Art Paves the Way through Closed Country
A short time ago, I had the opportunity to travel to a closed country in Asia and witness incredible advances in the hearts and minds of young artists. On one hand, I could chat with many local university-level art students – there is such an opportunity to come alongside these young adults faced with deciding how to handle the pressures of studying in such an achievement-driven society. We talked about art, relationships, the meaning of life, love! etc. I reflected on how, in my life, so often I can easily fall into the trap of basing how I feel about myself or perceive my worth solely based on the approval – or disdain – of society. So many people I talked to have been taught that the major things in life are, well, things; you are only “somebody” if you have an excess of money, a nice car, fancy house and the like. As artists, it’s about how much money you can make or the prestigious job you can land, how much fame you can gain, if you can push the envelope in such a way that shocks the audience or evokes an emotional response that will cause people to follow you. What a frustrating path to follow, to base one’s efforts on these things! I think it was mutually refreshing to talk about such matters and be reminded that there are greater things to life.
We can speak messages of truth through artistic means, value others through our art, and create in a way that transcends the material at hand.
See, as artists, we are to be communicators, relaters, creators. We can speak messages of truth through artistic means, value others through our art, and create in a way that transcends the material at hand. In the university I shared at, after discussing a certain artistic movement geared at uplifting communities and advocating for those in need, I met a musician who was classically training in the country’s most renowned instrument. We had the chance to brainstorm ideas together, including the possibility of her going to orphanages and playing music for the children – her eyes lit up at the idea! That’s just it, isn’t it? It adds a certain level of joy to be able to use what you have for the benefit of others; instead of pursuing making a name for ourselves, it’s when we can make a contribution to the well-being of others that more-so exemplifies greatness.
So, that was one thing. The other amazing opportunity I had in Asia was the chance to run an Art Evangelists School (AES) Seminar, an arts seminar with a focus on sharing the gospel through visual arts. As the event drew near, I had an image in mind of local artists standing in a line, heads hung in shame, hands behind their backs. I took the image to mean that it was the artists of that country who were somehow ashamed and insecure, and were hiding their art behind their backs. However, there was one figure who stood in the middle of the line; this figure held its hands out open and releasing colourful swirls of creativity and art! This same figure broke the ground with a step forward and brought blessing to those around it by sharing its creative gift!
I saw that vision come alive with the AES Seminar. For twelve days we hosted three students and covered many topics, aiming to open up the pathways for creativity and God’s spirit to pour forth through visual arts. One student, before the seminar started, shared that she really didn’t believe she was creative and felt challenged in how to be. After the first two days, though, her perspective had totally changed! She had started learning how to see herself through God’s eyes. “I had so much creativity coming out in that [project] and I’ve found I am creative! I found joy and enjoyment in art, and new ways for sharing the Gospel.” I witnessed the metaphorical swirls of colour come from these students’ hands as they drew portraits for strangers, gave encouraging messages through hand-painted cards, and sought to glorify God through their respective creative process! Each of us grew in our capacity to experience God through creativity and portray his truth through artistic means, and I believe the artists of the country are being molded into his image!