Asbury Art & Design Professors Present Research on Sacred Spaces – Asbury University
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Asbury Art & Design Professors Present Research on Sacred Spaces

February 19, 2024

Keith Barker ’91 and Dr. Linda Stratford

Asbury Art & Design professors Dr. Linda Stratford and Keith Barker ’91 recently presented their research project, Sacred Spaces in Central Kentucky, in the Walt and Rowena Shaw Collaborative Learning Center (Shaw CLC). Their research explained how Asbury University is situated in an especially rich range of sacred sites in central Kentucky.

Their presentation included Barker’s photos and remarks from him and Stratford, focusing on these questions: “What gives certain spaces a strong sense of the ‘sacred?’ What separates sacred space from ordinary space?” Following their presentation was a talkback session and an exhibit of Barker’s photos in the Shaw CLC hallway.

“We continue to experience transformation and challenge in specific sites such as Hughes Auditorium as witnessed during the 2023 Outpouring; the beautiful natural environment of the Bluegrass; country churches and city cathedrals; and other spaces conducive to reflection, contemplation and encounter with the beauty, truth and goodness of God,” said Stratford.

Photographed sites included the Cane Ridge Meeting House (Paris, Ky.), the Old Mud Meeting House (Harrodsburg, Ky.), the Abbey of Gethsemani (Trappist, Ky.), Hughes Auditorium (Wilmore, Ky.) and more. Stratford organized these places into sites sacred to Christian memory, sites of wilderness, sites of social transformation, sites of pilgrimage, and sites of transcendent experience.

Hughes: No Greater Love by Keith A. Barker

“The spaces we make to house worship services reflect the importance of everything we do everywhere; in gathering as Christ’s Body…and then after gathering, we make our ‘heavenly exit,’” said Barker. “Theologian-philosopher Abraham Heschel shared: ‘Time and space are interrelated. To overlook either of them is to be partially blind…We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things.’”

Stratford shared her insights about the sacred spaces.

“At the Abbey of Gethsemani, one is offered a picture of the Trappist life, separate from the turmoil of the world,” Stratford smiled. “Thomas Merton, one-time resident, described monastic sites as ‘sanctuaries of silence filled with the fragrance of prayer [where] the world and its noise are out of sight and far away. Forest and field, sun, wind and sky, earth and water, all speak the same silent language… reminding us that we too develop like things that grow around us… [when] planted in the garden of the Lord.” 

Stratford serves as professor of art history & history and director of the Paris semester, an immersive study abroad experience in which students receive full-semester credit, complete internships, and visit sites. Barker serves as professor of photography.

The Asbury University Art & Design Department offers three majors (Art & Design, Art Grades P-12, and Pre-Art Therapy) and four minors (Art & Design, Art History, Graphic Design, and Photography & Digital Imaging). Learn more: