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Engaging Lived Religion

Engaging Lived Religion—a three-year project (2021–23) funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative—expands the Fowler’s ongoing study of religious and spiritual traditions in Los Angeles and around the world. This program furthers the Fowler’s decades-long, multidisciplinary exploration of the artistic dimensions of religion and spirituality, as well as the lived experiences of belief, while addressing the need to increase community participation in the museum’s exhibitions, public programs, and digital initiatives.

Lilly Project Team: 

Amy Landau, Co-Director of Engaging Lived Religion and Director of Education and Interpretation
Francesca Albrezzi, Director of Vital Matters Digital Development
Leigh Carter, Program Coordinator and Educator
Johnathan Glover, Head of Digital Learning and Innovation
Jeniffer Perales Garcia, Manager of K-12 and Family Programming and Bilingual Educator
Patrick Polk, Senior Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Popular Arts
Syona Puliady, Curatorial Assistant
Gene McHugh, Head of Digital Media


Working with represented communities as advisors, the Lilly project team is launching a series of temporary exhibitions highlighting religious diversity in Southern California. These include installations devoted to: Jain textile temple hangings; the sacred arts of traditional Yoruba religion in Africa and the Americas; the visual and sonic landscapes of Muslim communities in Los Angeles; and an exhibition dedicated to Sikhism.

We are also collaboratively reimagining elements of our permanent collection exhibition, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, in conversation with local and international advisors.

Visit some of these exhibitions virtually below.

Digital initiatives

Vital Matters: Stories of Belief is a digital initiative that seeks to represent different perspectives on devotional works at the Fowler—objects that arouse devotion, awe, and serenity; mediate relationships between human and spiritual realms; and are of vital importance to the cultural heritage of individuals and communities.

In museums and universities, interpretations of material expressions of belief are generally limited to third-person anonymous narratives composed by curators and scholars. These interpretations are informed by post-Enlightenment views that see faith as a relic of the past and/or more alive in “other” societies (i.e., non-Western and Indigenous ones). The materiality of belief is thereby removed from lived understanding and knowledge of practice. This project centers knowledge embedded in the practice of faith-based leaders, artists, and community organizers. We believe that the insights of these often unrecognized knowledge-makers shed light not only on the materiality of belief but also on vital matters of today: education, justice, the environment, and activism. 

Digital Advisory Committee: 

Refik Anadol, UCLA Design Media Arts and Refik Anadol Studio, LLC
Alex Bortolot, Minneapolis Institute of Art
Jenna Caravello, UCLA Design Media Arts
Sonia Estoff Coman, National Museum of Asian Art
Maryam Iskandari, MIIM Designs
Wendy Perla Kurtz, UCLA Digital Humanities
Lauren McCarthy, UCLA Design Media Arts
Bakhtiar Mikhak, Harvard Division of Continuing Education and Media Modifications, Ltd.
Ramesh Srinivasan, UCLA Department of Information Studies and Director of UC Digital Cultures Lab

Public Programs

In association with the digital initiative Vital Matters: Stories of Belief, the Fowler is hosting a series of public programs. Check out our video archive below to watch the recordings.



Click here for the Press Release.

Click here to learn about Lilly Endowment’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative.

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