Marie Hain wants to share beauty — and she’s willing to do it for a song, or a painting, or any inspired work of art. Her efforts are bearing fruit in the fertile ground of a thriving Catholic community nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. With Nashville country singer/songwriter Marie Miller — known for the bluegrass themes that ring true from her native Front Royal, Virginia, community — Hain has developed “Brillante,” an annual summer camp focused on forming youth in the classical forms of artistic expression. Hain — who has studied drawing, painting, fresco and sculpture at such prestigious schools as the Romanelli Studio in Florence, Italy; Studio Incomminati in Philadelphia; and Grand Central Atelier in New York — also holds a degree in philosophy and literature from Christendom College in Front Royal.
According to Hain, Brillante started last year, but this will be the third camp (one was held in Advent, due to demand).
The name is a nod to a musical term that means “to shine, to play in a sparkling style.” The name was chosen because it represents the light that the talented duo wants shining from music and art — both in technical terms and soulful terms. Often people think of “sparkling” in terms of the exterior, but Hain and Miller want youth to experience the “spark” of the interior life.
About 30 students attended the last camp, but it is growing. The aim is to have one-on-one direction for each student.
Ancient Beauty Anew
Explaining the idea behind Brillante, Hain says the summer camps developed from her regular instruction of young students. “Classical and traditional art and music have an impact on a child’s spirit, because beauty, true beauty, has as its source the Divine. Beauty is a gift that we are allowed to participate in, though we owe its existence to the Divine Creator. True beauty has inherent order, discipline, freedom, coherence, integrity, humility, humanity, compassion, radiance, truth, selflessness — all of the things that we want for our children to have within their souls. These things can be learned in a special way through an encounter with and participation in the expression of true beauty.”
Hain understood that, for many of her regular students, a weekly class wasn’t enough to slake their thirst for contemplative art. Hence the summer-camp creation, said Hain: “Brillante is a creative music and art camp that seeks to immerse children in an encounter with true beauty, inspire them with the desire for more, and leave them with an understanding that they have the ability to participate fully in the expression and contemplation of that beauty.”
For Marie Miller, it was this type of formation that led her toward her own career in Nashville. “I started songwriting at age 7, and I believe that creating original music at a young age ignited in me a deep love for beauty and gave me a desire to make music that is irreplaceable. Brillante begins with creativity, which I have found is the best way to inspire young artists.”
Today, in what many consider a “post-Christian era,” artists like Hain seek inspiration to catechize through beauty.
Beauty, found in such mediums as classical art and music, must be accessible and encountered in the formation of young children, according to Hain. If children lack such formation, they will struggle to contemplate God and recognize his presence. Exorcist, psychologist and theologian Father Chad Ripperger extorts readers that art and culture must be informed by faith and the faithful be formed by them. As he wrote in an essay entitled, “Christian Art and Culture”:
“There is an intrinsic connection between right belief and beauty. While it is possible for a pagan artist to produce beautiful art, true beauty is known when we are able to look at the natural order the way God sees it, and this is done through faith. It is in this way that our aesthetic sense is perfected because we see things the way God sees them; and so truly Catholic artists who lead lives of virtue have a much greater potential to produce beautiful art than someone whose beliefs are distorted, which in turn distorts their view of reality.”
The faithful know this about beauty, simply by “looking up” in the vast cathedrals of Europe. The art displayed in them reflect the Divine Mysteries in such exquisite detail; they are a form of catechesis. Beauty instructs in truth.
Power for Good
For Hain, the impact of the camps has made a lasting impression on her students. “I have witnessed the way a child, having experienced their own power to participate in the creation of beauty, develops a desire for more beauty and the ability to recognize what is truly beautiful. Moreover, I have seen profound healing sometimes, a sort of reversal of the damage done from the internalization of some of the dark images absorbed through exposure to different media platforms — such as social media and TV. I have seen a child become more confident as a result of what they have been able to create, and I think this is because they instinctively know they have tapped into something beyond themselves that is powerful and true, but within their power to access.”
Writing from Florence — where she is engaged in a sculpting commission — Hain explains how the art surrounding her (such as that of Blessed Fra Angelico) has informed the curriculum for Brillante’s summer session. “This year at Brillante we will be experimenting with the Old World art of fresco. I will be bringing materials back from Florence for this purpose. We will also be delving into creative storytelling in songwriting. We will try to develop an understanding of how art and music inform and amplify one another — how each is a language and both tell stories.”
Parents will be pleased from their children’s participation, Hain said: “The question that begins to formulate itself within a child who has been able to participate in the truly beautiful music and art is: Where does this powerful thing come from? Who is it that is speaking through this mysterious language? Why do I understand more of the truth when I am in the presence of beauty — why am I drawn to it? These unending questions lead to the contemplation of its source, the First Creator, and that is what we want to happen at Brillante.”
Families who have participated in the camps have praise for their artistic and faith focus.
“My boys (7 and 9) both loved the art camp, and the teachers did a wonderful job, not only teaching the skills, but doing so in such a way that, with their very different temperaments and skills, they both felt proud of what they had accomplished at the end of the session,” said Jaime Gorman.
As Finn Gorman, age 9, said, “It’s the best thing that ever happened!”
Another mother in Front Royal, Anna Hatke, said: “Brillante is what we need to be offering our children right now. Rather than make our religion into entertainment and diminish our art into ‘kraft,’ it informs the child that our need to make and create and our ability to worship God come from the same place.”
Bree A. Dail is the international coordinator for Rosary Coast to Coast and the Holy League of Nations.
The summer session of ‘Brillante’ will take place July 8-12. To register your child, visit BrillanteCamps.com. Space is limited.