The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) is a research institute based at St Mary’s College, the Divinity School of the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
ITIA aims to advance and enrich an active conversation between Christian theology and the arts — bringing rigorous theological thinking to the arts, and bringing the resources of the arts to the enterprise of theology. ITIA also seeks to explore the role of the imagination in the arts, as part of a wider theological interest in the imaginative aspects of our humanity.
THEOLOGY AND THE ARTS
The conversation between theology and the arts at an academic level has burgeoned in the last two or three decades. Thirty years ago, the resources were relatively limited. Today, especially in the UK and North America, but also further afield, we are witnessing a growing interest in the interface between sustained theological thinking on the one hand, and artistic practices and theory on the other. This has led to numerous publications – books, articles, journals, magazines; courses in seminaries, colleges, and Universities; and academic research initiatives.
“many […] seek fresh meaning in the world of the arts…”
These developments have gone hand in hand with some major shifts in the place of the arts in society, which make theological engagement with them especially timely. There is the saturation of many parts of Western society with artistic forms of one sort or another, and the explosion of the electronic media which not only disseminate art with unprecedented power but which themselves have generated many new forms of art. A disillusionment about some of the grand claims once made for the natural sciences and an unease with direct and unambiguous styles of representation have led many to seek fresh meaning in the world of the arts and to reconsider the importance of the imaginative in our wider engagements with the world. Important also are the ways in which matters of ‘spirituality’ are increasingly explored through artistic forms, however diffuse and inchoate such ‘spirituality’ may be.
In response to these emerging interests, the Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) was founded within the School of Divinity in 2000. It brought together two already existing projects: the St Andrews project ‘Theology and Imagination’, directed by Professor Trevor Hart, and the Cambridge project ‘Theology Through the Arts’, directed by Professor Jeremy Begbie.
Since its inception, the Institute has established itself as one of the leading and most vibrant centres of scholarly engagement with religion and art in the world. Located in St Mary’s 16th-century quad at the heart of St Andrews, it has three full-time and several part-time staff, and is home, at any given time, to around 30 graduate students from around the world. In addition to its academic programmes, it runs a weekly research seminar for the entire ITIA community with internal and guest speakers, and hosts a range of student initiatives, including the student artists’ group ‘The Transept’, the ITIA Art Exhibition, and, most prominently, Transpositions, an award-winning blog bringing the conversation of theology and the arts to a broader audience beyond the academy. ITIA hosts the editorial office of the Journal of Inklings Studies, where a number of staff and students have editorial and administrative positions. ITIA is also involved in the editorial of Ashgate Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts, where some of the work done here has appeared in print.
We regularly host national and international conferences and arts events, most recently on Theatrical Theology; Art, Imagination & Christian Hope; the Work of David Brown; the Art of the Psalms; Lord Byron; J.R.R. Tolkien; and the Offence of Beauty. We always welcome ideas for events, projects and collaborations.