Tue 08 Mar, 2016

What Is It To Be Human? 2 Reasons Why I Loved Our Last Art Project

We've helped churches engage with their local communities in new ways

Jonny Mellor / #art, #Catalyst, #exhibition

5 exhibitions. 39 artists (from at least 22 different churches). 45 pieces of art. 55 days. Over 30 set uppers and downers. Over 10,000 visitors. Enough bubble wrap to mummify a large suburban semi.

It was only just over a year ago that Sputnik kicked off our WhatIsItToBeHuman? project and at the end of January we set down our final exhibition. I’m delighted with how the project has gone and I thought I’d put together a couple of posts summarising what went on and also, with the dust now settled a bit, whether it was worth all the effort.

So, getting down to brass tacks, has it been worth the effort? Well, I can think of at least 5 reasons why I’d say yes. (I’ll include two today and two in the next post)

1) We’ve encouraged and motivated a load of artists (I hope)

Sputnik exists to serve artists, primarily in the Catalyst family of churches. We’ve been reasonably convinced of the ‘why?’ from the beginning. The ‘how?’ however has proved a little more tricky. We didn’t want to just sit around, talk about art and stroke our chins. At the same time, providing a forum for feedback and technical help is also not always constructive before proper relationships are formed. However, it’s hard to build relationships and network unless you have a discernible purpose to gather people to. So what do you do?

Well, art is about making stuff, so we’ve decided to underpin everything we do with an element of creation. Our primary activity, then, has been encouraging people to create and themed art projects have seemed to work so far in this regard. First of all it was ‘God.With.Us’ (2011), then ‘What are you waiting for?’(2013), then ‘Kingdom’ (2014), and in 2015 it was ‘WhatIsItToBeHuman?’

For some of the artists who’ve got involved, this has provided a helpful impetus to dust off creative talents that have lain dormant for some time, for others it has provided a creative project that allows a bit more freedom than the briefs they’re paid to work on, for almost all of us, it has provided a better platform to get our work seen, heard or read.

Therefore, these projects have served artists in a number of ways I hope, and I’ve personally benefited hugely from getting to know artists who I’d just never have met if we’d not put on this project. Win win!

Thank you so much to all you guys who got involved and submitted work, I really do hope that we served you well in this, but I also hope that you are encouraged by the impact your work had through this project, which moves me on nicely to my second point…

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2) We’ve helped churches engage with their local communities in new ways

Local churches have historically been central to their local communities in this country, but now this is not usually the case. Instead they are often marginalised in their villages, towns and cities, and in turn churches can choose to deliberately hide away from a world that seems hostile to them. This obviously is not what Jesus had in mind when he inspired the invention of the world changing machine that is the local church and so in our churches we’ve got to find ways to connect with our local communities. Traditionally, there are some tried and tested ways of doing this like toddlers groups, work with senior citizens, social action projects, etc. Art is a great way to do this as well. There are loads of practical ways to do this and I know of churches who run very successful art classes, open mic nights and writers’ groups. However, exhibitions can be effective in this way as well (as long as the work is of a decent standard. Sorry but it needs to be said!)

So, it’s been great seeing City Church, Newcastle connect with The Holy Biscuit. Churchcentral, Birmingham get to know the great guys at Centrala and dip their toes in the thriving Digbeth art scene and Jubilee Church, Coventry continue building relationship with Fargo Village (although these guys are a model in this area, already helping to run a city wide motor show each year!)

The results of such link ups are sometimes hard to pin down, but each relationship built and connection made cannot help to warm people to our message and break down popular misconceptions about people who follow Jesus.

Those two things alone would have been enough, but I’ve only just begun. Keep your ears to the ground for our next post and the next 3 reasons why I’m very happy with how this project has gone.

I rap. I write. I help run Sputnik. Yes yes y’all.

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