University of Southern California

Office of Religious Life

Fostering a vibrant university community of spiritual reflection and free inquiry

Programs & Events

Spirituality and the Arts

The Office of Religious Life’s Spirituality and the Arts program explores and uncovers the spiritual and devotional dimensions of the arts. Through film screenings, plays, spoken word events, music concerts, dance performances, and art exhibitions, Spirituality and the Arts examines the ultimate questions of meaning, purpose, and identity as they manifest through the arts. Previous participants and performers include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Rainn Wilson, K.C. Porter, Salman Ahmad, Nishat Khan, D’Lo, Summer Watson, and Roger Steffens.


Sculpture: Morning Sky
by Brendan Dugan, USC Roski School of Art student
67"x45"x24" - Plywood, paint - 2014

Morning Sky relates to the daily struggle of balancing our external perception with our internal consciousness. Our views of the world and how the world views us can be diametrically opposed at times or at other times in complete harmony. This piece, with its internal forms stretching upwards away from the base, Morning Sky suggests a breach in the distinctions of interior and exterior space.



Retrospective: GAIL FACTOR

Gail Factor, graduate of USC's School of Art in the 1960's, died in 2013 after a long and distinguished career as a painter of landscapes. Her "California Series" paintings hang on the back wall of the Fishbowl in this retrospective of her work.



san juditas.jpg

“With all my faith in little Saint Jude Thaddeus I dedicate this retablo to give thanks for cleansing me of rheumatism.” This hand-painted image on tin was created in thanks for the intercession of a saint for the healing of a New Mexican in 1962.

santos display 1.jpg

santos display 2.jpg

In northern New Mexico, once called New Spain, a unique folk art tradition developed during the period 1780-1907. Settlers from central Mexico colonized the rugged, austere landscape inhabited by the Pueblo Indians. They brought with them the Catholic tradition of devotion to images of saints. The isolation of the settlers resulted in a distinctive style of carving and painting wooden santos. The images have a direct emotional appeal, and appear uncluttered and naïve compared to their more elaborate counterparts in Spain. Santos come in two forms: retablos (often hand-adzed painted wooden panels) or bultos (hand-carved wooden three-dimensional sculptures). Cottonwood was the material used in most of the santos displayed here. The santero would apply gesso (gypsum paste) to the carving to give it a smooth surface, and paint it with indigenous vegetable and mineral pigments. The santero was regarded as the master artist of the village. Santos adorned homes, chapels, churches, and moradas (meeting places of the lay Catholic Penitente cult). They were images of the spiritual protectors and benefactors assigned to each person at birth. Santos were virtually members of the family, interceding between the people and God.


by Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, USC
in the Kilgore Chapel - Mar-April 2014

i am crosses2.jpg

USC Office of Religious Life

University Park Campus
University Religious Center, Rm 106
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Health Sciences Campus
McKibben Hall, Rm 160
Los Angeles, CA 90033