by Alec Hill
On Friday, October 4th, English Professor Virginia Craighill highlighted an outstanding trio of speakers who read their work at the Iona Art Sanctuary, a gallery and studio created as the retirement project of Sewanee Art professor emeritus Ed Carlos. Carlos, who taught at the University for 36 years and after whom the Carlos Gallery in Nabit is named, has hosted free gatherings every Friday and Sunday in the months of September and October for the last three years, in which local artists can share their creativity through readings or art exhibitions.
Friday’s edition featured Laura Willis, author of Finding God in a Grocery Bag, and Mary Priestly, current student in creative non-fiction at the University’s School of Letters, as well as Craighill. Willis read a portion of her book that dealt with her desire to be a priest in the Episcopal Church and the meaning she derived from ministry to local Sewanee families. Priestly, who actually came first, read sections of her Master’s Dissertation on the cultural and natural history of Fiery Gizzard. Finally, Craghill read several poems and a very humorous exploration of the dense academic language that characterizes the University’s recently released Sustainability Action Plan.
After the readings, students, faculty, and community members enjoyed refreshments and Carlos’s massive collection of a career’s worth of creativity, which covered the walls of the gallery from floor to ceiling. The gallery itself was at once reminiscent of a barn and a cathedral. The cathedral aspect was in many ways intentional on Carlos’ part: he oriented the central “nave” of the gallery on a traditional east-west axis, so that the sun sets every evening directly in view of the porch in front of the entrance.
Furthermore, the gallery contains an alter stone from the Scottish Island of Iona, after which the gallery is named and where Carlos told the audience he “experienced unusual, inspiring, and beautiful visionary experiences.” Carlos has visited the remote northern Island the monastery built on top of it four times, and much of his art reflects his experiences there and his own struggle to understand them.
The Iona Gallery is open for visitors at any time of day when Carlos is present and at work, which is often, and throughout the evening Carlos encouraged members of the audience he had met merely minutes before to return to the Galley whenever they wish. For those interested in doing so, the Art Sanctuary’s address is 630 Garnerstown Road.