"It would only be deceptive if we then turned around and were doing religious work, and we don't," McAnally says, adding that to his knowledge, none of the Luminary's past resident artists have joined the Journey.

Would he like to see it happen someday?

"I think that's irrelevant to what we do."


James and Brea McAnally
Jennifer Silverberg
James and Brea McAnally

And yet there's that 2010 video, which James McAnally confirms the Journey took down at his request.

"We were, like, 'If this isn't important, we'd prefer that this not be up, because someone is using it to criticize us and to affect our capital campaign.'"

Riverfront Times has obtained a copy of the Journey video and posted it on our news blog, Daily RFT). While it does show McAnally addressing an interviewer's questions about his ministry, his responses don't support the inference that he intends to use the Luminary to spread the Gospel. If anything, they imply the contrary.

For example, the host asks: "For you, James, how does the Gospel connect with artists?"

Replies McAnally: "A lot of what we do is almost on this tightrope, to the extent that the people we work with are really culturally savvy, they're in the know. They're watching, almost, for: 'What are you going to do to slip up this relationship?' ...[But] these people are [on the premises] day to day, so we're working with their day-to-day lives."

The host recasts his question: "So, your relationships and your resourcing have opened doors for you to have clear communication about the Gospel with the population you're serving?"

McAnally: "Yeah, it doesn't always happen. But so many people have [unclear] a close family member dies and we're who they call. And based on our professional relationship with them, that wouldn't make any sense. But it's this ongoing, intentional 'we're here for you to help you however you need it.' It starts off with this 'we're helping you in this specific area of your artistic practice,' and then it spreads out from there.

"We've set it up intentionally [so that] it's long-term," McAnally goes on, "so people have a studio for three, six, twelve months. So they're there for a while to give time for an actual, meaningful relationship to develop."

McAnally's explanation echo what he told the Baptist Standard back in 2009. He told the Texas-based magazine he considers the Luminary to be "a way to serve the people around us.... By showing them we care about them and what they do, we are serving where it is most personal; it's a tangible way to speak of the Gospel." RFT interviewed three former Luminary artists-in-residence. All say they never sensed any religious agenda on the part of their hosts.

"I was fully supported as an artist without any religious undertones from them," says Amy Reidel, who spent nine months as a resident in 2010 and retains nothing but positive memories.

Carlie Trosclair was awarded a six-month residency that same year. She says she never felt any religious pressure but that the scuttlebutt about the Journey has made her uneasy in retrospect.

"Knowing now about these videos and him speaking about religion and that mission — it feels like something I should've known [in advance]," Trosclair says. "I'm anti-organized religion. I always knew it was affiliated, but the more it's come out, I'm just, like, 'OK, gross.'"

In an effort to clarify what he says in the video, James McAnally sent RFT an e-mail on May 15.

"Myself as an individual and The Luminary as an organization are two separate things," he writes. "The organization itself is not religious, was not formed to be that and is not accomplishing a religious goal.... I understand the reflex to wonder about our motives. It is murky; it is difficult."

In the video he was speaking as a Christian to a Christian audience, McAnally says. He goes on: "It has always been uncomfortable and little confusing on how we are supposed to address the church about why they allow us to use the space, year after year."

Taken solely in and of themselves, his recorded response "represents us incorrectly [because] our...staff, our volunteers and advisors — very few have ever interacted with the church."

Concludes McAnally: "We have misspoken, but I don't think we've misstepped in the way we program and run the space."


On a recent evening at Pig Slop, Chloe Bethany pauses and sits down for just long enough to sum up her take on the looming Luminary takeover.

"Ultimately, spaces like Pig Slop are not permanent," she says, flecks of dried paint visible on her fingers. "That's just the nature of DIY spaces." She disagrees with her studio-mate, Muehlke, who feels the Luminary is "displacing" them.

Last summer landlord Will Liebermann offered Bethany and her fellow tenants a two-year lease, she says, but they only wanted to commit to one. Over the past few months, she adds, most of her colleagues haven't shown a strong interest in staying. They were having trouble scraping up the rent anyway, she says.

Liebermann says he and the McAnallys are negotiating the terms of a lease that will likely include the right of first refusal if he opts to sell.

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