Food for the Soul
11/16/10 at 12:51 PM 0 Comments

Q & A with Grant DiCianni, CEO of Tapestry Productions Inc.

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Q: The mission at Tapestry Productions is to reclaim the Arts for Christ. Why do you think there was a time when the Church seemed reluctant to embrace the Arts as a part of its presentation of the Gospel?

I wish I could use the past tense “was a time” in describing the Church’s reluctance to use and embrace the Arts in its presentation of the Gospel. We’ve certainly come a long way in the last few decades, but it’s akin to watching the restoration of an old church that has burned. The rubble can be cleared, walls can be framed in, and new pews can be bought in just a few weeks’ time, but that’s nowhere near “fully recovered.” 

To begin with, you have to understand that for millennia, communication of ideas occurred to the masses in two primary forms: the spoken word and visual communication. Many people look at some of the great paintings of the past—The Sistine Chapel, for instance—and think “breathtakingly beautiful.” But if that’s the only response, then you’ve missed the point. The Sistine Chapel tells the story of God’s creation of the world and man. It’s a visual record of the first few chapters of Genesis. Why? Because at that time the Scriptures were not available to the average person. The Bible was in Latin and on costly parchments. So, one of the primary ways to communicate the Gospel was via images. 

Fast forward to the 20th and 21st centuries. We still use images to communicate. Messages are embedded in the TV shows, billboards, posters, movies, etc. that we view. There’s a reason that Pepsi or Nike and the like spend hundreds of millions on visual advertising and only a small fraction on radio advertising. Every one does, that is, except the Church. I think it stems from two primary failures. The first is that mainstream denominations today come out of a “reaction” if you will, among other things, to past versions of Christianity. Since their goal was primarily a desire to separate from culture and get back to the truth of Scripture, in doing so they dumped anything that could be construed as “worldly.” Visuals included. They forgot, however, that no medium of communication is inherently good or bad. It’s all about the message for which it’s used. The second reason is that visual communication is a bit daunting to do in some cases and, rather then engage, the churches ignore it. And to their detriment, I believe.

Q: How do you think that reluctance has shifted and why?

It’s shifting in bits and pieces. On the part of the individual, it’s a complete 180-degree turn from where the church was 20 years ago. The vast majority of individuals not only understand the power of visual communication of the Gospel but they are also quick to embrace it. In fact, their biggest frustration, as we hear time and time again, is “I wish I would have found what your artists do sooner!” The churches, by and large, and the gatekeepers at places like the Christian chain bookstores are a different story. Some are trying; however, most are not keeping up as they should. The flip side to that is the new influence of the youngest generations of Church leaders who are doing a great job of grabbing on to visual communications, social marketing, etc. The challenge with these folks, however, is in encouraging them to stay centered on the Gospel. That’s the two-fold test—using visual communication methods effectively and then making sure the message communicated is that of the Gospel. 

Q: What are the visual arts able to communicate that, perhaps, cannot be communicated verbally?

We’ve all heard the old adage that a picture paints 1,000 words. I think what that means in the context of visual communication is that a picture allows the viewer to have that “aha” moment a lot quicker than via text or speech. Imagine, if you will, trying to explain tying your shoelaces to someone via the written word and with no pictures. You’d have to write a small book. Show them how to do it visually with just a few verbal explanations and it would take only a few minutes. In my opinion, it is the same with the Gospel. The Bible takes entire chapters to communicate and describe Christ’s resurrection. We can do it in 30 seconds via one picture. The effect most often is tears of joy and amazement, regardless of race, language, nationality, or level of education. The message is the same. All that’s different is the delivery. 

Visual communication also allows an emotional context that is largely missing in the written word. We received a request from a ministry that works with North Koreans and were told that they are so traumatized by the regime’s brutal oppression that the entire population exists in a virtual “post-traumatic stress” state. The people were so injured that only art and music would bring about any response. Their success was in using visuals of the Gospel because it was the most effective means for meeting them where they are. We received hundreds of stories every year of people with similar responses. They were simply too emotionally damaged by loss or drugs or despair, but seeing a picture was able to get through to them where everything else had failed.

Q: Tapestry Productions is the nation’s only dedicated Christian fine art publisher. What defines fine art?

Twenty years ago, the answer would have been strict adherence to the guidelines promulgated and agreed upon by schools, galleries, artists, and publishers, usually having to do with the construction and longevity of the pieces (acid free, archival, PH balanced, etc). What has happened over the years as art reproductions have become more popular with the world at large is that people have realized that they could compromise that standard, save money, and no one would know the difference. There were no “fine art police,” so to speak. The result has been poorly executed prints manufactured overseas. At Tapestry, we see the term “fine art” as excellence in printmaking in which the artist’s vision is well captured in the reproduction. We want our customers to have real as well as perceived value. And galleries should be proud and confident in what they are showcasing. Each fine art reproduction at Tapestry is made by hand in the USA using technology superior to that of giclee printing. The result is phenomenal art that clearly proclaims the Gospel.

Q: How has Tapestry Productions come to amass this group of fine artists?

Tapestry Productions examines closely each artist and his/her work before inviting him/her into the family, beginning with Ron DiCianni, who has been acknowledged by many as anointed by God and the pioneer of the visual resurgence of the Gospel. I truly believe that Ron is the standard-bearer for what God is doing in the Arts right now.

From Tapestry’s perspective, we have two additional distinctives that I believe make us the only choice for these artists: a commitment to excellence and commitment to preaching only the Gospel. But we need help and support from the Church. The truth is that we turn away great art and great opportunities every year for lack of the funds and manpower to fully engage with everything that comes to our door. 

Q: What inspires the development of the works and derivative products available through Tapestry Productions?

Necessity, customer feedback, and a continuing desire for excellence. First, we want to present the message of each image in an excellent, culturally relevant way. We want to make the products so excellent and engaging that customers doesn’t merely want them but they want to use them daily and show their friends. If we can do that, then every time they engage with the product they are also engaging with the Gospel because we make the two inseparable.

Q:  How is Tapestry Productions impacting the world with the Gospel?

I was asked a similar question a year ago by a prospective job applicant to our company. He said, “You call Tapestry a Christian company. What does that really mean as far as day-to-day operations?” I thought it was a brilliant question and I actually had to really stop and formulate an answer. I told him honestly that I needed some time to think. At the end of the interview, I told him I was ready to answer his question. I said, “Being a Christian company defines what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.” As a company, our purpose is centered on Christ and the proclamation of Him as Savior, Lord, and Soon Coming King. In our day-to-day operations, we need to find ways to communicate that, both directly through our various communications vehicles, products, etc. and also in our inter-personal dealings with customers, companies, vendors, and even the sales people that come to the door each day. Do we do it perfectly? No. But we seek to do it authentically in each encounter. And I love being asked by people, “Why are you being so nice?” or “Wow, thank you for being so helpful with my order” because it gives us a chance to say, “We are Christians, and this is how Christians are supposed to act.”

In our products, the clear message of God, without translation or explanation being necessary. 

In our conduct, authentic adherence to how Christ calls us to act.

In our business, showing the best way for others who want to follow. 

It’s pretty hard to preach and demand a standard out of others unless we first live it ourselves. We don’t do it perfectly every time, but, in the great words of Chip Ingram from Walk Through the Bible,“The big criticism leveled at the Church by the world today is one of hypocrisy. I am here to tell you that the world is not looking for perfect Christians, merely authentic ones.”

For a closer look at Tapestry Productions, their mission, and the fine art they represent visit www.TapestryProductions.com.

Ron DiCianni is available for speaking engagements.  For more information, contact Tapestry Productions at 877-827-7763 menu option 5.

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