Nonprofit works to collect and share sacred art and architecture

by: SUBMITTED - Images such as this Madonna and child carved in 1977-78 from Eastern Maple by Mary Lewis can be found on the Sanctary for Sacred Arts website.Though all art is sacred to Paula Hamilton, religious artwork is even more so.

As executive director of Sanctuary for Sacred Arts, collecting and cataloging sacred art is now her job.

Sanctuary for Sacred Arts is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving theology and the arts. Its mission is “to foster and encourage the promotion, use, development, study and preservation of sacred arts and architecture.”by: JOSH KULLA - Paula Hamilton is the executive director of the nonrpofit Sanctuary for Sacred Arts, which collects religous art and architecture.

Hamilton’s office is based out of the 100-year-old school house in Wilsonville on the St. Francis of Assisi Church property. Though the art the nonprofit collects and curates is stored in Wilsonville, the art is displayed throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Sanctuary for Sacred Arts was founded by FatherJohn Domin, who has served the Portland Archdiocese as a priest for 57 years, as a pastor of several parishes, a high school art teacher and a lecturer at Mount Angel Seminary, and David Richen, who has worked for nearly 50 years in the fields of architecture, planning and building construction.

Domin, now in his 90s, has long been an advocate for the arts, religious or otherwise. Driven by the message of the Second Vatican Council (also known as Vatican II), which was created in 1959, Domin works to revive the Catholic Church’s inner life and its relationship to other religions with a common appreciation of art and architecture.

“Something like that helps with peace between religions,” said Hamilton, a born and raised Catholic who lives in Southwest Portland.

Hamilton has been the nonprofit’s executive director since 2004. She has an undergraduate degree in art history and studied in Italy for a year while in college, which just reinforced her love of art. Her background includes working as a librarian at the Chicago Art Institute, 12 years as a librarian at Marylhurst and 12 years at Mount Angel.

“There’s a lot of art in my life,” said Hamilton, a calligraphist. “I think that the art, especially the stained glass windows, inspire people. Beautiful art makes you think more of God.”

Sanctuary for Sacred Arts not only displays religious art in churches, including St. Francis of Assisi, but also in colleges, universities, abbeys and other religious and public spaces in the Pacific Northwest. Also, Hamilton is working to gather images of sacred art and architecture from all religions on its website,, thanks to an American Theology Library Association SUBMITTED PHOTO - This is one of  Father John Domin's pieces of art.

“We just try to exhibit art in various places,” Hamilton said. “The pope said it’s a huge responsibility for artists to create art because it represents God. It creates a meditative environment.”

Soon, the nonprofit will be exhibiting an advent display at St. Francis of Assisi in time for the winter holidays, featuring the holy family and mother and child images.

Though Hamilton would say not all sacred art features religious imagery, some of it is how the image was created or what the artist was thinking or feeling while creating it.

“It’s just something that inspires your spirit,” she said. “We are trying to promote peace among people by honoring their art and their beautiful buildings. ... I think people are looking for spirituality, they are hungry for some spiritual direction.”

For more information about Sanctuary for Sacred Arts, visit

Lori Hall can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 103. Follow her on Twitter, @wspokesman.

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