1. Event
  2. Peacebuilding, Gun Violence

A Friend in Washington explores art, faith, and advocacy at FCNL

By Christine Ashley, Welling Hall, October 25, 2018

Welling Hall presented her gun violence sculptures and gave an artist talk “Art Transforming Violence” on November 14, 2018, in the Quaker Welcome Center.

Join us for a special event:

Art Transforming Violence with Welling Hall

Nov. 14, 2018


In this interview, Professor Hall, who served as Friend in Washington, discusses how the visual arts provide space for enriching faith communities as well as advocacy messaging.

You have had a long career in academia as a political scientist. How did you come to the visual arts?

After many years of teaching courses that focused on nuclear war, on genocide, and atrocity, all FCNL issues, I found the work of James Hillman, a writer who asserts that the best antidote to horror is intense aesthetic engagement. In my teaching career I observed that students who were invited to regularly contemplate things of beauty were better able to persist and succeed in courses that demanded attention to horror.

How have the arts supported your own advocacy for peace and justice?

In my own practice I alternate between making art that erupts unbidden out of a place of deep pain and knitting or bending wire, both repetitive, contemplative activities, to unwind and center myself.

The arts can invite people to imagine how the world might be different. Visual art has the potential to engage questions that people do not otherwise ask. In the past five years making art, I have had more intense, rewarding conversations about art with observers than in the past thirty years of writing about and analyzing treaties or documentaries or research papers on international law and disarmament. It is the difference between seeing people stand up taller and seeing their eyes glaze over.

Why is the Quaker approach important at this moment?

Quakers have known for a long time that arguments do not win friends or influence people to change their mind. FCNL knows that the work of peace and justice ultimately rests on building relationships and forming an emotional bond with allies. This is part of the Quaker imperative to see what Love can do. The arts are a tool that Quakers can use to enlarge our story-telling toolkit.

How can the visual arts nourish Quakers in our faith and practice today?

Human beings perceive the world through both emotion and intellect. Historically, faith communities have been nourished by myth, by story, by images that transcend the mundane and the rational. The visual arts are one way to reach the emotional core of other persons. This is where wonder is evoked. Wonder is a key component of awe. Awe nourishes faith and faith keeps us going even when God may appear to be silent.

Learn more about telling your story to Members of Congress here.

Christine Ashley

  • Quaker Field Secretary

Christine Ashley has the honor of nurturing and deepening FCNL’s relationships with Friends across the United States. In this role, Christine develops and sustains FCNL's engagement with individuals both within the Religious Society of Friends and with seekers for the Quaker way of living Faith in to action.

Welling Hall

  • Friend in Washington

Welling Hall serves as the Friend in Residence at FCNL. Her perspective as a longtime Quaker educator and civil servant is useful in strengthening FCNL’s educational outreach. She comes to FCNL as a member of West Richmond (Indiana) Friends Meeting, and the New Association of Friends. As a Friend and a political scientist, she has a long-standing passion for Quaker pedagogy and the faith-basis of Quaker lobbying in the public interest. Welling has a variety of assignments at FCNL reflecting her many talents and experiences. She is working with Strategic Advocacy and Field staff to deepen curricular connections to the Spring Lobby Weekend and the Quaker Public Policy Institute. She is engaging staff in discussions about moral communication and understanding how FCNL’s messages can reach across the political spectrum. As a visual artist with a practice focused on eliciting emotional responses to gun violence, Welling will also give an artist’s talk on the role of faith and the arts in beating swords into plowshares.