Jesus is commonly portrayed as a light-skinned Caucasian male, but in reality he was born in the Middle East and most likely had a darker, olive-toned complexion than seen in most popular artworks.
The Rev. Martin Billmaier, pastor of St. Lucas Lutheran Church in South Toledo, decided to offer a challenge to local artists to show Jesus in a different light.
"Multicultural Jesus" was the theme of an art show on exhibit at St. Lucas, with 35 entries depicting Jesus in unique ways. It is part of the church's 120th anniversary celebration.
"The mission statement of our church is that we welcome everybody, regardless of age, race, or disability," said Crystal Teague, a St. Lucas member who organized the art show. "We wanted people to show what Jesus would look like if he were alive today and welcomed everybody."
All 35 entries were created by local artists, she said.
"Some of them were very creative," Ms. Teague said. "For instance, there's one of Jesus pulling up a bunch of different types of people from the water. Another had Jesus portrayed in clouds. And there was another abstract piece, tying Jesus to nature, where you can see his face in the trees and grass."
The art show was open to the community, not just members of St. Lucas, Ms. Teague said.
The winning entry, earning an $800 cash prize, was by Theresa Perry and titled Enslaved by Prejudice. A sterling silver and gold sculpture, it features two cuffs chained together. A nail has to be removed to open the cuffs, symbolizing the nails Jesus endured on the cross, Ms. Teague said.
St. Lucas will hold another art show in the fall based on the theme of "Jesus in nature," she said. "Our whole goal is to bring art back into the church, the way it used to be," Ms. Teague said.
St. Lucas has set up a permanent gallery, including the winning artworks.