Intersections 2013: Reflections

Intersections2013-26We just had our latest Intersections: Faith and the Arts Conference this last weekend, and I have been ruminating over the dozens of significant conversations and lectures and artistic expressions I experienced ever since.  This once-a-year gathering of artists of faith continues to impress me, and impress upon me.  Here are a few thoughts from the conference, in no particular order.

Artists were meant to live in community

Interestingly, artists are like normal human beings in that we were designed to be in community. One of the best things about this conference is that it is not just a meeting of artists, but more so about the creating and nurturing of relationships between artists. There are quite a number of friendships and connections that have been built over the course of these last five years of conferences, and it’s local focus has resulted in artistic collaboration and deep friendships among many of us. As one person coined, we are “The Bezelites,” and we intrinsically feel the kinship that comes with being fellow artists of faith. (By the way, “Bezelite” is a fun word to say.)

Intersections2013-23I am struck once again by the diversity of the Arts.

Similar to previous conferences, we had the usual diversity of artistic disciplines—dance, music, filmmaking, theater, visual and literary arts. But this year, I was also struck by the diversity with which God is using the arts.  From Tiffany Paige sharing her experiences working with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to Derek Martin sharing his vision for the newly formed Creative Arts Program at William Jessup University.  From the many stories I am hearing of the arts being manifested out in the world marketplace—in local community theater, in secular art galleries and midtown art walks, and even in clubs and open mics where people are performing. From the diverse expressions of the arts that are beginning to manifest itself within the walls of the church—Christian Youth Theater programs, art galleries and open studios, and even quality film. No doubt about it, it’s an exciting time to be an artist of faith.

Intersections2013-28Artists are passionate about excellence of expression.

There were quite a number of conversations about the quality of “Christian arts” (e.g., Christian film, Christian painting, Christian music), and how there is quite a communal distaste for art that is cliche, derivative, propaganda-based, dishonest, and mediocre.  I think this is a healthy sign.  The general view that everyone seemed to agree with is that if our art is to make a difference in the world, it must be art that can stand on the merit of its quality, and not simply its spirituality.  And really, art that is excellent inherently glorifies God.

Intersections2013-41The dialogue seems different now.  Five years ago, much of our discussion revolved around asking the question, “Am I an artist?” And while we are still asking that question on deeper levels, I think the conversations have evolved.  More and more, we talk about how God is using our art, or furthering our art, or manifesting our art.  We are talking about questions of execution and relevance and honesty in our art. We talk about how we can work together to do art together.  Once again, it’s an exciting time to be an artist of faith.

Artists are passionate about God.

During the conference, there seemed to me to be an overall meta-narrative that held every conversation together, and it was this: God is doing something in us, through us, and sometimes even in spite of us.  But God is doing something with our art.  In the inspiration, in the execution, in the circumstance, in the dialogue between art and audience. And there is an overall expectation that He will continue to do so.

I’ll say it again. It’s an exciting time to be an artist of faith.

Intersections2013-56A Special Thanks…

Thank you to the many volunteers from the many churches who were involved (especially the team of artists from Oak Hills Church—you’re the best!).  Thank you to the many people who contributed a word of encouragement, challenge, and wisdom to our on-going dialogue.  And thank you to our God for being our Creator, our Inspirer, and Redeemer.

Intersections2013-57[Photos: (1) Derek Martin, Director of the Creative Arts Program at William Jessup University; (2) Michelle Alias and Kayla Krogh of the professional Christian dance company, Pneuma Movement, present “The Imposter,” choreographed by Kelly Archer; (3) Tiffany Paige, Director of ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimers, delivers an moving and inspiring speech; (4) Ryan Harbert and Owen Smith perform an excerpt from “Greater Tuna,” a production of the Green Valley Theatre in Sacramento; (5) Jazz pianist extraordinaire Jim Martinez shares some stories and music; (6) Producers Alan Koshiyama and Kevin Haskin share a clip from their independent full-feature film, “I Was Broken.”]

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11 thoughts on “Intersections 2013: Reflections

  1. Manuel, I attended my first Christian Writers’ Conference in 1978. (I returned as an instructor to that same conference in 1979.) In 1978 there were still people arguing that Christians should not write fiction because fiction “is a lie.” When my first novel won critical acclaim in 1990 reviewers were either pleased or surprised that a Christian novel could be “realistic.” Certainly we have progressed since 1990, and more so since 1978, but we have a long way to go, and yes, He will see us to the finish. In my opinion, what the Christian artist lacks in comparison to secular artists, is resiliency and commitment. Too often, Christians believe God will give them a short-cut because they are Christians, when in fact, the road is usually tougher and longer for the Christian artist for the simple reason that “the spirit of the world” is against us. To succeed we must first be determined not to yield to that spirit, and secondly, we must make it past all the obstacles the world (and many of our religious brothers) place in front of us. Running that gauntlet is designed to refine us, cause us to die to self, and hopefully, produce and reveal excellence in our craft. And bless you, for what you do in these endeavors.

  2. Manuel, thank you & Oak Hills Church for hosting this wonderful event-inspiring, challenging, touching. I only hope you meant ‘latest’ NOT ‘last!’

  3. Is there a way of connecting artists from various parts of the country? Our art group is just a “baby” and we need to glean from others what helps/inspires them to do all that God has in mind for “Bezelites”…Some of us need skills honed, some are there but need vision/direction…that can only happen in a bigger community…since we are varied in our artistic talents. Did you talk about how to connect with others in your area?….

    I’ve grown a bit discouraged…not knowing what path we are to take and wondering if the vision will ever take root and live. (Our group seems to be getting smaller…which means that we are fizzling out…without vision the people….disappear.) We need God to move in our hearts but sometimes that takes someone else who is on fire to kindle the flame in our hearts!

    1. Hi Carla. I understand your discouragement, though I hope you can see beyond your present circumstances and fulfill the vision God has given you.

      If I might ask a few rhetorical questions. What is your vision for your arts community, and how are you instilling that vision to your people? How are you, as a leader of artists, encouraging and empowering and championing those to do their art? Have you reached out to the various worship pastors and other arts leaders in your area? What areas of influence do you have outside of the church that you can take advantage of? Have you considered taking a group of your artists to an arts conference outside of your area?

      God bless you as you continue to follow your heart and ascertain God’s will.

      1. 1) Vision: to see creative people (who often don’t know where they fit in the Church community/Kingdom) find A) a connection with the Creator through their creativity, B) a connection to others of like mind and C) a connection to those “out there” who may not desire to step inside a church building. All to reveal more of Jesus Christ.

        2) How am I instilling that? Good question. That’s why I’ve been searching for ideas. We have met and discussed, prayed some…but sometimes it seems that it is turning into more of a social club than a place to find His presence in creativity. I don’t claim to be a good leader (more of a reluctant one…shhhh….I’m an introvert).

        3) “Me championing?” I don’t see myself as a woman of great influence…but I see a God who is! I encourage these creative people with their art…but we seem to have lost….I think that the group is dying out unless God intervenes. (We’re very small.) Part of that is that it is difficult to share the vision that God has put in my heart (it’s been building for many years).

        4)I have reached out to the worship pastor in our (large) church. I think he is sort of for it, but we haven’t seen much forward progress. Perhaps I need to revisit….(stepping out of my comfort zone again here)…

        5) Areas outside of the church….? Hmmmm…I have been raising children for 25+ years our youngest is 17 so my things are changing… I don’t have a lot of influence outside of church (unless you count the influence I have on F.B.) :)

        The conference idea is a good one, not sure who would come…esp. if there is much of a cost since many of those who meet are not that well funded….but it is a great idea.

        Those are my answers….to your rhetorical questions. :^)

      2. Carla, your transparency is wonderful and appreciated.

        If I were you, I might foster a relationship with your worship pastor. Learn about what he is passionate about, what his vision for the church is, where you can support him, and find out where your vision for the arts aligns with his vision. You can share some articles or chapters from books (like mine) with him, and offer to discuss them with him. Eventually, you can offer to have someone paint during services, or do a one-time art gallery, or have some other use of the arts that can work within the church. Leadership is an issue of trust, both to the people you lead and the people who lead you. So build trust with him and be his ally.

        I have a great number of people in my life for whom we partner in the arts, both in and out of the church walls. I trust them, both artistically and personally. Many times I lead them, but sometimes they lead me. We are allies in the arts. And I am fortunate to be able to call them my friends.

        Its no surprise that the church can sometime distrust the arts/artists. Hundreds of years of bad theology paired with dealings with snooty artist types and lots of bad art along the way. I know you said that part of your vision is creating a connection with those “out there” who may not desire to be in a church building. But part of our calling is to make the church a place where the arts (and artists) are again encouraged and celebrated and discipled. God bless you as you seek His calling.

  4. Hi Manuel,
    Great to read about the exciting and encouraging things you are doing. Hope to bump into you again in these artistic circles we roam in.
    Blessings,
    from Jill
    Vancouver, Canada

  5. Manuel,
    Thanks for a job well done. This was my third year and Lonna’s second (she was out of town last year and couldn’t attend) and each year it gets better. We love that each year you arrange a program that is different and stimulating. I have been thinking about the things I learned and I’ve decided that each piano I tune can be a work of art if my attitude is directed toward excellence. Thanks for making me think about new things.

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