Join your voice with the larger community us as we celebrate art, faith, and community relationships, and discuss ways we can better know and love our neighbors. These events are not only open to the public, they are designed for the public. The series of events begins in Barrows Auditorium, located in the Billy Graham Center, Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. The evening ends with an art exhibit reception and book signing in the BGC Museum at 8:30 p.m. Events are free of charge. Refreshments will be served.
Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken along with the Museum and several community partners will host the Lovetown Celebration, to include the screening of a video presentation about Lovetown-inspired community art projects coordinated by Wheaton College students throughout DuPage County.
The event will also include an interview with New York-based artist Gene Schmidt about his original "LOVETOWN, PA" community-art installation in Philadelphia, as well as a panel discussion on loving your neighbor through 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 his latest book Loving the Way Jesus Loves, which features photography from the original installation of "LOVETOWN, PA." Artist Gene Schmidt and photographer Alicia Hansen will sign prints of the exhibit's photography, and panelists will be available for informal conversation. Refreshments are provided.
Lovetown events are made possible through the generous gifts of our sponsors.
Michael Gresk has served as the mayor of the City of Wheaton since 2007 and in community leadership since 1982, including the Wheaton Park District, Exchange Club of West DuPage, Wheaton Lion’s Club, Downtown Wheaton Association, Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Family Services, St. Michael’s Catholic School, and Wheaton City Council. He is currently Assistant Vice President at Providence Bank in Wheaton. Mr. Gresk holds an M.A. in Medieval History from Southern Illinois University, and a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph College. Mike and his wife Kathleen have lived together in Wheaton for almost 40 years, and have two adult sons.
Lon Allison serves as the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and also Associate Professor of the Institute of Strategic Evangelism, at Wheaton College. Dr. Allison is a Christian communicator who has served as a youth minister, as pastor of three churches, as a denominational and parachurch leader, and as a guest speaker at churches and conferences the world over for the last 30 years. He has published two books and numerous articles on topics of evangelism, spiritual formation, preaching, church growth, and leadership. In addition to being a lecturer and public speaker, Lon has a professional background in music and theater. He holds a Doctor of Ministry in Homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a bachelor’s degree from California State University. Lon and his wife Marie reside in West Chicago and have three adult children.
Hanibal Rodriguez serves as the teaching pastor at Iglesia del Pueblo, a Hispanic congregation in West Chicago. Mr. Rodriguez oversees pastoral ministries, including a number of community groups intentionally located among immigrant populations. He is a first-generation Hispanic who immigrated to the United States in 2000. Hanibal holds an M.A. in Bicultural and Elementary Education, and a bachelor's degree in Spanish Literature. He is currently pursuing a master's degree of Arts in Religion, and resides in Carol Stream with his wife Heidi and their two daughters.
Leah Samuelson serves as Instructor of Art and has taught community art at Wheaton College since 2009. She has traveled the world in search of culture and social change among visionaries, biblical scholars, correctional facilities, slums, and palaces. Her international work of community-mural training with the Philadelphia-based BuildaBridge is helping to create communities of hope and cooperation, especially among the world's most vulnerable children. Leah holds an M.A. from Eastern University in Urban Studies: Arts in Transformation, and a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College.
David McNutt is an Adjunct Professor in the Biblical and Theological Studies Department at Wheaton College and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge, England, where he is completing a doctoral thesis on theology and the arts. He holds degrees from Pepperdine University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of St. Andrews, Scotland (in conjunction with its Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts). He is also a certified candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Gene Schmidt is a visual artist living in New York City. He describes the foundation of his artistic practice in two simple sentences: “My father was a preacher and a carpenter. He put thoughts of God in my head and tools in my hands.” Most of Mr. Schmidt’s work over the years has been sculpture, but more recently his sculpture has become an element in larger projects he likes to think of as urban pilgrimages. He holds an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York and a bachelor's degree from Grace University in Omaha.
Alicia Hansen is a professional photographer who specializes in commercial branding through visual storytelling. Outside of her New-York-City studio, she also founded and now directs NYC SALT, a nonprofit program for underprivileged teens to learn the craft and business of digital photography. Ms. Hansen’s career began in photojournalism with the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Fortune Magazine, and the Seattle Times. She worked as Joe McNally's first assistant for two years, producing The Faces of Ground Zero, a giant polaroid project of the heroes of 9/11. She holds an M.A. at Syracuse University in Visual Communication.