In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
Art For Change ten-day residency organised by UESI India (IFES). “A work of art is not Christian art because it carries with it any symbol of a cross or Jesus in it, but it should reveal the truth.”
What does God say about the arts? Can you be a Christian and an artist? How can an artist redeem the relationship between artists and the church?
Early this year, six Fine Art students struggled together to answer these questions using kingdom principles. They were part of a ten-day residency organised by UESI India (IFES) with Art for Change, a foundation who believes that because we are made in the image of a Creator God, creativity is at the core of our being.
The idea of the residency was for the students to discuss their calling as artists: what that means, how it relates to their faith and how to be relevant in today’s society. They focused their devotions and dialogue using Philip Ryken’s book Art for God’s Sake.
‘Art has tremendous power to shape culture and touch the human heart.’ says Ryken in his book. ‘Its artefacts embody the ideas and desires of the coming generation. This means that what is happening in the arts today is prophetic of what will happen in our culture tomorrow. It also means that when Christians abandon the artistic community, we lose a significant opportunity to communicate Christ to our culture.’
I talked to the six students who took part in the residency to ask them what they had learned.
Kompi enjoyed wrestling with the questions that arose in their discussions. Is there a split between the spiritual and the secular? How can we discern and use our gifts? Are our hearts pursuing fame rather than God?
She writes: ‘Before this week I knew I needed help, but how, what and where, I didn’t know. So dealing with such questions was something very serious and intense but interesting as well… The residency has helped me to brood on truth in depth – truth is so vast, both how I portray it and also how I receive it.’
Mark felt that the residency provided a safe place to talk about his past and to freely express himself in his art. Marborsing came to see the importance of working with a community of Christian artists, and also the need for encouragement and support from the church.
Rangskhembor gained courage to face criticism from the residency. ‘I must take risks and freely express my artwork. I have courage to share my artwork without hesitation; with boldness, honesty and confidence. I learned to appreciate the art of others, to not be too critical but to enjoy them too.’
Lalhunkima learned that he must not compromise in his work – ‘I should work to the fullest, because this is why God created me, to be an artist and to glorify him with my works.’
Govinda summarises what he learned in this way ‘Art is the expression of the life of an artist which should be truthful to glorify God. A work of art is not Christian art because it carries with it any symbol of a cross or Jesus in it, but it should reveal the truth.’
In addition to discussing these issues, participants practiced their art. To celebrate their time together, they had an open studio exhibition for others in the community to come, see and hear what God had placed on their hearts. You can see their work in this video that was produced during the residency.
You can learn more about how students engage with the gospel visiting the website of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).