Public meets the artist with Down syndrome
November 22, 2018
The Gallery at West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey, recently showcased the paintings, photographs and poetry of local artist Andrew Weatherly.
Weatherly is the 26-year-old man with Down syndrome who created the artwork for Presbyterians Today’s 2018 Advent Devotional, God Lifts the Lowly. Many of the paintings from the devotional, which is based on Mary’s Song of Praise, were part of the exhibit. West Side Presbyterian Church also provided copies of the devotional to the public.
Weatherly was chosen to illustrate this year’s devotional, as his work exemplifies Mary’s praises to God, citing how God sees beyond limitations and afflictions.
“There aren’t really any limits to what people can do,” Weatherly said.
Weatherly first met Presbyterians Today’s editor and co-author of the devotional, the Rev. Donna Frischknecht Jackson, in 2006. Frischknecht Jackson was a seminary intern at South Presbyterian Church in Bergenfield, New Jersey, where Weatherly attended.
“His positive outlook made an impression on me,” Frischknecht Jackson said.
“And so, when the time came to plan the 2018 devotional, and seeing a growing interest among our churches to include all ‘abilities’ in our worship services, I knew I wanted to share how God was working through Andrew.”
For the gallery committee at West Side Presbyterian Church, it was the spirituality in Weatherly’s work that captured their attention.
“His work demands focused concentration from the viewer, and then suddenly there is a spiritual revelation that expresses not just an artist’s vision, but also his very spirit and soul,” said John Ianacone, chair of West Side’s gallery committee. “Andrew’s search for meaning is every soul’s longing for understanding.”
West Side’s gallery was created after a fire destroyed the church in 2001. During rebuilding, the church’s main entrance was turned to face the parking space rather than the street. This left a 22-foot wide space between the sanctuary and the education building. The decision was made to enclose the space with glass, forming a 75-foot high atrium, making it a “perfect place for an art gallery,” Ianacone said.
The Gallery at West Side showcases one artist each month. They do not have to be members of the church. No fees are charged to exhibit or for the public to attend. Each artist, though, donates 25 percent of sales to the church. The gallery is open to the public whenever the church is open — weekdays during church office hours and Sundays.
To order copies of Presbyterians Today’s 2018 Advent Devotional, God Lifts the Lowly, visit the PC(USA) Store here.
Rev. Donna Frischknecht Jackson, Editor, Presbyterians Today
Today’s Focus: Advent devotional art
Let us join in prayer for:
West Side Presbyterian Church Staff
Marc Oehler, Pastor
Penny Hogan, Associate Pastor
Elizabeth Junod, Pastoral Associate
Deborah Holden-Holloway, Minister of Music
Erik Eickhoff, Associate Minister of Music
Eric Hufschmid, Contemporary Worship and Music Leader
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, each day we encounter your gifts and the joys of engaging with your world. Orient our service to meet the needs of your creation. Outfit us with your love and give us eyes to see that in serving we are most like Jesus, our brother and Savior, in whose name we offer this and every prayer. Amen.