Haywood Street Fresco

Asheville artist Christopher Holt has been commissioned to artfully portray Haywood Street’s vision of community through a large scale work of art in the medium of fresco, to cover the entire central wall of our sanctuary.  Featuring faces and scenes from our  urban ministry, this project can challenge viewers to embrace the beauty within the outcast, to see neighbors living in poverty with fresh eyes, and perhaps can help stir a new passion for justice.

“The intersection of art and Christianity taught an illiterate western world the stories of scripture, shifted access to the Bible from a few clergymen to the masses, and inspired many of the world’s great masterpieces in art.

But renaissance painting was made over in the image of those in power paying for it.  God was rendered European and male; Jesus was more prince than peasant; salvation was being upper class.

The New Testament, however, narrates a God who abandons heaven to take up residence as a homeless man on earth, who loiters on dirty corners, who breaks bread with outcasts, who touches the untouchable, who loves cherishing what has been discarded by the world.

The Haywood Street Fresco will portray Jesus’ most enduring sermon, the Beatitudes, where he begins, “Blessed are the poor…”; and it will offer a timeless witness to the Gospel in plaster and pigment where the last are finally made first.”

— Rev. Brian Combs

Christopher Holt has studied and painted with renowned fresco artist Ben Long, acquiring valuable experience in the fresco technique as well as drawing and painting from life.  He has worked with Long on frescoes in Morganton, Crossnore, Charleston and Luciano, Italy.

Christopher’s work in watercolor and oil have taken him across the globe to places like Tuscany, Sydney, Cairo, and Havana where he has painted landscapes and street life that capture the essence of place.

His search for inspiration in the people he meets, his humility towards, and reflection on the natural world, and his love of its infinite beauty make him a great partner to help tell the story of Haywood Street.

Never intending to be a resource only for the disadvantaged, our highest calling has always been to relationship. Our hope is to be a crossroads of diverse community, a place where unlikely friendships can form and grow. The fresco opens a new pathway for this pursuit.

According to the artist, “It has been my experience that the real beauty of fresco other than its aesthetic quality is in the community that it brings together.”  It is a process that requires a team of assistants and volunteers as well as models who are used to depict characters in the composition. There are those who come to simply watch the painting unfold, including art students and art historians. The process creates a shared atmosphere of excitement as life is breathed into the wall.

As an inherently long-lasting art form, this project promises a long-term benefit to the Asheville community, Its scale, scope and permanence will make it suitable for inclusion with the Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore Estate in discussions regarding local treasures that Asheville has to offer to current and future generations of visitors.

The Beatitudes”

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

— Matthew 5:3-12

This scripture reminds us of God’s heightened concern for the poor and a value system that says the last shall be first.  It is this value system and understanding of gospel truth that informs the Haywood Street ministries. Not only will the last be first at Haywood Street, they will feast at the banquet table surrounded by loving family.

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