“All Art is Outreach” – Notes from an Arts Ministry Workshop

Screenshot 2017-07-12 at 9.44.55 PM
Naomi Lawrence, “Magnolia”

Day 28 of my 30-day writing challenge

All of the churches in my denomination make worship music a priority, but a few are also known for their innovative uses of other art forms, such as dance, sculpture, film, and mixed media. This afternoon, a few artists from one such congregation led a workshop for those interested in incorporating spoken word and live painting into their public events, whether a special Sunday service or an event outside the church walls.

The spoken word artist, a young woman named Franklynn, talked about God working through her feelings of inadequacy and inexperience, and providing her with the opportunities to grow, perform, and touch others through her work. She offered a few resources that help her find inspiration – RhymeZone, and Hosanna Poetry among them – as well outlining her process. She tends to start by writing her emotions first, and only worries about the technical aspects – structure, rhyme – during the revision process. She emphasized the importance of connecting with the audience and practicing both writing and performance, but also of knowing that God can work through anyone as long as the person is willing.

The second artist, Jessie, focused on live art: art created in front of an audience, often in conjunction with or in response to other art forms, such as a painter responding to a spoken word piece or music. She stressed that just because something is live does not mean it is done without planning and practice. Whatever you do, do it well, and consider your audience. What symbols will they respond to? Is your work accessible to the general public, as well as to churchgoers? Who are your partners – the people who are praying, brainstorming, setting up, inviting their friends?

Jessie also offered theological reflection on the role of the Christian artist. She reminded us that although we don’t often think of art and outreach together, all art is outreach, unless you’re the only one seeing or hearing it. Art transcends culture; it speaks to people’s emotions and wounds. She advised artists not to worry about getting their paintings in a show or poems published — not that you shouldn’t try to do those things, but you are creating art first and foremost for God, in partnership with the Holy Spirit. And God is the best possible audience, not to mention the widest possible publisher. He will create opportunities for your work to have an impact. Finally, she recommended a book that she said every artist should read: Finding Divine Inspiration, by J. Scott McElroy.

You can find Jessie and the VineArts ministry at http://vineartsboise.org/.

Franklynn does not have a web address, but you can find one of her spoken word performances online. Just go to Facebook and do a search for Vineyard Boise Franklynn.

Naomi Lawrence, the creator of “Magnolia,” is a Christian artist living in East Harlem, where her husband is the pastor of Church of the Living Hope. She creates large-scale yarn flowers, both individually and collaboratively, to beautify neglected public spaces in her neighborhood, offering them as a gift to the community.

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