AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

From Sight to Insight: God, Art and the Spiritual Well-being of the Young Person

by Jacky Sewell

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: art; spirituality; adolescent spirituality; pacific spirituality; teenage spirituality; art and spirituality
Record ID: 1307516
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4993


This thesis is an investigation of the way engagement with visual art promotes spiritual well-being, with a particular focus on teenagers. The power of art to move the human spirit and transform human lives is well-known both in Christian practice and in youth work circles. This research sets out to examine the dynamics at play and the factors at work in creating a rich, resilient spirituality when art is introduced as a conversation partner. The field research took place with two groups of fourteen-year-olds in two secondary schools. Participants were male and female and represented a diversity of South Pacific cultures: Maori, European, Tongan and Samoan. In order to construct a working theory, the literature of theological aesthetics and adolescent spirituality were reviewed. From within theological aesthetics, the schema of Frank Burch Brown, accounting for the way in which art affects the whole person - heart, mind, body and soul - is examined and adopted as part of a theoretical framework. From within the literature of adolescent spirituality, the model of John Fisher which proposes four spiritual domains – personal, communal, environmental and global/transcendental – is examined and adopted likewise. These two schemas are reworked into a theory of integrated spirituality as a basis for spiritual well-being. The field research took place over a five-month period, utilizing focus groups, interviews and journaling. The findings of this thesis encompass aesthetic response, the role of imagination and creation of story, the fusion of Dimensions of Spirituality, existential questioning, and the processes of spiritual narration. Of particular note are the findings concerning embodied response and enactment, the phenomenon of mirroring, and reflections on gender and culture. In addition, the facilitated pedagogy of the research is integral to the findings and has implications for the role of art in other contexts such as spiritual direction.