Steve and Linda Voita: Evangelizing through art

712
Steve and Linda Voita, seen here in front of their artwork at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, view their art as a form of evangelization. (Courtesy of Fr. Steve Kunkel)
Catholic Church Art

Catholic artists Steve and Linda Voita are committed to visually enhancing the Church in a way that honors her and, ultimately brings people closer to Christ.

MORE INFORMATION

Linda Voita remembers the day a couple walked into the Voita Gallery in Scottsdale and admired a $5,000 painting her husband created depicting the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steve Voita, never shy about sharing his faith, asked if the couple was Catholic. The woman said she attended Mass every Sunday but that she couldn’t get her husband to go. “He watches football,” she said. Steve confronted the man and told him, “I’ll sell you this painting for $1,200 on one condition: You have to attend Mass every Sunday for a year.” The man agreed on the spot and his wife, said Linda, was overjoyed.

“Steve tells people, ‘God brought you to us,’” Linda said. “He doesn’t care about being politically correct.” Throughout the years, the couple, both trained at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, Canada, have used their artistic talents to spread the Gospel.

Linda, in the midst of her first year teaching art at St. Mary’s High School, said she sees a number of her students who may one day follow the path that she and Steve have trod as they share an eye for beauty and a gift for bringing it to life in churches across the Diocese of Phoenix.

This 14-by-5-foot stained-glass window depicting the moment when St. Thomas is invited to touch Christ’s wounds was commissioned by St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. Steve Voita created the artwork using a new method for creating stained-glass windows that uses aluminum instead of lead. (Courtesy of Steve and Linda Voita)

Steve, who once created art for the Fiesta Bowl, furniture companies and other commercial enterprises, attributed his career as a Catholic artist to an answer to prayer. The father of five sons said he prayed to God to help him find work as an artist so he could support his family and his church.

“Boom! I’ve worked for the Church ever since,” Steve said. In gratitude, he began inscribing “AMDG” — Latin words meaning “For the greater glory of God” — at the bottom of all his paintings. Linda, he said, is intertwined in all his work.

From a mural at St. Timothy Parish that depicts 30 saints and the second coming of Christ to the San Luis Rey Mission in California to a more recent mural and ceiling at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and work at several other parishes, Steve and Linda have spread grace through art but are quick to give all the credit to God.

They no longer own the gallery in Scottsdale. “Art that hangs in a gallery is decoration,” Steve said. “But art that hangs in a church is working art. It’s part of God’s way of telling people He is the way, the truth and the life.” Someone who prays in an adoration chapel or church may be moved by their artwork, Steve said, but it is God who touches the heart.

Beyond the wielding of brushes and paints, there’s a lot of heavy lifting. Steve has been described as a Renaissance man by some. He not only paints, he does drywall and plumbing, too.

“You can’t be scared of heights,” Steve said. “You have to be able to get up there.” At St. Thomas, the ceiling is a re-creation of a church ceiling in Rome that features brilliant blue and gold hues. He and Linda removed and restored pews as they did their work, toiling away atop scaffolding outside of the hours when Masses, baptisms and confessions took place, often late into the night.

Steve came up with a way to create stained-glass window art that’s far less expensive — and more expressive — for parishes. The method involves using aluminum rather than lead. “You don’t have to put rebar in it, so you can have more free-flowing designs,” Steve said.

Steve Voita paints the mural behind the tabernacle at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. (Courtesy of Steve and Linda Voita)

Fr. Steve Kunkel, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, described Steve as not just an artist, but an engineer.

“Steve does everything,” Fr. Kunkel said. “He can paint anything. … He fixes anything, like our tabernacle door. He repaired and painted the church roof line.”

“I consider myself a blue-collar artist,” Steve said. “I’m like the maintenance guy — not the wine-and-cheese guy.” His work, he said, has a singular focus:

“I try to help Catholic priests spread the Gospel and add as much beauty to the sanctuary as possible.”

Linda thinks back to the myriad projects the couple has embraced through the years and holds up humility.

“God uses us in spite of our ridiculousness to create something more than we are,” Linda said. “If we have been able to do these things, I don’t feel like it’s us. This is how I know there is a God — He can use us with our flaws and failings.”