Belmont University Receives $32 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment for Major Nationwide Initiative in Christianity and the Arts

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Arts & Culture

Belmont University Receives $32 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment for Major Nationwide Initiative in Christianity and the Arts

December 14, 2023 | by Hope Buckner

New initiative will include significant grants to support organizations, artists across the country

Belmont University today announced the receipt of a $32 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. that will support efforts to inspire people from all walks of life to discover and live the beauty and wisdom of Christian faith and encounter God through the arts. With this effort, Belmont will catalyze an awe-and wonder-filled movement that seeks to energize the use of the arts in communities of faith across the United States.    

“Belmont is deeply committed to the arts and diverse communities and traditions of Christian faith – as well as the intersections among them,” said Belmont President Dr. Greg Jones. “This meaningful opportunity will strengthen our ongoing efforts and develop new efforts that will inspire wonder in people across the country and catalyze a national movement. We are so grateful to Lilly Endowment for its investment in this important initiative, and we look forward to the impact it will have on the public as well as with artists, scholars and partner organizations.”  

The grant will fund a variety of programming that will create and curate new works of art across multiple media, including sacred and popular music, performing arts, digital animation, sculpture, architecture and more; nurture spiritual life through the use of arts; and cultivate and sustain a national collaborative network of artists, theologians and other leaders.  

The initiative will provide a variety of opportunities to engage communities from diverse backgrounds and a broad spectrum of theological traditions as well as arts organizations interested in religious themes. These opportunities include, among others, grants to commission new works of art; support for organizations to broaden their reach at the intersections of faith and the arts; support for efforts that nurture the spiritual lives of young people through the arts; and funding for collaborations among artists, scholars and religious leaders. In addition, Belmont will regularly convene artists, theologians, church leaders and others across the country who are participating in the initiative.  

“For centuries, Christians have drawn on the arts to express their deepest convictions about God and to see the world through the lens of their faith.  Artists from many fields also have played pivotal roles in helping individuals and communities explore spiritual questions, prompting fresh insights about God and the world,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Belmont’s new initiative will encourage the creation and use of new works of art that will help people of faith from many communities explore what it means to live faithfully and well in our time.” 

This initiative will be overseen by long-time Belmont leader Sarah Cates, who currently serves as Vice President for Imagination, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships. During her 20 years at Belmont, she has drawn on her extensive relationships in music and other arts to cultivate relationships that support Belmont’s commitment to truth, beauty and goodness. Cates is currently overseeing a search for a director who will lead a team of professionals dedicated to this work, including staff members focused on developing signature experiences and programs, grant operations, storytelling and marketing and partnership development.