieldler’s “emphasis on populism” and the ways in which SARCC could beneficially engage with popular culture as well as fine art.
Board member Rollo May offers the challenging perspective that “ARC has taken a traditionally academic position and talked issues to death.” May’s position was that SARCC should be more engaged and focused on producing action: “consideration of a subject,” he said, “ought to generate life.”
David Miller convened the board of SARCC for a two-part meeting to consider “the question of SARCC’s mission in the light of the current context… and to imagine strategies of planning and programming” for the future. There was an awareness that SARCC was founded “in the heyday of modernism” and that it tended toward elitism among an “in-group.” Hopes were named to shift intentionally away from this dynamic.
After decades without having an executive director, the board of SARCC decides to reinstate a part-time position, hiring Nelvin Vos into the role. Simultaneously, Betty Meyer is charged to write the history that is eventually published as The ARC Story: A Narrative Account of The Society for the Arts, Religion, and Contemporary Culture.
SARCC co-hosted a six-part series of day-long symposia on “The Role of the Arts in Religious and Theological Education.” Schools involved included Union Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, The Graduate Theological Union, and Lancaster Theological Seminary. The series ended with an event in Manhattan featuring philosopher of religion Mark C. Taylor and the executive director of the American Academy of Religion, Barbara DiConcini.
A day-long exploration of the influence of language on Muslim, Jewish, and Christian sensibilities is filmed and eventually produced and aired for a Pakistani television program. Featured artists included Diane Samuels, Ivan Chermayeff, painter and cinematographer Mumtaz Hussain, and Eurythmist Annelies Davidson.
SARCC sponsored a series of three day-long conversations on “The Influence of Technology on Religion and the Arts.” Events were hosted at Barnard College, Middle Collegiate Church, and Union Theological Seminary.
SARCC celebrated its 50th year with “Spirit Soundings,” a concert with Mark Harvey and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra. The last formal “Wine Cellar Conversation” was held in Manhattan, titled “An ARC Tradition: Theopoetics and Poets.”
SARCC became largest sponsor of the inaugural Theopoetics Conference in Boston, MA. The event was hosted by ATRE and had explicit ties to SARCC members and fellows Stanley Hopper, Amos Wilder, and David L. Miller.
On the basis of shared vision and hope for conversation and activity that is less bound to the academy and more professionally, racially, and geographically diverse, SARCC and ATRE merge. On May 26th the groups formally joined and on October 3rd the joint groups committed to changing the new organization's name back to ARC.
Callid Keefe-Perry set up the website Theopoetics.net and began to post there and on YouTube for educational purposes to get word out about what theopoetics is. Because the work was public he started to meet others who shared interest in the topic and they began to correspond and meet when together at other events, especially the American Academy of Religion.
The group that eventually became ATRE began to meet annually at the American Academy of Religion. Participation was open to newcomers and events split time between presentations and facilitated dialogue. Early conversations focused largely on definitions, boundaries, and hopes for future work. Explicit dialogue was had regarding the need for theopoetics to grow further afield than its roots in the European-inflected Academy.
Three years of working group presentations at AAR had begun to develop into quite a resource. However, there was no good way to reference the work that had been produced. After some months of collaboration, the journal Theopoetics was launched online. Within six months the subscription level was nearing 300 people.
A working group call for proposals regarding theopoetics and practice had a record breaking number of submissions. This led to reflection on the need to provide a venue for practitioners to engage in the exploration of theopoetics, not allowing academic discourse to be the only way to connect to the topic. Planning began for the inaugural ATRE Theopoetics Conference.
ATRE hosted the first theopoetics conference whose pedagogy and intent were explicitly theopoetic. The vision was well received by the Boston community, resulting in offers of partnership from SARCC, Boston University's School of Theology, The Journal of Hip-Hop Studies, The Transformative Language Arts Network, the New England Maritimes Region of AAR, Boston University's Arts Initiative, Syndicate Theology, and the Boston Theological Institute. 72 people registered for the event.
ATRE began to branch out, continuing to offer fall events for academics, the spring conference for academics and practitioners, and adding to that consulting work as well as three-day retreats. On the basis of this vision and work, SARCC approached ATRE about the possibility of a merger. On May 26th the groups formally joined and on October 3rd the joint groups committed to changing the new organization's name back to ARC.