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“Saint Augustine Would Have Given His Right Arm For Today’s Communication Tools” Q & A With Internet Genius Responding To God’s Call On Multiple Platforms

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“Saint Augustine Would Have Given His Right Arm For Today’s Communication Tools” Q & A With Internet Genius Responding To God’s Call On Multiple Platforms
Patrick van der Vorst founder of Christian Art Today can best be described as an entrepreneur  whose mission it is to proclaim the Gospel in the digital age. From a distinguished career at Sotheby’s to his latest venture van der Vorst is combining his love of God and Art in real time. Here Patrick van der Vorst, AKA the Apostle of the Internet tells why.
1.How did you come up with the concept for your website? When and how did you get it started?
I was an auctioneer at Sotheby’s for 15 years and Vice President there and thus always loved art, working in the art world professionally. My faith has also been crucial in everything I have done, so it seemed like an ideal ‘marriage’ to combine art and my Christian faith, where I could fully explore both my passions.
2. Where did your love of art come from?
My parents and grandparents always took me to see exhibitions and museums from a very young age?
Art fascinated me as a kid. Especially the surrealist artists spoke to my vivid imagination. After that I also discovered that the beauty of art is also the perfect inroads into our faith.
3. In this digital age how can we align faith with our mobile device lifestyles. And why is this important?

We do indeed live in a very fast paced culture and lead hectic lives. As many people now read the news, their emails and any other communications on their phone, it is crucial therefore that we as a Catholics are present within that space. We need to communicate the beauty and truth of our faith, through using these  mobile devices. Saint Augustine would have given his right arm to have today’s communication tools. So we should embrace them in a responsible way and use them to help spread the Word.

4. What has the reaction to your concept been? Is it user friendly? Well received?

The reaction has been great. We currently have daily on average 30 new people signing up to the daily emails where I reflect on the Gospel reading of the day through a work of art. I get feedback the whole time, which I value, and what always surprises me is to see how different people connect with very different artworks. Some readers love the contemporary artworks I chose, others only the more traditional items… but I think everyone gets challenged from time to time to look at something they might not have looked at before, or even chosen to look at. With challenge comes growth; growth in the appreciation of art, and growth ultimately in our faith.
5.You have had success in the digital field why did you want to include a faith based element?
Yes, after leaving Sotheby’s in 2010, I set up an online art appraisal website (www.valuemystuff.com), where people can get any collectable, painting, memorabilia, etc appraised for a fee of $20 per item , within 48 hours. The concept worked and the site has over 500,000 customers who regularly use the services. Setting up www.christianart.today is my next venture in the online world, and has to been seen very much in context with my next step in life. I have sold my business, at 48 years old now and finally got the courage to respond to God’s  calling. I am starting seminary in September 2019 in Rome for the Diocese of Westminster, London, to train for the priesthood. So ChristianArtToday will be an apostolate which will hopefully grow with me through my years of formation in Rome.
6. How far reaching is the website and what plans do you have for multi lingual editions?
I set up the website in April 2019, and so it has been up and running for about 4 months with already over 3,000 people who read the daily Gospel & Art reflections. A good start, but plenty more to aim for. The majority of subscribers come from the USA, the UK, Belgium and Mexico. At this stage there are no multilingual editions, but at some stage that needs to happen, I agree.
7. Looking forward can you imagine an exhibit of Christian art in a virtual format? For example An “Advent exhibition” as an app for the month of December with appropriate Gospel readings?
What a great idea! Love it… Yes that is the beauty of dealing with art, is that we can be as creative as we want, so any ideas to bring people closer to the Church and their faith by using art is worth exploring. An exhibit of Christian Art in virtual format fits right into that ethos.
8. Many of the worlds’ major Art Museums have very important Christian works of Art are you
working closely with them and if so what has been their reaction?
In the 4 months I have been starting and running the website, I haven’t been in touch with museums, but at some stage I will. Fortunately enough from my days as an auctioneer I personally know many of the museums and institutions, but I will wait for the right time to involve them. I agree, a lot (or in some cases, most) of the art they hold is Christian Art or at least comes out of a strong Christian tradition, so the overlap with what we do on our website will be huge.
9. At a time when Christianity is under threat in the Middle East and other parts of the world are you in contact with museums and Monasteries where art works may need to be preserved in a virtual format?
I haven’t done this yet, no, but it his certainly worth exploring. The statistics for Christian persecutions in the world speak for themselves: every month 345 Christians are killed for their faith and 105 churches are burned or attacked. Shocking statistics. Yes, we can indeed help record the artworks many of these places hold, but also down the line, use art to try to protect these Christian communities and their Churches. Art can raise awareness, art can raise funds, art can bring hope, art can do many things to help against christian persecutions.
10. If someone has not seen your site what would you say to inspire them to look?
Oh, I would invite all of them to navigate to www.christianart.today  and look at some of the past gospel readings we reflected upon and subscribe for free to our daily emails. We recently installed a great search facility as well where you can type in some keywords, artist names etc and you can filter through some past entries. Writing these daly reflections has become very much part of my daily prayer life, and I hope the reflections can bring the same joy to some people, as art does for me when praying with the Gospel.

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