The Installation of
Thank you to all those who joined us for the installation of David M. Mellott, PhD, as the seventh president of Christian Theological Seminary.
The installation ceremony for President David M. Mellott on September 19, 2021 was, among other things, a celebration of the arts. Along with liturgical dance, a custom-designed program and a number of musical guests, a local poet, Jenny Froehle, and a painter, Nathan Foxton, debuted original works of art created to commemorate the occasion and celebrate the theme of “How to Love a City”.
Dr. David Mellott began his tenure as the 7th president of Christian Theological Seminary on July 1, 2019. He is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ. He previously served as Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean, and Professor of Theological Formation at Lancaster Theological Seminary. Dr. Mellott is also the author of two books: I Was And I Am Dust (2009) and Finding Your Way in Seminary: What to Expect, How to Thrive (2016). Dr. Mellott and his husband, Reverend Lance F. Mullins, reside in Indianapolis.
How to Love a City
by Jenny Froehle
Jenny Froehle was the winner of the poetry contest held in partnership with the Indiana Writers Center, which invited poets to submit original poems focused on the installation theme, “How to Love a City.” Froehle’s poem, aptly titled, was chosen from among a large and talented pool of submissions.
Explaining the work, Froehle shared, “My work—both as a teacher and also as a volunteer in multiple organizations—has gotten me into many different neighborhoods and places around our city and the surrounding counties through the years. I tried to think of all the different kinds of people and places our city encompasses and the tremendous need for us to know and love each other. I am so grateful to CTS for helping the words get out into the world in ways that I could not have imagined.”
Commissioned work by Nathan Alexander Foxton
Oil painting on linen canvas
“The Anchor” is an homage to the city of Indianapolis rich with symbolism. The piece bears apparent influences of early twentieth-century European artistic movements, particularly German Expressionism and Fauvism, seen strongest in its figural depictions and distinct color palette. Foxton explained that he set out to express his love and appreciation for the city and to portray “an open symbolic event in consideration of the values, mission, and theology of Christian Theological Seminary.”
The painting is full of recognizable imagery celebrating many of Indianapolis’ most prominent civic leaders, occasions, and edifices, which are presented in a parade-like manner. Foxton said that he hoped to combine the parade theme with gardening imagery, evoking themes of historical resonance, civic involvement, and the cultivation of new life, which accounts for the shovels in the foreground.
Initially, the eye is drawn to the three faces comprising the three points of the v-shaped arrangement just to the left of center. On the left with the beard and top hat is a depiction of Ovid Butler, attorney and abolitionist from Shelbyville, IN, who was instrumental in the founding of North Western Christian University—the parent institution of Christian Theological Seminary—which was later renamed in his honor. On the right, holding the balloon tethers, is a depiction of Madam C.J. Walker, African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist whose hair care business in Indianapolis led to her becoming one of the first millionaire women in the United States.
At the base of the “V” is an anchor, on which is the face of Christ, presented as the anchor of the city and its legacy. The anchor was a prominent symbol in early Christian art, evoking Hebrews 6:18-19, where Christ is referred to as “the hope set before us…a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (NRSV). The crossbar of the anchor was thought to reference the cross, and the symbol was advised for wide usage in the third century by Clement of Alexandria. Further, the symbol harkens to CTS’ membership in the Midtown Anchor Coalition, which unites six of the city’s oldest institutions in the area.
The painting is replete with even more imagery. To the right of Walker is Mary Stewart Carey, civic leader and founder of the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which is home to a large sculpture of a dinosaur she is shown with in the painting. Between Walker and Butler is a depiction of Rev. Hanford A. Edson, pastor of what would become Second Presbyterian Church, whose plea in a 1868 Thanksgiving Day sermon for a free public library in the city catalyzed the founding of the Indianapolis Public Library, the many-pillared edifice of which stands behind him in the painting. Above these figures is a large bird (a heron), whose beak is piercing an artist’s palette, which is a reference to the Herron School of Art. Also evident are references to the Murat Theatre (the building below Carey), the iconic Salesforce Tower looming in the background, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
The painting’s dense imagery rewards careful examination and a robust sense of Indianapolis history. You are invited to look closely and discuss what else you may recognize!