New college to combine arts with spirituality

  • August 28, 2008

{mosimage}Living Water College brands itself as the only school of its kind in North America, offering an education combining faith, reason and the arts.

While it plans to officially open its doors next summer, Jeff Gardner, the college’s director of development, said the college is being bombarded with calls from interested students around the world.

“There is nothing like it in the U.S. and Canada,” Gardner said. “If anything else, it’s extremely gutsy.”

Gardner has an extensive background in education and development. He is also the founder and CEO of Catholic Radio International, an Internet-based Catholic radio network in the United States.

He said the college, located in the rural setting of Derwent, Alta., about 200 km east of Edmonton, is a glimmer of hope for the art world.

“It’s sticking the flag in a rather bleak landscape of culture,” he said.

Gardner said all too often artists are encouraged to express however they feel and portray whatever images that come to mind regardless of the moral integrity or influence they may have.

With studies in classical literature and engagement through Socratic dialogue, according to its web site, the school aims to help students go beyond their emotions by giving them the intellectual means to answer deep questions and thus “comprehend their impulse to create and properly communicate this beauty to those who experience their art.”

Living Water College plans to offer a three-year degree program combining liberal arts, fine arts and Christian spirituality in writing, theatre, motion picture, new media and traditional media.

The stand-alone inaugural program, however, will run from July 6 to Aug. 18 next summer — an intensive program with a special focus on the works of William Shakespeare.

“The reason we’re using Shakespeare is he was a very Catholic playwright in his world view and in his outlook,” Gardner said.

{amazon id='1586483870' align='right'}The board at Living Water College has hired a British Shakespearian scholar to teach a section of the course. Lady Clare Asquith will share her research of the Catholic messages in Shakespearian works, which she has written about in Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare.

Students will be able to fine tune their abilities in just about every aspect of theatre and put their skills into practice.

Why offer theatre as the college’s first program?

“The reason is, as a fine art, theatre provides the means to practise all the various arts — acting, writing, painting, construction — all those elements come into theatre,” Gardner said. “You get an opportunity for great books and learning about the context for art. (Artists) are not just a master of the brush and chisel; they’re a master of their minds and the trends of society.”

Kenneth Noster, the college’s president and chair, has worked as an actor, director and drama teacher since 1973. He said that although good Christian artists do exist, the art world can be a difficult place to develop their talents in the context of faith.

“Art is subjective and divorced from the person’s spiritual life,” he said.

Noster and his wife, Marlane, came up with the idea for Living Water College nine years ago. Both have active careers in theatre, while also fostering their faith.

“It was just a God-send that we both made faith number one in our lives,” Noster said. “Seeing young people go into art and having their faith eroded . . . We saw a need for a college to gain a profound perspective of what art really is.”

The Living Water College web site speaks of sacred theology as the “goal and the mother of all the liberal arts,” which is why the school aims to provide a strong means for personal spiritual formation.

“The idea is not to produce Catholic artists, but people who are so profoundly faithful and wise that they can speak to anyone, especially secular society,” Noster said.

The main building, which includes dorms, a cafeteria, classroom, library, recording studio and working studio, also has a chapel where students can take part in Mass and receive the sacraments.

The archdiocese of Edmonton has given its approval for the college, and Fr. Paul Moret represents the archbishop of Edmonton on the board of directors.

The college will begin accepting applications this month. For more information, see

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