'Art Night' kicks off young adult 'Summer in Detroit' series as artist helps participants break down sacred art

DETROIT — It wasn’t exactly Michelangelo’s “David,” but the connections made over sculpting clay and trying to make a bust of Blessed Solanus Casey were a masterpiece.

An estimated 80 young adults gathered in Ste. Anne de Detroit’s parish hall, divided into five teams surrounding newly ordained Fr. Derik Peterman, who served as the group’s muse, sitting in as the model of Blessed Solanus Casey.

The teams went about sculpting Blessed Solanus’ bust, each person taking two-minute shifts as local Catholic artist Mary Dudek offered instruction and encouragement.

The art lesson was part of “Summer in Detroit: Art Night,” the first in a series of “Summer in Detroit” events geared toward getting young adults together to find new ways to encounter the faith.

“Tonight we’re sculpting the portrait of Blessed Solanus Casey,” Dudek, a St. John Vianney in Shelby Township parishioner, told Detroit Catholic. “So we have our live model, Fr. Derik Peterman, who kind of looks like Solanus.”

Dudek’s work has been featured across Metro Detroit last year, she made a life-size crucifix for her home parish and she used her expertise to explain to attendees not only how to start a sculpture, but the significance of art in the Catholic Church.

Artist Mary Dudek shows how to approach a clay bust and where to carve, as Fr. Peterman sits still in the middle of the room, serving as a model for the demonstration.

“My demo is designed to be very helpful, informative in breaking down the figure in understandable, manageable pieces,” Dudek said. “The biggest thing people are going to come away with is an insight into how you begin the process. Seeing something broken down, step by step, is the most enlightening in any form of art. So even if you don’t have experience with sculpture or anatomy, you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn in just a few minutes.”

Young adults took turns sculpting while they watched, enjoying free drinks and food. The series is meant to offer something different from typical young adult ministry, explained Patrick Howard, young adult and campus ministry coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“The original focus of these ‘Summer in Detroit’ series is to provide new opportunities for young adult events in the city,” Howard said. “During the summer, we have a lot of young people in the city, and we wanted to reach out to those who were in the city but not already connected to the young adult community.”

Mark Nemecek of SS. Peter and Paul (Westside) in Detroit attempts to sculpt a bust of Blessed Solanus Casey during “Summer in Detroit: Art Night” at Ste. Anne de Detroit.

Art Night is the first in the series. On July 17, St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit will host a service night, during which young adults will hand out sandwiches to the homeless in downtown Detroit, and St. Paul Street Evangelization will give lessons in sidewalk evangelization and invite people who are downtown to pray with them.

On July 23, Fr. Stephen Pullis, director of evangelization, catechesis and schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit, will present a Theology on Tap talk at PizzaPapalis in Detroit's Greektown district, and on July 30, St. Aloysius will host an adoration night.

The events are centered around truth, goodness and beauty, Howard said, designed to give young adults a different experience while celebrating their faith and inviting others to learn more about the Church.

“This is a change to show others our faith, or maybe for someone whose been away from the Church to get a taste of what it's like, if they are interested in coming back,” Howard said.

Fr. Derik Peterman, who “looks like Blessed Solanus,” according to Dudek, served as the muse for the demonstration.
The finished product of a Fr. Solanus bust sculpted by one of the young adult teams.

Dudek added it was fitting to begin the series with Art Night, seeing as how through much of the Church’s history, art has been a channel for people to encounter the divine.

“Art is one of the first ways people come to understand God,” Dudek said. “If they don’t know anything about Him or the Church, about service or adoration or prayer, art is one of the ways He is manifest to us. It’s like a shallow-entry point. Anyone can appreciate beautiful, wonderful works of art, regardless of where you’re coming from. Starting off with something so universal as art and beauty is a great starting point.”

Remaining Summer in Detroit schedule

  • Service Night, July 17 at St. Aloysius Parish, 1234 Washington Blvd., Detroit. 6:30 to 9 p.m.
  • Theology on Tap, July 23 at PizzaPapalis of Greektown, 553 Monroe St., Detroit, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Adoration Night, July 30 at St. Aloysius Parish, 1234 Washington Blvd., Detroit, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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