MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, October 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. The love of art led WORLD commentator Kim Henderson to a basic truth.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: For a good chunk of years, I stayed up after the kids went to bed and wrote Sunday School lessons. It was a nice gig. It kept me in my Bible and involved visits to LifeWay’s headquarters in downtown Nashville. On one of my trips I realized just how much the publishing business was changing. In fact, I brought home 10-by-13-inch proof of it and hung it by our front door.
You see, I just happened to be there when LifeWay was conducting a silent auction of more than 900 pieces of art.
Back in the 1940s, Southern Baptists began commissioning original paintings and drawings for their printed materials. Of course, times changed. By 2012, canvas and art board were out. Computer graphics were in.
Still, for seven decades LifeWay had stashed art in a climate-controlled vault in its basement. It was rumored to be the largest religious art collection outside the Vatican. But an impending move meant the art had to go. So staff digitized the pieces, then archived some and sold others through dealers. About a fifth went up for silent auction to current and retired employees.
Organizers stressed these pieces had mostly sentimental value. So, I guess it was sentiment that drew me down the hall to the huge auction area every time my schedule allowed it. It was, after all, a picker’s paradise. Teaching pictures I remembered from my childhood – like Zacchaeus in the sycamore and the parting of the Red Sea – those originals lay in piles around the walls. I recognized a full-color drawing of Noah and the ark from a children’s Bible I used to read to my kids. Stacks of hand-drawn maps and book illustrations covered tables. An oil painting of the Wise Men leaned against a post. And the prices were right.
On day three, my editor was kind enough to let me attend the final minutes of silent bidding, just in case I needed to pencil in an up to my ante.
As a result, I boarded a plane for home with all the sentiment my suitcase could hold.
A vice-president at LifeWay wrote that winning a bid was “much like owning a brick from an old downtown building that no longer stands.” I think I understand what she meant. I got to hold history in my hands and hang it on my walls.
I mentioned that we gave one piece a place of prominence in our foyer. It was my prize find – a watercolor of the two stone tablets. If you look closely, you can see the artist’s notes and cropping marks framing its edges. I like that. The marks remind me not just that the publishing business has changed, but that all of our roles in Kingdom work are subject to change. They have beginnings and endings. The only task that doesn’t change is what those tablets at the center of the painting represent: proclaiming Biblical truth.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.