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College of Humanities & Sciences

School of World Studies

The Powell - Edwards Lecture Series For Religion and the Arts

professor Cliff Edwards stands at a podium next to a painting [View Image]

The mission of the Powell-Edwards Lecture Series for Religion and the Arts is to foster serious inquiry into the relation of the world's diverse religions and spiritualities to the arts.  To that end, the Powell-Edwards Lecture Series plans, supports and presents distinguished lectures in religion and the arts.  The Powell-Edwards Lecture Series hopes that this inquiry will further  encourage religions and spiritualities, and the arts, to enrich and critique one another so that both society and the creative life of individuals will flourish. These lectures are free and open to the public! 

The Powell-Edwards Lecture Series in Religion and the Arts was established through generous gifts within the Religious Studies Program at VCU in 2008.


2019 Annual Powell-Edwards Lectures:

The Intimate Letters of Van Gogh: Cliff Edwards, Ph.D., Wednesday, October 16 at 4 in the VCU Student Commons Salons 1 & 2. 


Marcia Powell: A Brief Biography



A graduate of VCU, Marcia Powell was a renowned French teacher at the Collegiate Schools for more than 20 years. Her dedication to VCU led her to teach there in her retirement. Well into her 80’s, she continued to teach French to senior citizens at the Shepherd’s Center and Open University of Richmond, Virginia.  She touched many lives with her love of learning, culture, the arts and the French language. She led tours to France and Switzerland for a number of yearsFor the last 13 years of her life she was a charter member of the Hermitage at Cedarfield. Her apartment there contained many works of art, including a portrait of her father, and her collection of books on the arts, literature, and biblical studies. Among her books were many volumes in French literature, including the works of her favorite French author, Marcel Proust, and the signed works of the “Lost Generation” writer, her friend “Dos,” John dos Passos.

In her 90’s, to express her love of VCU and passsion for the relationship of religion and the arts, Powell decided to establish an endowment to support lectures and events on religion and the arts. As she had attended the classes in religion taught by Cliff Edwards, Ph.D., and had herself delivered similar lectures, she asked that the endowment be placed in the Religious Studies Program and be named the Powell-Edwards Fund for Religion and the Arts. Powell lived to attend the inaugural lecture by the famous sculptor, Elizabeth King, at VCU and enjoyed the celebration of the beginning of the Powell-Edwards lectures.  

Cliff Edwards: A Brief Biography

Cliff Edwards is Professor of Religious Studies in the School of World Studies of the College of Humanities and Sciences of Virginia Commonwealth University. His undergraduate degree is from Drew University, Masters in Theology from Garrett Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. in the History and Literature of Religions from Northwestern University. Professor Edwards studied as a Dempster Fellow at the University of Strasbourg in France, and the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland. He participated in archaeological excavations at Gezer in Palestine and studied at the Hebrew Union School of Bible and Archaeology in Jerusalem. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and has been a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University in England. Through a “Great Religions Fund” fellowship he spent a year at the Daitokuji Zen Temple in Kyoto, Japan, under the direction of Zen Master Kobori Sohaku and Kyudo master hiraki-sensei. Currently he teaches courses in Japanese Zen Buddhism, Biblical Studies, and Religion and the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.

He is the author of several books on a variety of subjects, including Christian Being and Doing (Abingdon Press, 1965), Everything Under Heaven (Mercer University Press, 1979), and Issa: The Story of a Poet-Priest (Macmillan Ltd., 1985) In the field of religion and the arts he has authored four books on the religious quest of Vincent van Gogh, including Van Gogh and God (Loyola Univ. Press, 1989), The Shoes of Van Gogh (Crossroad Publishing, 2004) and its Korean translation (Solbook, 2005), and Mystery of the Night Café (SUNY Press, 2009). He has published several book chapters in religion and the arts, numerous articles on religion in a variety of journals, and thirty articles on Buddhism in the Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions (1981). Currently Dr. Edwards is preparing a work titled Van Gogh’s Mystery Paintings and a book on the haiku titled The Haiku Way to Enlightenment. He continues his years of service on the editorial board of Menorah Review, and regularly provides book reviews for that journal.

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