How the Church Can Embrace Artists and the Arts, Part II
- Thursday, October 29, 2009
In Part One of this article I asked, "How can we open up our churches and our minds so that more people can get involved in the creative process, yet continue to raise the quality of our art (painting, music, dance, sculpture, etc)?"
It's an important question, and in just addressing it we'll move closer to the proper place of the arts in the church.
There are a number of reasons why more protestant churches haven't embraced the arts. Many pastors and leaders, while witnessing the influence of the arts on the culture, are not aware of the vital role in the maturing of the body of Christ the arts have (see the blog post "Arts and the Maturity of the Church") or how effective the arts can be in conveying God's messages to their communities. If they do grasp that, more questions come up… "How do you find quality Christian artists who will get involved or contribute", "What happens if someone gets offended because we don't want to use their art?", or "How do we deal with the people who say God told them to make something, yet it doesn't appear to be up to a displayable standard?".
I believe part of the answer to these questions is in creating a system in our churches to nurture and encourage creativity. The Vineyard Boise "VineArts" program does a wonderful job with this, providing training, encouragement and opportunity for all skill levels. Another church in Pennsylvania, Living Word, provides affinity groups for artists at different levels of skill and experience. There might be a group where people exploring their creativity can grow, an intermediate group of those with some experience, and a group for working professional artists. As artists grow they can move through that system.
People of all artistic skills levels can get involved in outreach and ministries, like nursing home performances and exhibits. Artists at the Boise church use the arts to show compassion to alzheimers patients. Many who have lost their ability to express themselves verbally can spend an afternoon experiencing the freedom of expression that painting can offer. By facilitating this, the artists give a wonderful gift to the patient and their family. The patient's work is framed and presented to the family, providing an unexpected thing of beauty in the middle of the struggle and strain of the disease. This is one of the many ways that the arts can uniquely convey the love of God to our communities.
A way to keep the quality of work shown or performed in your church high is to have juried exhibitions and events. Works that pass a jury might be displayed in your public areas or become part of a permanent collection. The jurors can be anonymous—not the pastor!—people like art teachers and art professionals, possibly from outside your congregation. This way people know that anyone is welcome to make art, but you have to go through the jury process to have your work hung or performed in these areas. If you don't make it this time, keep trying. This kind of system can cut down on personal offences and set a standard. It also facilitates a way to disciple artists and help them grow. When an artist doesn't pass the jury, we can encourage them to separate what they do from their identity as a person, as well as come to grips with the fact that not everything they create is meant to be displayed. Going through these kinds of processes develops character and patience.
And for those who aren't ready for the jury process, or are exploring their creativity, you might design a gallery that is not juried and open to all, with paintings or works displayed in a uniform, professional matter for a set length of time. This openness and inclusion will have a wonderful effect on budding artists and their church communities.
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