John Franklin has spent his life surrounded by the “big questions.” After a career teaching philosophy and art, he now serves as the Executive Director of IMAGO, a charitable arts organization that promotes dialogue between religion and the arts, and provides a funding platform for artists of Christian faith.
John is that rare breed, able to balance a deep inward thoughtfulness with an undeniable outward enthusiasm—for the arts, for artists and for life. I met with him at his home in Toronto, Ontario.
Art is inherently hopeful. There’s something about art that leads one to believe there’s something more. There’s another way to see, another way to understand, another way to grasp the world in which we live and something about ourselves and what we’re about.
Faith is very much about newness and transformation. Within the Christian tradition we understand that we’re not quite what we ought to be. That we need to be something different. And we’re on a journey towards that difference, whatever it may be. Art is for everyone. And art is one of those places that can be provocative, that can be nurturing and comforting, that can be disruptive, and I think to engage with art has a real value for us on our journey, whether we are people of faith or people of no faith.
Art, at its best, has a certain ordering capacity. Often in the world we live in we seem surrounded by a kind of chaos and uncertainty. And I think that art can speak into that situation and bring a measure of orderliness to life. Whether we’re looking at a painting, listening to music, watching a drama, we are somehow lifted out of the chaos of life brought into an orderly place where we can enjoy, and perhaps have generated within us a sense of hope. So in that respect, I think the two overlap. I see the value of art as a great companion for the spiritual journey.
I’m very, very interested in hospitality. I think it’s at the heart of what the biblical story is about—that we are called to be hospitable to one another and our belief is that God is hospitable to us—but I think also when we listen to the music, when we read the poem or hear the poet speak, when we look at the visual art, there’s a sense in which we are being hospitable to the artist. We’re taking time and receiving from the artist—what the artist has offered us. And I think that’s part of what it is to be human.
We need people who believe in the value of the arts, and understand that it’s not just a business. But it’s something inherent in the human spirit and vital, I think, for the flourishing of any culture.