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A Journey into the Art & Spirit of
William Hart McNichols

Directed and Produced by Christopher Summa
Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes

Film Synopsis:
William Hart McNichols is a world renowned artist, heralded by Time magazine as “among the most famous creators of Christian iconic images in the world”. As a young Catholic priest from 1983-1990 he was immersed in a life-altering journey working as a chaplain at St. Vincent’s AIDS hospice in New York city. It was during this time that he became an early pioneer for LGBT rights within the Catholic church. He would speak out in the national news as well as work closely with the founding members of DIGNITY/USA. In 1990 he was called out of the city and into the desert of New Mexico where he began a six-year apprenticeship to master the ancient art of painting icons. For the past 25 years he has received non-stop commissions for his work and has never signed his name to a single icon. All of his works hang anonymously in churches and colleges around the world, including the Vatican Museum. Born into the most powerful political family in the history of Colorado, McNichols colorful life has crossed paths with both presidents and popes, peace activists and martyrs. His imagery possesses a sensuality that is both beautiful and provocative and his subjects include individuals from all different faiths, Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Jewish. His message as a priest, artist and man speaks to the most powerful element of the human spirit: Mercy.


"A heartfelt look at one of the great Christian artists of our age."
James Martin, SJ
Best-selling author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

"Summa’s film offers a series of portraits that drip with startling intimacy as they examine the many lives McNichols has lived in (and outside of) his art, as well the philosophies that inform them."
The Denver Post

"Award-winning filmmaker Christopher Summa presents McNichols' story and his work with bold cinematic life, making for a tremendously hypnotic and transforming experience."
Rutgers Church NY

Director's Statement:

The title "The Boy Who Found Gold" was inspired by the early martyrs of the church who died in Rome between the 1st and 3rd centuries. Many of them were 10 to 14 years old, Tarcisius, Pancratius, Agnes. They each had something unique in their hearts, the courage to live and die for what they believed - to me that is the Gold. It's the individual willing to step out of the crowd of cowards, to stand with the least of their brothers. The Gold embodies the essence of spiritual strength, the moment when to the outside world you appear to have nothing, but inside your soul you actually have everything. 

I made the conscious decision as a filmmaker that I would stick soley to McNichols' voice and truth, my conviction being his prayers and stories had enough gunpowder in them to carry the entire film. The courage of his heart and artistic gifts that are shared represent to me a historic document of both humanity and faith, one rooted in perseverance. I knew in my soul this was the film that needed to be shared, something bare and singular, like an icon. This also meant sticking to my own truth, which was that I had become an "Icon Pilgrim", traveling thru Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California visiting these sacred images. The greatest gift I could give the viewer would be to get out of the way and let them make this pilgrimage their own. 

We begin this story in the year 1990, McNichols is age 40, he is unable to pray and unable to feel anything. He is climbing out of the wreckage of a great aftermath that was New York city in the 1980s. It's in his rebirth into the ancient art of iconography that we get to share in his spiritual transformation. We see mercy in action, we see an expression of God's Will that speaks to all people and as he captures the presence of every soul he paints, we realize something else: that this is the edge-point of faith. This is The Boy Who Found Gold.