Two Students Selected for New Duke Chapel Theology and Arts Fellowship

The sophomores will create original works of visual art that explore theological concepts, their personal faiths, and more

Two Students Selected for New Duke Chapel Theology and Arts Fellowship
Two Students Selected for New Duke Chapel Theology and Arts Fellowship

Duke sophomores Edom Tilahun and Justin Baez have been selected as recipients of Duke University Chapel’s new C. Eric Lincoln Theology and Arts Fellowship.

As part of the fellowship, the two students will create original works of visual art that explore theological concepts, their personal faiths, and/or engage the intersections of gender, race and religion. Their work will be on display in Duke Chapel beginning April 26, with an opening reception in the chapel at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 27.

Tilahun, born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is a junior majoring in visual and media studies and global health. Her exhibition is titled “Emnet,” which is the word in the Ethiopian language Amharic for “faith.” A practicing Ethiopian Greek Orthodox Christian, Tilahun hopes to depict faith in technically and thematically unconventional ways.

“My church is full of people who don’t look like the pictures we’re worshipping in front of,” she said. “In my project, I am seeking out a variety of subjects, both in terms of the people being represented as well as their faith practices.”

Baez, an art history and visual arts double major from New York City, is working on a documentary photography project that explores how faith is practiced across cultures and ethnicities in the Research Triangle area.

Shooting exclusively in film, Baez said he pays close attention to the worship services he is documenting. “I can’t waste a shot on just anything,” he said. “I really have to think about everything -- from framing to composition to color.”

Baez and Tilahun are being advised by the Rev. Joshua Lazard, the chapel’s C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student Engagement, a position established in 2014 to support students and the wider Duke community in working at the intersection of faith and the arts.

“We are pleased to have two exceptionally gifted students who are able to display their talents in such a way that bridges faith and learning,” Lazard said. “Our intent is that the students’ art will generate conversations about faith within the campus community.”