Alumni Posts

Art for Heaven’s Sake–Alum Allison (Hales) Ellingson

Some artists create works for people to see; others create interactive experiences. Allison (Hales) Ellingson is the latter. The recipient of a grant from the Robert and Jean Boling Memorial Fund, the 2007 MDiv. Graduate draws people into worship through her creative endeavors.

If you walked through McCormick’s courtyard this spring, you saw a series of signs inviting you to lie down on the grass, look up at the sky, and ponder the question: “What is the color of forgiveness?” This artful meditation was the work of Allison Ellingson, a 2007 MDiv. Graduate who wants to move beyond the plane of artistic producer to being a proposer of relational discovery.

“I’ve been inspired by the work of Lygia Clark, a Brazilian artist who altered the landscape of art by inviting viewers to touch, try on, cut, and manipulate what was proposed by her art,” says Ellingson, who completed a master of Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this May. “In the Spirit of Clark’s understanding that art can not only be seen, but also experienced, I want the art that I create to engage people with people and the world around them.”

Ellingson’s signs in McCormick’s courtyard were invitations to explore the sky that shelters us and the earth that grounds us for answers that only come when we slow down and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. It’s one of the many simple and creative ideas congregations can use to bring individuals into a deeper engagement with God, she believes.

“My desire is to help congregations think more broadly about how art can not only inform worship practices, but how the creative process can also transform community and current ways of doing church,” says Ellingson. “I love using art to offer meditative experiences.”

Clàudio Carvalhaes, associate professor of homiletics and worship, and Ellingson are offering a course this fall about the relationship between worship/liturgy and the arts. This course will give students opportunities to discern and develop their own distinctive gifts for liturgical leadership and theological reflection through creative use of the arts. Students will find numerous ways to allow art to contribute to faith, belief, sacrament, and the life of a congregation.

Alum Allison (Hales) Ellingson recently completed her Masters of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. You can explore more of her work through her website: