Institutes & Initiatives

Institutes & Initiatives

The Institute for Art, Religion & Social Justice


Art, Religion, & Social JusticeThe Institute for Art, Religion and Social Justice is a project of Union Theological Seminary. It was founded in the spring of 2009 under the leadership of AA Bronson and Kathryn Reklis.

The Institute's Mission is to explore the relationship between art and religion through the lens of social justice.

What We Do: The Institute commissions and supports contemporary art projects and practices relating to our mission.

The Institute is still young and still in the process of defining its future. However, the Institute is intentionally not faith-specific, and focused on contemporary art practice as a means of addressing issues of social justice today. The Institute undertakes projects in the form of exhibitions, performance series, lectures, panel discussions, publishing, conferences, and other forms of public presentation designed to focus attention on the interdependent themes of art, religion, and social justice.

The Institute for Art, Religion, and Social Justice is proud to be a project of Union Theological Seminary, the oldest independent, non-denominational seminary in the nation. Union was founded in 1836 and stands at the vanguard of progressive, pluralistic religion today. Education at Union is rooted in a deep understanding of the breadth of faith-based traditions and their relevance to collective public life. The Seminary's history as a public provider of events offering cultural and critical engagement is long and distinguished, as is Union's history of convening a broad range of institutions and individuals committed to the work of social justice. Union eagerly supports the Institute's continuing success by providing space and administration for our pioneering activities.


Visual art plays a significant role in the healing and flourishing of humanity. Artists are capable of testifying to the deepest truths of human experience in its myriad configurations and overlapping layers of interdependence. The visual arts accomplish this through an ability to portray honestly all aspects of human experience, regardless of their desirability, political acceptance, or conformity to social ideals. But art is capable of more than description and diagnosis: art has the prophetic power of imagining new, more just modes of being in the world.

In a similar way, spiritual and religious practice at its best is an act of imagination-formation, offering the practitioner vistas for seeing the world in new, provocative configurations and demanding the instantiation of justice through the call to religiously-motivated action.

While the relationship between contemporary art and religion is difficult and often oppositional, the time has come to re-imagine this relationship not through aesthetic or formal similarities, but through the lens of social justice.

Bringing together celebrated and emerging artists from a range of visual disciplines, the Institute for Art, Religion and Social Justice invites the art world and the general public to explore this mutual relation through exhibitions, performances and public lectures held at Union Theological Seminary.

Looking back to a time when theological schools were central places of social and artistic innovation, the Institute seeks to recreate this traditional locus in a contemporary context, opening up the experiential, historical, theoretical, and pragmatic intersections between art and religion, through a revitalized exploration of social justice. The Institute offers intentionally public access to this network of intersections, seeking to generate new modes of action and interaction among the broad, diverse constituencies exploring this in their work and their lives.


AA Bronson has worked as an artist, curator, and writer for more than 40 years, focusing on issues of collaboration, mass culture, consumerism, HIV/AIDS, healing and shamanism. He has had more than 100 solo exhibitions worldwide, and his work is in the collections of major museums such as the Whitney, SFMoMA, and the Museum of Modern Art. He has taught at UCLA, the University of Toronto, and Yale. He has received many international awards, holds two honorary doctorates, and most recently was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is the President of Printed Matter, Inc. and the Artistic Director of the Institute. Contact AA Bronson at

Kathryn Reklis is the Director of Theological Initiatives at Union Theological Seminary and the Executive Director of the Institute for Art, Religion, and Social Justice. She holds an MA from Yale Divinity School and an MA and MPhil from Yale University in Religious Studies, where she is also an advanced candidate for the Ph.D. Her research focuses on the intersection of theology, performance studies, and ritual studies, seeking to understand how bodily gesture is constructed through ritual and performance activity to constitute a site of communal, individual and historical meaning. She is a Fellow of the Yale Initiative for Material and Visual Cultures of Religion. Contact Kathryn Reklis at

For more information visit the Institute’s website at

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