“It was the first time I realized that painting could capture the Word of God, speak into people’s lives and give me the opportunity to share my faith.”

Janice T. (Alliance & Short-term team member)

BLOG

Every day all around the globe, artists on mission are creating, cultivating, and contributing in their communities. As they seek to see their art used in the work the Lord is doing, we want to share their stories to encourage and inspire.
This blog is a place to read those stories, giving you a glimpse into how the Lord is using the arts around the world.
Monday, 05 June 2023 23:14

Embracing the Visual Arts

Rate this item
(0 votes)

In April, one of our Artist Mentors was able to go on a trip to Southeast Europe. Read below about his experience and the way the Lord worked in the hearts of the artists there!

Have you ever wondered how new communities of Christ followers worship? Imagine a missionary or other intentional worker beginning to share his or her faith in a community. One of the first things they do is to start translating the Scriptures into the dialect of the community they are working in. Not only does this create a way for the people to begin to understand the basic truth of the Gospel, but it also creates a sense that “God knows me and speaks my language.”

What happens when the community begins to understand how God loves and treasures them and wishes to know them deeply? How do those people express their devotion and worship toward God?  Often, the default is to take American or other Western worship songs and hymns and try to translate them into the local language. The trouble with this approach is that these songs, which are beautiful and meaningful to us in our culture, do not transfer into the new church's culture, language, musical styles, and cultural setting. Inspiro Arts Alliance has recognised the powerful change that local communities of Jesus followers experience when they are encouraged, empowered, and trained to write their own songs of worship and praise. “Not only does God speak my language, but He hears and sings my own heart music, too!”

An OM team has worked for many years in an area of Southeast Europe that is predominantly (95%) Muslim. This can be seen in the many mosques in every city and heard through the sound of the Call to Prayer, which rings out five times a day from their minarets. As the OM team has worked with the small Christian communities that have begun to grow in the area, they recognised the need to encourage these small church fellowships to take ownership of creating their own authentic, meaningful, culturally appropriate, locally written praise and worship music. They have organised several songwriting workshops over the past several years; some focused on specific themes like Christmas or children’s music. Some of these songs have already been recorded and distributed and are being used as a part of the growing worship life of these churches.

This year, as the team prepared for the upcoming workshop/retreat, the question arose: “What would happen if we added other art forms (specifically, the visual arts) into the mix?” All art forms find their source in storytelling. How could these different forms – music and the visual arts – mingle and inform each other? I had worked with several of the members of the OM team and had been there previously on a short-term project, so it made sense for the team to invite me, even though it was on short notice! After praying over the idea and considering that we all had little idea of what to expect, I decided to pack up my bags and art materials and head to Europe!

I have seen from many artists who live out of a deep relationship with Jesus that they are often bewildered as to how to authentically use their art and creativity to express their faith and hope. There is a common expectation in the church that “Christian art” must flow out of a well-understood, commonly used, often literally Scripture-based set of symbols, metaphors, and archetypes—the “crosses, doves, and rainbows” tropes we so often see repeated in church foyer decorations and social media memes. There has to be a lamb, blood, an altar, radiant light, or a person on his knees with his hands raised.

But, as true and beautiful as these symbols have been in our culture in the past, how do they relate to the messy, sometimes dark and painful complexity of our lived experience? When we find ourselves broken and weary, stuck in the muck and slime of the world around us, the Holy Spirit may not feel close by, but does our faith tells us that He is still there? As artists, how do we dream and create in a genuine, authentic and meaningful way so that the world around us can envision the mystery of what it means to live out the Gospel by faith?

So, we opened our bright little room at the conference centre and loaded it with art supplies to create a space to work through some of the mystery. Some of the musicians who had initially come to craft songs decided to join our space to add their own visions of reconciliation and healing through their identity in Christ.

Pictures began to emerge as our handful of visual artists began to wrestle with these questions. One artist saw her tears watering the garden of her life. Another saw the simple beauty of a small child. Another began to see the ruins left by war, conflict and hatred start to come to life. Our creative process was still messy – both literally and figuratively. However, art seems to thrive in this kind of atmosphere where artists are honestly wrestling with the mystery around them.

In the end, the hope we saw was that the long-term impact of our experiment in dropping a handful of visual artists into the middle of a project centred around worship would be less about the couple dozen paintings and drawings created that weekend, and more in a growing body of artists who understand their identity as creatives centred on the many ways that the Father speaks the Gospel of Light and Life into our imagination. That Light will form them into people who understand how the Father speaks beauty through their art into the world around them.

Some of the pieces created can be seen below:

ChuckKosovo1

ChuckKosovo3Resized

ChuckKosovo4Resized

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 July 2023 18:08
More in this category: « Joy Creating Something New »