In last week’s post, Nurturing Faith & Art in the Church – What Are We Afraid Of?, I talked about the importance of churches to not be afraid of encouraging and engaging with art. I asked the question, “Can the Church nurture good art and be open to art and artists that not only support and reinforce our beliefs but also gives space to challenges, doubts and questions?” I tried to demonstrate that we need to answer that question in the affirmative if we are honestly going to embrace life and the orientation and disorientation we all go through. Today’s post want to take the discussion about churches nurturing and encourage art one step further.
If we’re going to nurture good art, then we must nurture good artists.
I had never really thought about this idea much until I went to a local panel discussion organized by my good friend, Jeff Richards and his WordHouse ministry. This panel was centered around discussing faith and art and there were a few artists in attendance. When the time for Q&A came along, one of the artists asked a question about artist care and how churches and faith communities might tend to the emotional and spiritual needs of artists. He talked about how when we ask artists to create art we are also asking them to tap into emotional and spiritual areas of life that can be inspiring yet also dark and depressing. Is a church willing to embark in artist care to help artists navigate the emotional and spiritual territory we may ask them to travel?
I was floored that I had never even considered this and was challenged by the very idea. Honestly, whenever I had thought about getting art and artists in the church I had mostly thought of helping meet their financial needs which would then in turn help meet their other needs. I had never really considered the inner struggles we may ask them to go through to create art. Creating art is never a straightforward process and an artist can start, stop, restart, create and destroy many pieces and parts of a project before arriving at a final product they are proud of. I know that when I create something, I have a hard time accepting when it is done. Sometimes a photograph needs a little more editing or a blog post a few more words of clarity. It can be hard to know when something is done and, when we have shared it openly, we often still wish we had added or subtracted something else. The Bible even tells us that God had some struggles as an artist when his grand creation did not turn out as he expected.
The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken.
Genesis 6:5-6 (CEB)
Creating art can be a stressful and heartbreaking process. Even after the art is created, the artist may not be completely happy with his creation. Also, the art then is often critiqued by others and can regularly be negative in nature. How hard must it be for an artist who has poured out his heart and creativity in paint on a canvas to hear each negative word or nit-picky statement about their creation? Or, a sculptor who has seen and created a form where there previously was none hear a remark about how a child could do something similar?
Creating art can be an emotionally draining, depressing and spiritually deflating experience. If the church is going to nurture good art, we must be willing to support artists not only financially but be willing and able to care for their souls. Artists’ souls that we ask to delve into the depths of emotion, faith, doubt and spirituality to create something where there once was nothing. Artists’ souls that are exposed on canvas, clay or other mediums are laid bare for people to say and do with as they please. If we’re going to nurture good art, then we must nurture good artists by caring for their hearts and souls. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he writes,
Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ…So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.
Galatians 6:2 & 10 (CEB)
We as a church would do well to help the artists we invite to create art by helping carry their burdens. A sort of spiritual direction for artists would be a good ministry in any church that looks to nurture faith and art together. Artist care can (and probably should) be a ministry that is not overlooked. This could include worship directors, band members, graphic designers, visual and even digital artists should not be overlooked. Wherever creation is done in your church, there is probably an artist of some kind behind it.
Does your church support artists financially? Do they also uniquely support them emotionally and spiritually? How could we meet the emotional and spiritual needs of artists better? What could your church do?
Please share on your chosen social media platform and keep the discussion going.