The Five Faiths Project introduces, with original works of art from the Ackland’s multicultural permanent collection, the beliefs and practices of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism – religious traditions that have a strong presence in North Carolina and generally in American society today. It is with the idea of assisting communication between these new faith communities and the established Protestant community that the Project came into being. The Five Faiths Project is founded on the conviction that centering conversations about faith traditions on works of art originally used in worship promotes objective and thoughtful consideration of those traditions, while also inhibiting unproductive ideological debates that impede tolerant understanding and learning.
This belief has been substantiated by several recent collaborative exhibitions including Mass and Masterpiece: Celebrating the Eucharist in the Renaissance and Baroque, Buddhist Art and Ritual from Nepal and Tibet and Domesticating Virtue: Paintings, Prints and Piety in the Netherlands (1570-1680) and through curricular resource materials (Web site, lesson plans, full-color posters and CDs with faiths stories narrated by local storytellers) being created for North Carolina middle and high school teachers, who are mandated by the State to teach world religions as part of their curriculum. These materials have been funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Randleigh Foundation and the William Hayes Ackland Trust.
The Henry Luce Foundation of New York has provided funding for the second phase of the Five Faiths Project, which has as its mission the promotion of a national agenda for museums with multicultural collections to use their collections to promote understanding about the diverse religious communities in their region. To set the agenda, the Ackland convened a series of three colloquies scheduled over three years to which museum professionals, scholars of religion, local and national religious leaders and contemporary artists were invited to consider and discuss the obstacles to and the benefits of using works of art as vehicles for teaching about world religions.
In addition to the colloquies, the Ackland staff organized small, focus group discussions with local participants from each faith, who considered issues of current public interest. These focused discussions lead into the colloquies, identifying or giving shape to the broad issues scheduled for discussion. The focus-group sessions were organized as public programs with audience participation.
For more information about the Five Faiths Project, contact Amanda M. Hughes, Director of External Affairs, at (919) 843-3592.