Sunday, December 28, 2008

12 Days of Christmas: My Favorite Creators and Cultivators in 2008

If there is a constructive way forward for Christians in the midst of our broken but also beautiful cultures, it will require us to recover these two biblical postures of cultivation and creation. -- Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling

Day 12: Creative Risk-Takers
Andy Palmer and Florrie Barnett serving us during Art Show on Main 2008

Sometimes I start a thing without doing the work of planning it all the way through. This series of posts is a great example. I didn't think through the twelve things I wanted to highlight before I started, didn't think through the title (12 days of Christmas has a very specific meaning that I kind of just ignored in order to get some kind of gimmick for my title), didn't think through whether I wanted to go in a certain order. It's the same trait that consistently sends me searching for a gas station with the needle below E and about $1.53 in quarters, dimes and pennies rolling around in the ashtray.

That kind of risky behavior is just plain stupid. Not really what I want to honor here in this final post of 2008. I'm thinking more about courageous risks, sacrificial risks, creative risks. So, in no particular order but with a lot of admiration I include the following creators and cultivators that have made an impression on me in 2008.

Laurel Rudd: Ellemar Designs on Etsy
Laurel and her husband Sean are friends of mine. Laurel entered her work into this year's Art Show on Main. Out of many aspiring artists in our church she took the challenge of entering her work into our first-ever juried show she showed some of the richest grace and courage. She did not know what kind of feedback she would receive and not all of her pieces made the cut. But the feedback she got from the professional artists on the jury confirmed what she had already been thinking: her hand-painted vases showed her truest artistic passion. Near that same time she opened her online shop on Etsy and began the brave task of putting her work out there for the public to critique.
I bought myself one of her elegant miniature vases with Christmas money from my grandmother. Since no two of her works are alike you can enjoy my picture and then browse Laurel's site for your own! May God establish the work of your hands, Laurel.

(The two pieces on the left are Laurel's entries that the Jury accepted into the show.

Florence and Earl Barnett:
I wish I had gotten to know these two better years ago. I mean I knew Florrie was pursuing her art education degree. I knew Earl was pursuing his theology degree. I knew they were young, married and burning life at both ends to make a living and pursue education and livelihood. I used to check in with Earl early on Tuesday and Thursday mornings when Earl would be the first customer at the college cafe where I worked. While I added a lemon slice to his black cup-of-joe-to-go (strange I know...)I'd ask how school, work and life was going. I think on one occasion or another I was able to tell him how much I admired the discipline he and his wife demonstrated as they took turns going to school full-time and working enough hours to make a paycheck.
Last year I was privileged to attend their joint opening at a local gallery. Earl's photographs and Florrie's artwork side by side on the top floor of a cool old building was the perfect environment to enjoy their work.
But this past year I got to know Florrie more over coffee at Barnes & Noble. I wanted to pick her brain about arts and artists and church. Much of those conversations showed up in subtle but significant changes we've made to our creative endeavors at church. While we met I also got to know more about the plans she and her husband were making to complete their degress. And get this -- it meant them having to live in seperate states for six months. Florrie needed to stay locally to do her student teaching with Marywood University while Earl got started with his graduate work at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Watching them go through this last season and then saying good-bye as Florrie completed her degree and moved to Atlanta makes me feel privileged to know them. Earl and Florrie, may you both know God's favor as you pursue life together in the south. May your hard work and sacrificial risk-taking make a difference in the culture around you. I will always be one of your biggest fans.
Union Center Christian Church, Creative Arts at the Center:
We have been building -- slowly, but surely -- a place for creatives and artists at Union Center to serve their church family and community with their talents. We have worked hard to build trust with our leadership and our church family. To truly serve each other with humility and beauty. In 2008 we were given overwhelming support to pursue new ideas that would integrate art and artists into the fabric of worship and community at the Center. I was amazed at what can happen with an organic, grass roots approach; seeing what resources and ideas were simmering in our community and then adding teamwork and tons of hard work to bring the ideas to concrete reality. This felt extremely risky for each person involved INCLUDING those who attended the events and brought their friends. Imagine the courage that takes!
The following photos are just a short summary of many rich and beautiful moments together in 2008.
Good Friday and Easter
a multi-sensory experience of the stations of the cross

Art Show on Main
with special recognition to our guest artists who shared with us both their work and their expertise: Andy Palmer, Florence Barnett, Erin McMahon, Matt Kellman, Danielle Smith, Cheryl Mango and John Carter...

...and special recognition to the risk-taking artists at Union Center who entered their visual art into our first-ever juried show and who performed their original songs and spoken word for us during the Coffeehouse on Main.

I included this picture because I love so much that Bethany showed up at the coffeehouse with her crochet basket. She is one of my favorite new-found friends and creatives.

Christmas at the Center: A Terminal Christmas
I don't have pictures of the actual production, sadly, but I do have this lovely group shot after our final performance. What a crazy, hard-working, risk-taking bunch this is! (oh, yeah, and ignore the date in the's wrong!). For more about this project go here.
If you've stuck with me this far during this blog series, thank you. I look forward to spending a lot more time together in 2009. It seems fitting to end this series celebrating creators and cultivators with a benediction:
Lord, let my life be orderly, regular, temperate; let no pride or self-seeking, no covetousness or revenge, no little ends and low imaginations pollute my spirit and unhallow my words and actions. Let my body be a servant of my spirit and both my body and spirit be servants of Jesus, doing all things for your glory here. (Jeremy Taylor)
Welcome, 2009!
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