My husband and I had a wonderful experience recently at Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum here in Old Town Alexandria. In this time when many of us feel we can't travel or can't savor the same kind of cultural experiences we used to before COVID-19, we were truly delighted to "get away" safely to view amazing art locally. We went to The Lyceum (https://www.alexandriava.gov/Lyceum) to see a remarkable black and white photography exhibit. We had passed this historic building for years, but had never visited.
We were eager to see the art of the talented and long-time Alexandrian, Nina Tisara. "Witnessing Worship" is a reprise of her year-long 1985 project that was funded in part by a grant from the Alexandria Commission For the Arts.
The photos are all breathtaking, both for their artistic beauty but also for the display of such a diverse range of people worshiping in many different faith traditions. Each picture shows a particular Alexandrian place of worship and its people. We found Ms. Tisara's carefully composed images to be moving and uplifting, which is why I am writing this letter. I want to tell others to consider visiting The Lyceum for a welcome dose of fine art. My husband and I walked away thinking we had seen a visual sermon of sorts: human beings alone, or with family and friends, in song or in reflective prayer; such a range of humanity, all worshiping and within a backdrop of a special church, temple, synagogue, prison room, shrine or garden.
During this time of staying at home and with so many up-ended routines, seeing art here locally, and also art that reflects fellow Alexandrians and their homes of worships, is inspiring and nourishes one's soul.
So, I wish to spread the word to you and your readers so that you too can be moved and uplifted as we were. "Witnessing Worship" will be on display until Nov. 1, 2021, thus there's time. But don't wait. Everyone deserves a treat like this.
The Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum is located at 201 South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. The museum team has created an admission system wherein visitors sign up to visit at a specific time so one can be safe due to the social distancing created by those timed slots (https://www.alexandriava.gov/Lyceum#EventTickets). The staff has also taken great precautions so any viewer feels very comfortable. The online sign-in was tricky at first for us to use, but we figured it out. And, if you need help getting your timed slot, just call ahead during open hours to get assistance with your time slot.
Here are further details on the exhibit.
In 1985, photographer Nina Tisara documented fifty worship groups throughout the City of Alexandria. The 106 images, now in the Alexandria History Museum collection, provide a portrait of Alexandria’s worship community at that time.
Ms. Tisara photographed worship in many different churches, as well as synagogues and a home where Buddhist monks lived and worshipped. There were no mosques within the city, so none were available to be included.
Nina Tisara sought to document “the breadth, variety, and vitality of worship in the city.” She came to call her project Converging Paths because the experience led her to conclude that, despite the many different paths worship takes, “we are all kin.”
Katherine C. Tobin, Ph.D.
Editor’s note: You can view a sample of the exhibit at https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/historic/info/lyceum/WitnessingWorshipExhibit.pdf