Theologian and celebrated novelist C.S. Lewis once wrote, “My own eyes are not enough for me; I will see through those of others.”

Variations of this philosophy have been a key part of religion and spirituality since the earliest days of man. Through the visual arts, concrete expressions of faith — from primitive pictographs, to modern canvases, sculptures and architecture — invite us to look at the world as it is and may even urge us to see it as it might be.

In worship, our emotions, bodies and imaginations are all part of the process. Some people are moved by the visual arts for this reason: It serves to invite an intentional and intensive participation. In the Renaissance, Biblical-themed art was commissioned just for this reason. When displayed in the church, it not only taught a scriptural story — it had the power to create strong emotions and stimulate feelings of joy, grief or fear that observers would then relate as a spiritual experience.

Today, art can still be used as a vehicle for worship. Even if the subject of art is secular, observing and interpreting art can help us to pay attention to the world around us. To truly appreciate a work of art, the piece must be viewed and studied numerous times, considered for its meaning and — most importantly — questioned. “How does it make you feel? Why did the artist choose this color? What do you think she was trying to say through this piece?” This is similar to the way we approach studying the word of God. It helps develop critical thinking skills essential to spiritual growth, and it helps foster a deeper understanding of the material.

At Compass Rose Academy, we integrate the visual arts into our curriculum in a number of ways. First, we fill the campus with artwork to create an environment of tranquility and foster a love of beauty. Some teens might experience closeness to God or focused inner peace simply by observing and experiencing a compelling painting or installation.

In addition, Compass Rose therapists can use art therapy and other guided self-expression to help teens work through complicated issues on canvas or in clay. The creation process not only channels a teen’s energy; it can help him communicate his feelings, express his faith or capture the beauty of God’s world.

Whether your teen enjoys creating her own original art or merely appreciates the work of others, the visual arts provide an alternative medium for worship and spiritual exploration. To learn more about how to help your teen connect with God through the arts, contact ustoday.