Fri 11 Mar, 2016

by Jonny Mellor

What Was It To Be Human? Another 3 Reasons Why I Loved Our Last Art Project

Last time, I started explaining why I was delighted with our ‘WhatIsItToBeHuman?’ Art project. Today, I’m going to continue in a very similar vein.

As far as I’m aware the project served a load of artists really well and served a few of our churches really well, but that’s not all. Here’s another 3 reasons why I loved our last art project.

3) We’ve served our local communities

I think Christians often undervalue the importance of simply doing good for our localities. Jeremiah was told to seek the welfare of his city. And he lived in Babylon. However rough your area, this probably trumps you regarding levels of godlessness! (Jeremiah 29:7)

One of my favourite moments of the project was when I checked on a little Facebook event I’d created for our Birmingham exhibition launch night to see that it had gone kind of crazy. Apparently, over 1000 people were going or interested in the event. This was weird in that I’d only invited 500 and more than that, it posed us a few problems considering the venue’s capacity was a little more than 100 as far as I could tell! A couple of days later, a Christian friend messaged me to tell me that her boyfriend who wasn’t a Christian had suggested going to the event. When she pointed out that it was a Christian event, he told her that she was mistaken because he’d found about it from another friend who definitely wasn’t a Christian!

I still don’t know which promotional network we managed to tap into, but what I do know is that on one Friday night in Digbeth, Birmingham, over 150 people turned up to an art exhibition launch, music and poetry  night that was clearly put on by Christians and were subtly introduced to the Christian worldview, through the creative grapplings of a whole load of Jesus followers. The vast majority of the crowd were totally unknown to me and they all seemed to have a really good time.

We served our city. Result!

4) We helped Christians who aren’t artistic to understand the importance of art and artists (I think)

This may sound funny, but I wonder if this will be shown to be the most important impact of this project. Church and art haven’t had a rocky relationship in modern times for no reason. There are all sorts of potential pitfalls that could arise from letting us artists actually be ourselves in churches, and I’m really thankful that David and the other Catalyst leaders are willing to take that risk.

One of the key stumbling blocks is misunderstanding on both sides. Yes, artists can be elitist and obtuse (I know this because I have been these things). But, it’s equally true that church members or leaders can be insensitive and judgemental (I know this because I have been these things- as a church member and a church leader!) Often these problems arise from a lack of mutual understanding. I’m always keen to trumpet the importance of the local church to artists, especially to those who have written off the church’s relevance to their own spiritual lives. At the same time I’m equally keen to help people in our churches who wouldn’t call themselves artists, understand the immense contribution that artists can make to our churches and the mission our churches have been given.

Therefore, it has been so encouraging to hear loads of people approach me over the last year to say that they ‘get art’ for the first time and they see why it’s important. This project, coming as it has from within a family of churches, has really helped that happen.

The thing is, it’s not that artists are any more special than business people, mums, teachers, social workers, politicians, doctors or accountants. We’re just another limb of the body that needs appropriate honour, like all the rest. And a body with this particular limb working properly will work better than one without. I think that this exhibition, in its own way, helped the body of Christ start to function a little more healthily, and for that alone it was well worth all the van hires, framing and bubble wrapping.

5) We hooked up with Creative Arts Network!

One more thing that happened that may have gone unnoticed by most people was that Sputnik ourselves made a new friend: Creative Arts Network. Creative Arts Network is the arts community based in the New ground part of the Newfrontiers family and more specifically at New Community Church, Sidcup. You can find out all about them at www.creativeartsnetwork.co.uk.

We’d had a few chats and exchanged a few emails before, but when it came to this project, they have really helped us get it off the ground. They’ve helped us in connecting with new artists, with our new website and with most things remotely technical.

In short, thanks guys (Chris and Hannah in particular) for all your help and we really appreciate being art network buddies with you guys!

Well, I’m sure there’s more I could say, but that’ll do for the time being except to say that if you didn’t visit any of our exhibitions, although in a sense you’ve missed it, don’t panic, as you can see, hear and read the work that featured in our exhibitions at www.whatisittobehuman.co.uk and you can buy the pack that features all of the work featured here.

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

http://twitter.com/sputnikmagazine

Comments