Wheaton, IL—Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken along with the Billy Graham Center Museum at Wheaton College, Crossway, and several community partners will host the Lovetown Celebration, a series of events Tuesday, March 13 related to a new exhibit opening March 12.

“Lovetown, PA” features the artwork of New York-based community artist Gene Schmidt. In 2010, Schmidt crafted stencils from square panels of reclaimed scrap wood in order to spell out the text of 1 Corinthians 13. Schmidt then laid the panels in various locations throughout Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Photographer Alicia Hansen captured images of the text in interaction with the city’s people and environments, producing thought-provoking, relational imagery that challenges viewers to interact with the “love chapter” in new ways.

Several of the images appear in Ryken’s book Loving the Way Jesus Loves (Crossway), published in January. Dr. Ryken was pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church before becoming president of Wheaton College in 2010.

“First Corinthians 13 contains a command that every Christian should take to heart. The command is simply this: ‘Pursue love,’” Dr. Ryken says. “This is the high calling of the love of Jesus.”

To open the exhibit, Dr. Ryken and the Museum will host a Lovetown Celebration in Barrows Auditorium, located in the Billy Graham Center, at 7 p.m. Events are free and open to the public, and include the screening of a video presentation about Lovetown-inspired community art projects coordinated by Wheaton College students throughout DuPage County. 

As part of these student-led workshops, members of the community stenciled letters from Schmidt’s panels on sweatshirts. An additional workshop, hosted by Jericho Road Church in Wheaton, will take place at 11 a.m. March 11 at Lowell Elementary School, located at 312 S. President St. in Wheaton.

The March 13 evening events will also include an interview with Lovetown artist Gene Schmidt, and a panel discussion on the intersection of art, faith, and community relationships. Featured in the discussion will be Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk; Billy Graham Center Executive Director Lon Allison; Iglesia del Pueblo Teaching Pastor Hanibal Rodriguez; and Wheaton College art instructor Leah Samuelson. Theology instructor David McNutt of Wheaton College will moderate the panel. 

Dr. Ryken will sign copies of Loving the Way Jesus Loves and artists Schmidt and Hansen will sign prints of the exhibit photography during a reception in the Sacred Arts Gallery of the Billy Graham Center Museum at 8:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.

“These events are not only open to the public, they are designed for the public,” says Billy Graham Center Museum Coordinator Eric Durbin. “My deepest hope for Lovetown events is to see authentic relationships forged between members of campus and the local community.”

Additional installations of the exhibit will be displayed in the lobbies of Edman Memorial Chapel and the Sports and Recreation Center; as in Adams Hall; Buswell Library; near the Perry Mastodon display in the Science Center; the Beamer Center; and a hallway in the Billy Graham Center. 

The Lovetown Celebration events are made possible through generous sponsorships by Windsor Park, a Covenant Retirement Community, and by Crossway. The exhibit will run through May 31. 

The Billy Graham Center Museum is located at 500 College Avenue in Wheaton. It offers free parking and is wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit wheaton.edu/bgcmuseum, or call 630.752.5909.

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