Powell-Edwards Lecture Series for Religion and the Arts

The Powell-Edwards Lecture Series for Religion and the Arts, established through generous gifts within the Religious Studies Program at VCU in 2008, aims 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. The most recent lecture, "The Intimate Letters of Van Gogh," featured Cliff Edwards, Ph.D.

The lectures are free and open to the public.

Cliff Edwards, Ph.D.

cliff edwards delivering a lecture from behind a podium next to a van gogh painting
Cliff Edwards, Ph.D., presented "The Intimate Letters of Van Gogh" in 2019.

Cliff Edwards, Ph.D., is emeritus professor of religious studies in the VCU School of World Studies. His undergraduate degree is from Drew University, master's in theology from Garrett Theological Seminary, and doctorate 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 VCU.

Marcia Powell

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 80s, she continued to teach French to senior citizens at the Shepherd’s Center and Open University of Richmond. 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 years. For 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 90s, 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.