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Magazine provides Mormon Artists with sense of community

When Ben Crowder founded Mormon Artist, he did so with a sense of responsibility.

"I've made a covenant with God that I would devote everything I have to building his kingdom here on earth, and the magazine seems like a good way to help do that," Crowder said of the publication that shines the spotlight on Latter-day Saint artists and their talents.

Crowder uses the bi-monthly magazine to show the world that Mormons can be true to both the gospel and their art without compromising either. Mormon Artist also depicts what's going on in the lives of LDS artists and helps new artists publish and promote their work.

"A lot of Mormon artists feel like they're the only person of their stripe," said literature editor Katherine Morris, who has been with the magazine since its inception. "That's one of the goals of the magazine — to help give Mormon artists a sense of community. (The magazine) gives them an idea of what other Mormon artists are doing and to start discussions and encourage collaboration."

The editors want to help Mormon artists realize the importance of living and sharing the gospel through their work.

"It's no secret that the entertainment industry can be a difficult community in which to take an individual moral stance," said Annie Mangelson, editor of the music and dance section. "And yet, Mormon Artist offers case after case of artists doing just that."

Artist Whitney Johnson is one such case.

"Each issue of Mormon Artist is encouraging and reminds LDS artists that they do have a place in the contemporary art community and that through meaningful art others can be brought to a knowledge of the gospel," she said.

J. Kirk Richards, a well-known fine arts painter who appeared in the inaugural issue of Mormon Artist, said, "The gospel has definitely provided subject matter, a point of reference and a community that allows me to do what I like to do."

Founded in June 2008 and circulated free of charge, Mormon Artist has now published a dozen editions highlighting a variety of LDS artists. Crowder, a BYU graduate who both created the project and now serves as editor, thought up the idea while preparing his morning meal.

"The basic plan of the magazine — interview LDS artists about their work and how it intersects with the gospel — came together in my head by the time I finished breakfast," he said.

Each issue involves 15-20 volunteers who conduct or transcribe interviews, take photographs or edit articles.

"There have been times when I look at what Mormon Artist is accomplishing and marvel that none of us get paid to do this," Crowder said. "Are we crazy?"

Mangelson said Crowder's volunteer efforts have not gone entirely without reward. A young woman he interviewed for the position of section editor and later became his wife.

Those involved with the magazine have sacrificed no small amount of time and energy to see the project succeed.

"I thought I was dedicated when I walked a half-mile to a Mormon Artist meeting right after getting a bee sting in my foot," Morris said. "But Ben Crowder was finishing designing one of our issues the night before his wedding."

The magazine has earned recognition from such publications as TIME Magazine and The New York Times.

Visit Mormon Artist on the web at http://mormonartist.net.

Connor Boyack is a web developer in Lehi, Utah. You can e-mail him at cboyack@gmail.com.