Kindred Spirits


Melanie Montañez

A close-up of junior Melanie Montañez’s mixed media representation of angels for Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2022).

Morgan Lomax '24

Glitter, feathers, and sequins dusted the floor of Dr. Kimberly Borin’s classroom as vestiges of a week-long art exploration by Judaism, Christianity, & Islam (JC&I) students who participated in the Third Annual Angel Wing Painting Project to celebrate the prevalence of angels across the three monotheistic faiths. 

The project began in 2020, sparked by a discussion between JC&I (then called Children of Abraham) students and Dr. Borin regarding similarities between the faiths. “I also told them about the angel wings I started painting while training as a chaplain at Morristown Medical Center,” Dr. Borin recalls. The concept has been met with positive reception.

Besides learning about materials, students also discovered more about themselves. Junior Melanie Montañez observes, “I have learned to trust the process…focus on the present because you’ll never know how great your project can turn out.” Students were urged to take a “creative risk,” forging something of their own. A spirit of collaboration permeated the classroom as students worked on their pieces. Such as with the development of the spirit, art is enhanced through collaboration. In this way, the project served as a symbolic representation of students’ spiritual growth and journey.

Dr. Borin considers the combination of art with spirituality to be important: “the Arts give us access to spirituality in both witnessing and taking part.” Having taught Theology and the Arts course at Saint Elizabeth University, Dr. Borin has substantial experience in the area. Her conclusion is also partially inspired by the work of Dr. Jeremy Begbie at Duke Divinity School, who created a program called DITA (Duke Initiatives in Theology & the Art). The program amalgamates art and spirituality, a process that Dr. Borin finds “fascinating.”

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is likewise a unique course. According to Dr. Borin, students “focus on the personal spiritual journey, learning about other faiths, and the importance of interfaith dialogue and our global connection to bringing more peace to the world” according to Dr. Borin. The Angel Wings Project is an extension of this pursuit. From Melanie Montañez’s perspective, she enjoyed having the opportunity to “express…ideas in other ways besides the typical essay.”