Artist gathers raw materials, raw emotions with Catholic DVD

Lucinda Naylor
Artist Lucinda Naylor (holding sign) and volunteers gathered 546 Catholic DVDs outside the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis and four other churches Sunday, Oct. 4, 2010. The effort was part of an art project objecting to Archbishop Neinstedt's message against same-sex marriage.
MPR Photo/Sasha Aslanian

The Catholic Church in Minnesota is getting some pushback for a message against same-sex marriage it mailed to 400,000 parishioners last week. The "Preserving Marriage in Minnesota" DVD reiterates the Church's position that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Over the weekend, hundreds of Catholics donated their DVDs to an artist who plans to make an art project out of them.

It's dawn on Sunday, and Lucinda Naylor stands on the sidewalk outside of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, the church where until recently, she was artist-in-residence for 15 years. She was suspended from her job after she announced on Facebook her intention to create a personal art project out of the DVDs.

She's holding a sign drawing attention to her "DVD to Art" project. At her feet are three cardboard collection boxes. Parishioners arriving for early morning mass start filling them up, tossing in the DVDs they received in the mail.

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Two weeks ago, Minnesota's Roman Catholic bishops launched a campaign against same-sex marriage, mailing a DVD to every Catholic home in the state. Parishioners in the Twin Cities heard a message from Archbishop John Nienstedt.

"The Archdiocese believes that the time has come for voters to be presented directly with an amendment to our state Constitution, to preserve our historic understanding of marriage. In fact, this is the only way to put the one man-one woman definition of marriage beyond the reach of the courts and politicians," Nienstedt said on the video.

DVD donation
An unidentified man drops off a "Preserving Marriage" DVD outside the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. The DVDs were collected as part of an art project by Lucinda Naylor objecting to Archbishop Neinstedt's message against same-sex marriage.
MPR Photo/Sasha Aslanian

The church's position on same-sex marriage certainly wasn't a surprise to Naylor, but she says she felt the step of spending $1 million from an anonymous donor to produce and mail the DVDs, six weeks before the Nov. 2 election, was divisive.

"I know a lot of people who were feeling like the church is sort of pushing them out. And this DVD was really just another way of shoving them out the door, and I didn't want to see good, loving Catholics being shoved out the door," said Naylor. "Every DVD that I collect and turn into a piece of art stands for a Catholic who's saying, 'No, I don't want to go there, I want to be an inclusive and loving Catholic.'"

Some friends and volunteers have shown up to help Naylor. Cars slow down on Hennepin Avenue, and people hand DVDs out their car windows.

People of all ages -- men, women, retirees and hipsters -- carry their white envelopes up to Naylor's sidewalk troop.

"Glad to be rid of it," said one man has he drops his DVD in the box.

Some hug Naylor, others want to talk.

Collecting DVDs
Lucinda Naylor gathered DVDs outside the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis as the Twin Cities Marathon passed along Hennepin Avenue. Several runners deposited their DVDs as they ran past.
MPR Photo/Sasha Aslanian

"I'm Dan. I'm in the cathedral choir. I'm going on my ninth year, and I don't like that anyone on earth tells us what to do with our lives," he said. "I opened [the DVD], and it made me cry. ... I just can't play it. I want you to make some art out of it."

Participants in the Twin Cities Marathon shoot down Hennepin, and a few runners plunk disks in the donation boxes. The runners shed clothing as they stream past and Naylor scavenges a pair of gloves to warm her hands.

There are no counter-protestors or hecklers this morning. A Basilica spokeswoman says the church has nothing to add to the story. Twice, she carries coffee out to Naylor and her friends. The liturgist brings out doughnuts to his old co-worker.

As mass lets out, parishioners express a variety of opinions, though no one criticizes Naylor's DVD to Art project.

"I support the Catholic Church position on communicating the principles of Catholicism, something they believe in and I support it," said Ed Herzog.

"I think the church's teaching is wrong and behind the times," said parishioner Anne Bukoskey. "It'll eventually change. I think that it's so painful and so hurtful."

Another parishioner, Jim Secord, said the DVD arrived in his mailbox the day before.

"Before I make too great a judgment one way or the other, I want to see it."

Naylor collected almost 600 DVDs on Sunday in her boxes, as well as from volunteers outside five other Twin Cities churches. She says that's enough to get her started on her sculpture.

The disks have a photo of a husband and wife's hands gently touching. Underneath, it says, "an urgent message from Archbishop Nienstedt." Naylor's thinking of transforming them into a fire or water motif, to symbolize the Holy Spirit moving through the church in a new way.

"Intermedia Arts has a slogan written on the side of their building that says, 'Art changes everything.' And here's a really wonderful example of art changing everything," said Naylor.

Naylor is still collecting DVDs, and plans to complete her project before the election, which is on Nov. 2.