Artwork can bring people closer to God and deepen their religious experience when they worship.

That's the idea behind Great Commission Artists, a new group whose members create various forms of artwork -- from pottery to sculpture to paintings -- for their churches. The group will hold its first seminar on March 3 at the Bloomington Arts Center.

"Human beings are drawn to creative and beautiful things," said Marianne McDonough, who founded the group. "And I think that's because God has put it inside of us to be drawn to him. The arts can be something that draws people to Christ, to the knowledge of God."

McDonough said she wanted to form the group so religious artists can come together periodically to exchange ideas and support each other's work in the church. She says about 40 artists throughout Minnesota are involved in the group, which is nondenominational and open to anyone interested in participating.

Artists from Lutheran, Presbyterian and other Protestant faiths have already signed up.

The daylong seminar will feature a keynote address by Steve Nesheim of artREACH Today, a ministry geared toward artists, and musician Jane Horn of St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Bloomington.

The Great Commission Artists plans to hold two more seminars this year. One will be a "painting collaborative" led by Wisconsin watercolorist Paul Oman in July and a "juried exhibit related to the Psalms" in September, McDonough said.

McDonough, who attends Westwood Community Church in Chanhassen, is an artist herself -- a writer and choreographer. She teaches worship arts seminars. From those she also produces the "In the Beauty of Holiness" DVD series, designed to encourage interest in the arts, she says.

"We want churches to hunger for that [art] and encourage their artists to come forth," McDonough said. "To find new things and new ways to bring forth those gifts."

Rose French • 612-673-4352