“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)


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.
Tuesday, 22 June 2021 19:53

'Artistic Dynamos' : The Cultural Ripples of Artists

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At the end of last year, a new book became available that explores the effects artists have on communities. Author Brian Schrag released Artistic Dynamos: An Ethnography on Music in Central African Kingdoms, exploring the idea of the artist as energizer.

Dr. Schrag graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from Brown University. He is married to Barb, and together they have three grown children: Mindy, Austin, and Lydia. He continued his education to receive a master’s degree in Intercultural Studies and Ethnomusicology from Wheaton and later his PhD in Ethnomusicology from UCLA. He and Barb have served oversees with Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International. They now reside in Texas, where Dr. Schrag founded the Center for Excellence in World Arts (CEWA) at Dallas International University.

Dr. Schrag was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease in 2008. Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a hereditary brain disorder that affects physical, cognitive, and emotional functions. He has since become active in helping others who live with HD, drawing on his and others’ artistry to bring both humor and encouragement into their lives.

In Artistic Dynamos, Dr. Schrag paints a picture of arts in Central Africa as seen through the eyes of a new discipline taught at CEWA and a few other places: ethnoarts. Collaborating with such individuals as Ferdinand Doumtsop with the Association for the Promotion of Ngiemboon Culture and the dance group DAKASTUM, he analyzes the underlying influences and beliefs that lead to powerful effects of artistry within their communities. From this, he offers new insights on how we might view and engage with artists and their arts.

In particular, Dr. Schrag looks at the potential ripple effects that artists can have within their communities. A ‘dynamo’ is a machine that uses both stable and rotating magnets to produce an electric current. This current can be used to power anything to which it is connected. Dr. Schrag takes this idea and applies it to arts-invigorated cultural energy within a community. In the same way that a moving magnet can produce an electrical current when placed in the right conditions, an artist can cause ripples of energy and flourishing within their communities. Because of their unique perspective, penchant for creativity, and ability to draw from and influence societal trends, artists have the potential to speak life into their communities in ways others cannot.

Seeing artists wield their gifts with even more positive impact requires first identifying a community’s unique dynamos—the energy-producing interactions between stable and less-predictable artistry and cultural elements. Based on this research, we work alongside local artists as they inject malleable artistry into stable artistic and cultural structures. ‘Dynamo’ refers both to energy-producing cultural interactions and the artists who amplify this energy.

Dr. Schrag offers a wealth of research, knowledge, and reflection in Artistic Dynamos. He writes, “Artistic Dynamos explains how all communities can use arts to flourish...at least I'm pretty certain of it. You can help me find out for sure by testing the Artistic Dynamo concept in a context you know.” Artistic Dynamos is neither a lying-on-the-beach read nor a dry academic tome. It weaves ethnographic and artistic research, stories, and guidance on how artists can help communities look more like Heaven into an unexpected, playful fusion.

To find out more about Artistic Dynamos, visit the website here. To see more of Dr. Schrag's work with HD, visit makelifehd.org or hdblues.org. For more of his writing, music, and art work, visit brianatplay.com.

Last modified on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 21:08