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Makers Series | Imagine

Join us in the Fellowship Hall on Friday evening February 27th for the next installment of the Makers Series, as we explore how the imagination points us towards the real and the true via through written, visual, and musical arts.

What is the Makers Series?

Each edition of the Makers Series brings together three “makers”—a writer, a visual artist, and a musician—to discuss their history and practice as artists and believers, touching on a unifying theme.  In a coffee-house setting with refreshments available throughout, each guest presents for 20 minutes, followed by a moderated conversation between the three and the audience, seeking to find commonalities between each maker’s experiences and to draw out insights about faith, culture, and creativity. 

Doors open at 6:30, program at 7:00.    Refreshments Provided


When we think of art, artists, and creativity, we almost always consider the imagination to be a key component of what artists do, and who they are. It’s not uncommon to hear that a fertile and vivid imagination is what sets “creatives” apart from the rest of us, even more than skills honed by years of practice at a craft; and the ability to come up with something new is especially prized in our culture of digital, virtual consumption. Where once imagination was also seen as something that could “run away” from reality, and was critiqued for confusing the real and the merely “pretend,” today creativity and imagination are strongly and positively associated with novelty and invention—of making and thinking things that never were before, and might not ever actually exist at all.

But is the imagination only—for better or worse—aimed at flights of fancy or novelty, or might we de-couple creativity and innovation?  Is the imagination only a tool to make what has never been made before, or might the imagination be the key to understand what actually exists now, and what happened in the past, as well as what is in store for the future? Can the imagination help us see connections that are hidden in plain sight? Can the imagination guide us towards what is really real

 This edition of the Makers Series explores those questions through the lives and work of three makers for whom imagination provides the bridge between the already and the not yet: trumpeter Taylor Barnett composes and plays music that reveals connections between multiple genres and cultural traditions; medical illustrator Paul Gross uses multi-media artistry to help doctors, patients and their advocates see the human body in ways that imaging technology alone can not; and philosopher and cultural critic Jamie Smith proposes that what we imagine for the future shapes our concrete present. 

No official registration is necessary, but PLEASE tell us you're coming and share the FACEBOOK EVENT with others!


Taylor Barnett

Taylor Barnett is a Richmond-based trumpeter, teacher, and composer currently serving as Coordinator of Musicianship Studies and instructor of the Jazz Improvisation class at VCU, where he has previously taught Jazz Theory, Arranging, and History, as well as trumpet and Jazz orchestra. Taylor is a member of No BS! Brass band, with whom he has performed at the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Festival d’été de Québec, and on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.  He also shares the post Director of Worship Arts at West End Presbyterian Church with his wife, Tiffanie Chan, with whom he has two daughters.  Previously he served as the music instructor at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, directing jazz ensembles and string orchestra, teaching jazz improvisation and music, and establishing a guest-artist series focusing on free-jazz and avant-garde music. 

Taylor’s composition work is published by UNC Jazz Press and has been performance at international music festivals in Australia, Portugal, China, and the U.S. In 2010, in collaboration with guitarist Trey Pollard, Taylor formed Old New Things, an instrumental ensemble that draws inspiration from American folk music and European chamber-jazz. Their album “Ghosts” features original compositions as well as arrangements of compositions by Albert Ayler and J. S. Bach.  That project, his playing with the No BS! Band, and even his work at West End Pres. have in common an attention to the possibilities of combining musical forms, genres, and traditions in innovative ways—of making connections that are unexpected, but never arbitrary. 

You can click HERE for a narrative of Taylor’s path into professional music, and visit for audio and video samples of his music.

Paul Gross

Paul Gross grew up in the Hudson River Valley, situated between the abundant museum and other cultural resources of New York City, on one hand, and the wild landscape of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, on the other, the latter where he spent time in and paying careful to the natural world.  Wanting to combine his equal passions for the fine arts and scientific methods of inquiry, Paul discovered the world of medical illustration, and has been exploring and excelling at that field for 30+ years.

Beginning with coursework at the Parson School of Design in NYC, Paul went on to earn his BS in Biology from Cornell University, and then a Masters in Medical Illustration from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Professionally, Paul has worked as a freelance medical illustrator in Seattle, WA, an associate professor at Ohio State, and as the Senior Illustrator and Supervisor of the Illustration Department at Vanderbilt University, a post he held for 12 years before coming to Richmond in 1999 to join MediVisuals.  At MediVisuals—a firm that provides illustration and visualization of complex medical and injury-related conditions, primarily for court cases—Paul currently serves as a primary case consultant/strategist and project director in production.  

Paul has co-authored and illustrated many medical journal articles and books.  He has won numerous awards from the Association of Medical Illustrators in line art, color projection, and medical-legal illustration categories.  He is also a Fellow of the AMI and has served as Chairman of its Board. His freelance illustration jobs include a series of illustrated Bible books for Thomas Nelson Publishers, and he and his son, an accomplished ceramics artist, have painted multiple murals at West End Presbyterian. Paul is still an avid hiker and camper, and for years served as a Scoutmaster in the Heart of Virginia Council.

James K. A. Smith

James K.A. Smith is philosopher and cultural critic of wide-ranging interests and expertise, especially focused on the theology of culture: how our ordinary daily practices subtly "conform us to the world," and how the specific shape of Christian liturgy—the practices of Christian worship from ancient times to today—are a powerful force for proper spiritual formation that enable us to re-vision education and other key institutions in society.  The ideas laid out in his “Cultural Liturgies” trilogy (with Desiring the Kingdom, and Imagining the Kingdom published so far) have had wide-ranging influence across the denominational and theological spectrum, and Smith is a frequent speaker on the role of Christian communities in a post-Christian public square. 

 Smith is also a prolific and award-winning author, with popular writing appearing in magazines such as Christianity TodayBooks & Culture, and First Things and periodicals such as the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Detroit Free Press.  In addition to the Cultural Liturgies series, his books include Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?(2006), Discipleship in the Present Tense (2013), Who’s Afraid of Relativism? (2014), and How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (2014).

 Smith’s day job is as professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he holds the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview; he is also Senior Fellow for The Colossian Forum and at Cardus, where he serves as editor of Comment magazine. Jamie and his wife, Deanna, have four children.

Additional information is available at his website, and you can follow him on Twitter: @james_ka_smith 

Earlier Event: February 25