LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Doug Allen: Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth

Singer, musician, songwriter, and actor Doug Allen is currently Pastor of Worship Arts at Dunwoody Community Church in Dunwoody, GA (www.dunwoodychurch.org). From 1985-1993, he worked in L.A. as a studio musician and was eventually signed to the Warner Brothers record label with the band Sun King. He now sings with the Atlanta-based Christian group Sons of Mercy.

In community theater, Doug has played Burl Sanders in
Smoke on the Mountain in a run that yielded 26 sold-out shows. He also played the part of The Phantom from the Phantom of the Opera in Medallion Performing Arts’ production of A Broadway Showcase 2006. His church performances include Aslan in four productions of Narnia and Jesus in The Passion Play. On the lighter side, he has played Ralph Cramden in The Honeymooners, and he regularly appears as nerdy Kyle McGillicutty in the children's production called B.I.G. (Believers in God).

LeAnne: How did you get involved in music? Have you always been drawn to it?

You’re going to laugh but here goes. My first instrument was the trombone in middle school. I remember watching an episode of “Here’s Lucy” and in this particular episode, Mr. Mooney was playing the slide trombone. Well, I thought to myself (not knowing what the instrument was called), that is a very cool instrument, so I told the band teacher that I would like to play the instrument with the sliding thingy. I went on to play the trombone for many years. My main instrument now is piano and voice. I also play the guitar.

Yes, I have always been drawn to music. My mother told me that I broke the springs in the back seat of her car bouncing to the beat of songs on the radio. True story.

LM: You are Pastor of Worship Arts at Dunwoody Community Church (DCC). Talk a little about the vision for the Worship Arts Program.

I started at DCC in 2000 as the worship leader and was ordained as a pastor on August 10th, 2002. My vision for the Arts Program at DCC is that we would all become authentic and zealous worshippers of our Lord and Savior Jesus—a people that worship God in spirit and in truth. It is our goal to utilize all of the art forms to inspire us to see the beauty of the One Who created everything, and I pray that in these moments of beauty, our eyes would be opened to truly see the One Who makes all things new. God Himself is the Ultimate Artist so He understands the value of the arts. I pray that through the arts, we would have a renewed sense of awe and wonder for our creative and loving God.

LM: You are also a songwriter. What inspires you to write?

Yes I do write songs. I am a runner so I am most inspired by the beauty of creation and nature. I have a favorite running trail near Kennesaw Mountain called Cheatham Hill. This trail winds through beautiful, green forests and makes many twists and turns as it opens up into majestic, far reaching meadows. When I run there, I see God’s fingerprints everywhere I look. For me this has always felt like an anointed trail because God has given me so many creative ideas there, not only for music but for drama scripts, sermon ideas, etc.

A memorable songwriting experience for me came as I was working my way through a case of writer’s block. I had hit a wall while working on a song called “Freedom’s Calling.” I struggled for several weeks to finish the lyrics to this song when suddenly the creative floodgates opened, right in the middle of trying to place my order at the drive thru at Wendy’s. It was pretty funny actually. I was frantically searching for something to scribble on while ordering a Number 1 Combo with Cheese. I finished the song right there in the drive-thru line.

More from Doug about singing and acting on Thursday. If you’d like to hear him and the DCC band, go to www.dunwoodychurch.org.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yvonne Boudreaux, Part 2: Holding on to Integrity

Today I'm continuing my interview with artist Yvonne Boudreaux, who works with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (www.ccojubilee.org) ministering to art students at the University of the Arts and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Yvonne recently graduated with a BFA in Printmaking from Kutztown University.

LeAnne: Do you see the students you know grappling with integrating their faith and their art? Do they face unique challenges as art students who are Christians?

Yvonne: The students I interact with now are grappling with integrating their faith and their art--otherwise I might feel like I'm failing. Seriously, though, I know that the students I've been blessed to talk with have thought more critically about the relationship of their art and their faith. They're seeing how "Christian art" does not necessarily have to be art including an overt Christian message (or symbols for that matter), and how God can use even "secular" art to speak of Gospel truths.

As Christians in the arts, they face the obstacle of being taken seriously if they do choose to integrate their faith and their art. While many encounters the students have had aren't as extreme, there are some cases where they've seen that the idea of Christians making art is taken as a joke.

LM: How do you encourage them in their walk and in their art?

YB: I encourage them to strive to their best potential in art making, and that all the "pointless practices" like color wheels are not pointless. Cultivating the gift of art is glorifying to God, because it discovers more about His creation. I also encourage them to hold onto integrity as they make art and venture through the art field, which can have so many pitfalls of dishonesty and the compromise of morals. In my talks with them, I try to drive home that all things matter and belong to God and so we ought to live/be stewards accordingly.

LM: Tell me about your own art.

YB: My work is an outpouring of my faith and will commonly have themes surrounding relationships: relationship to and with God, relationship with others, and relationship to self. The most prominent way that this is expressed is through imagery of Freedom vs. Bondage--psychological or spiritual. My work is a heavy (perhaps cryptic) mix of traditional symbols and my own symbolic language, and will often take inspiration from the Bible, Christian literature, theology, and humanity's response to these things. I do not, however, focus primarily on the Biblical narratives themselves but rather on principles behind them and Christian ideas.

Although printmaking is my first love, I lack direct or immediate access to a printmaking facility. This has caused me to experiment with painting/mixed media painting, as well as pen drawings on paper. A body of work I'm still attempting to develop involves collagraph printmaking on Plexiglass, pencil drawings, and light boxes.

I focus on human and animal figures and visually I would say my work is very illustrative in nature and can even take on an iconographic feel. An example would be of a solitary bird weighed down by stones with a black background.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yvonne Boudreaux: Ministering to Art Students

Artist Yvonne Boudreaux graduated with a BFA in Printmaking from Kutztown University in 2006. After graduation, she became a staff person of the Coalition for Christian Outreach, a campus ministry that partners with churches, colleges and other organizations to develop men and women who live out their Christian faith in every area of life (www.ccojubilee.org). Yvonne ministers to students at the University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Although much of her time is spent with the ministry, she works on her own art at the Church Studios—a community artists' studio space in the upper level of an active church building. From now through the end of 2007, she is participating in her first show at Wesley Theological Seminary's Dadian art gallery for their "Seeing God" exhibition. She has also participated in a few small shows with the Church Studios.

LeAnne: You work with the Coalition for Christian Outreach in Philadelphia, ministering to art students at the University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Tell me a little about each of these schools.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) makes the claim as being the "oldest art museum and school in fine arts in America." This is where artists such as Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, and Maxfield Parrish attended school, so as you might be able to imagine, they have a long line of traditional fine arts and academic training. This is a small school with two buildings (one is a museum, and the other houses classrooms and studios) and has about 300 students in attendance. PAFA also strictly focuses on the visual arts. They have a certificate program as well as a masters program, and through the University of Pennsylvania, students can get a bachelors in fine arts.

The University of the Arts (UArts) is much larger than PAFA with 2,300 students. UArts also has a wider spectrum of studies besides visual arts, such as dance, theatre, music, industrial design, and others. It is also one of the oldest art schools in the nation.

LeAnne: What are some ways you minister to these art students?

At PAFA, it's difficult to find ways to minister to students because there are only two buildings, and you need a pass or an escort to even get in. Last semester I was able to facilitate a prayer group, and aim to do the same this year; it's difficult to find a room to do this that is open, and match up with students' schedules. It is also difficult this year because the bulk of the students that attended last semester have graduated and left. I have tried meeting with one or two students one-on-one, however.

Right now, a lot of my time is spent with UArts students. This is probably because the school is bigger, and it's much easier to engage students. As opposed to PAFA, there are coffee shops and small restaurants all around the school buildings and I spend a lot of time in these places. I meet with students for one-on-one mentorship (primarily with girls), but also in a group that discusses what it looks like to be an artist and what it looks like to be a Christian at the same time. We also talk about why art even matters to God, and how faith factors into the arts. In addition, there is a Bible Study led by two men from a local church who also minister at UArts - and who I'm now working with. I attend to get to know the students and offer my own insights.

At the moment, most of the students I interact with are Christians, and I hope that next semester or the next I would be able to engage non-Christian students more by taking a class at UArts.

LeAnne: Do you think that art students deal with different issues than students in other fields? If so, what are those issues?

This is a question I've tossed around in my head quite a bit, and some days I want to say art students deal with very different issues than other students, and other days I want to say they don't. But, here are the reasons I think they might:

(a.) Identity is a huge thing that can easily be wrapped up into how "good" one's art is: how it is accepted, criticized, rejected. I think that early on, art students deal with the criticism of their work as a personal issue.
(b.) The idea of ruthless competition is probably also a big deal in art school. Perhaps more so in theatre and dance circles than visual art circles. You "have to be the best there is” to make a living, or you just don't make a living.
(c.) Being an artist, perhaps as a rule of thumb, does not guarantee money. It would seem that you have to cultivate some other skills in order to make a living—if you're not a designer of some sort, or aiming to be a gallery director, teacher/professor, or something of that sort.
(d.) Art students constantly have to deal with their peers (non-art students) saying things like, "You're lucky because you don't have to do so many essays or buy as many books”, etc. I faced this a lot myself at Kutztown University.
(e.) Art students tend to feel looked down on with the "why don't you study a real major/get a real job" mentality from those who are not artists.

More from Yvonne Boudreaux on Thursday.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Roger Varland, Part 2: Seeing Beyond the Obvious

I’m finishing up my interview with photographer Roger Varland, Associate Professor of History and Art at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. Two years in Kenya and a semester in China have shaped his photography and classroom perspective. He and his wife Deborah, also on the faculty, have taken students on fifteen cross-cultural study tours to countries including Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Costa Rica, and Gautemala.

Roger’s photograph “Night Money” won the Exceptional Merit Award at the 2007 Statewide Fine Arts Competition at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan. His photographs have been featured in juried exhibitions such as “The Faces of Christ” gallery on the Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) website at
www.civa.org. Here are a few links to his work:


LeAnne: How has the time you have spent in Kenya, China, and other parts of the world helped to shape your photography?

Just today in my Photo I class, we were watching a video on the history of photography that explored the classic "Family of Man" exhibit from the 1950s. It talked about the post-WWII shrinking of the world and the leveling of humanity—that more of us were beginning that journey of seeing each other as equals.

Though I had always heard that we are all God's children, it only made sense when I stayed awhile in other parts of the world. It's so easy to think that God speaks English and that the rest of the world needs to have his voice translated. My images in the "Faces of Christ" gallery at CIVA [the links are above] probably come the closest to explaining what my overseas time has done to me and my image making. Beyond the people themselves, it has also made me an amateur anthropologist. This interest in culture, started by overseas observations, has followed me home and fueled my questions about who we are.

In a sense, my nodes project is a cultural inventory. What does the American landscape say about who we are? Is this what it means to be human in the 21st century? Does our landscape give evidence of our connectedness?

Much of my work is about selecting views of the world and holding them up as commentary. Though certainly not always religious subject matter, I work from the assumption of this being God's world and we are his greatest creation. Our imprints on the planet then say something about who we are and indirectly about our relationship to our Creator.

LM: You've touched on this a little but I'd like to hear more about how your faith informs your work and vice versa.

My faith is a starting point that eventually works into a Christian worldview, a lens of sorts. The meanings of what we see and how it all pieces together relies on some sort of meta-narrative, in my case my faith. Coming back the other direction, I think all art, photography included although it has its own unique quirks, has the power to help us see beyond the obvious. My photography has helped me to think more deeply about God's world and how my piece of the puzzle fits in with the other six billion.

The other side of the cycle, work informing faith, happens through the process of learning to see more clearly, to see beneath the surface. In the words of the rearview mirror, "things are not as they appear".

LM: You are associate professor of art/history at Spring Arbor University, a Christian liberal arts university. Do your students struggle with integrating their faith with their art? If so, how do you address that struggle?

Overall, I don't think the art students at Spring Arbor struggle enough with integration. In the interest of helping students avoid an "obligation" to do "Christian" art, it is avoided almost in total as subject matter. Excellence as offering is the mantra, but I want more than a perfect aesthetic. Having said that, I think I'll let it stop there unless you want me to open a can of worms.

At the same time, one exercise I do every term with my Photo I students is to tell them to take a Christian photograph. I explain no details other than I want them to think about it. Of course we get the range from literal to generically symbolic, but it starts some very good discussions about the connections between faith and the visual world.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roger Varland: Looking at the Ways We are Connected

Roger Varland is Associate Professor of History and Art at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan, where he teaches courses in photography, art history, and the school’s CORE program. Two years in Kenya and a semester in China have shaped his photography and classroom perspective. He and his wife Deborah, also on the faculty, have taken students on fifteen cross-cultural study tours to countries including Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Costa Rica, and Gautemala.

When not photographing other cultures, Mr. Varland explores the American cultural landscape as a student of the New Topographers. Like them, he captures unsentimental images of the landscape and everyday moments filled with meaning. His photograph “Night Money” won the Exceptional Merit Award at the 2007 Statewide Fine Arts Competition at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan.

Mr. Varland’s photographs have been featured in juried exhibitions such as “The Faces of Christ” gallery on the Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) website at
www.civa.org. Here are a few links to his work:


LeAnne: In February of this year, you won the Exceptional Merit Award at the Ella Sharp Museum 2007 Statewide Fine Arts Competition for your photograph "Night Money." Congratulations! Tell me about the piece and about the night you shot it.

It's a dusk shot of an ATM presented head-on with about 40 feet of space on each side. The sky is a graduated blue and signs glow in the distance. The light over the ATM is a combination of green and yellow due to the different types of sources. There was nothing remarkable about the night. I just wanted to shoot it at dusk and my timing was on.

LM: “Night Money” builds on your MFA thesis work at Eastern Michigan University. Your master's show, "Ubiquitous Nodes," is a collection of "landscapes documenting the endpoints of social networks." Tell me more about it and about what draws you to ATMs, dead-end road signs, and more.

The network idea grew out of looking at all the ways we are connected, the systems that we all participate in. Most of these have hubs and nodes that appear seemingly everywhere, hence "ubiquitous". I am also fascinated by typology studies, what I smugly refer to as "same thing only different". This led to shooting all the post offices in our county, then all the pay phones along a 15-mile stretch of Michigan Avenue, then the dead-end signs, and finally the ATMs. By the time I got to the dead-end signs, it became obvious that the central interest of the project was the spaces around the hubs and nodes, not the objects themselves. I am still adding to each of these categories, but am not sure what will be the next node.

More with Roger on Thursday.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jean Janzen, Part 2: A Place of Amazing Grace

Today I’m concluding my interview with poet Jean Janzen.

LM: What are you working on now?

I am just now closing my seventh collection of poems entitled PAPER HOUSE, which will be published next year by Good Books. Also I am working on essays which I hope will become a collection. These are a mix of memoir and meditations on various topics that intrigue and amaze me.

LM: What would you say to encourage young poets who are Christians?

Being a Christian involved in the arts is a place of amazing grace. We not only have the gift of a narrative by which to live, but also the permission to explore everything that exists in its relationship to the Creator who desires us and our best work. I would encourage young poets to be patient, not to force work, and to remember that the most important thing is to allow a rich, maturing self to develop, one who is open to learn, change, and give.

LM: Is there anything you’d like to add?

At a time when endless information is at our fingertips, and when war continues as solution to world problems, we desperately need the arts for focus, for honesty, and for correction. If we take the call of Jesus seriously, we can see how the arts are essential to worship and work. All true art is subversive to misuse of power, to lies, divisiveness, and self-promotion. Artists in our churches, then, are essential to pull us out of feel-good worship toward the holy, the mystery, and the disciplines and possibilities of the Kingdom of heaven to transform us.

On Monday, I’ll be featuring award-winning photographer Roger Varland.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Jean Janzen: The Ultimate Gift of Poetry

Jean Janzen is a poet living in Fresno, California, who has taught at Fresno Pacific University and Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. She is the author of six poetry collections, the most recent one entitled Piano in the Vineyard (Good Books), and a book of essays on writing entitled Elements of Faithful Writing (Pandora Press). Her work has been included in numerous anthologies and many journals, including Poetry, Gettysburg Review, Christian Century, and Image. Janzen received an NEA grant and other awards. She also has written hymn texts which have appeared in various hymnals, and some of her poems have been set to music, including an oratorio written by Alice Parker. She has an interview coming up in Stonework, an online magazine from Houghton College, where some of her poems have also appeared. Her poems also appeared in New Pantagruel. Along with two other poets, Jean interviewed poet Philip Levine at http://www.lineonline.org/4P.html.

LeAnne: What can we learn from poetry?

As with all the arts, poetry teaches us in ways which can transform us. We may learn, as in gaining information, but the ultimate gift of poetry is that we can be changed by it. Poetry with its intensity of language and its distillation of thought set in the beauty of musical language and cadence, awakens our bodily senses and our minds together. We are invited into large spaces, even as we are moved into better understanding of what is hidden and deep within us.

LM: Why do you write poetry?

Having grown up with hymns and the King James Version of the Bible, I was exposed to the power of language. Who can explain why a child responds with her own words? I wrote poems occasionally and studied English literature in college. My first attempt to study the craft came after my children were in school, when I gave myself permission to continue my education at graduate level. I had grown interested in telling my father's history in an artistic way, his journey as an orphaned teen from Ukraine to Canada. That moved into a poetic investigation of all of life. I write because I sometimes am able to make connections in unexpected ways, and I find places in my soul that continue to long for discovery of meaning and mystery.

More from Jean Janzen on Thursday.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Thoughts on Story

“When we read a story, we inhabit it.” John Berger

“The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency—the belief that here and now is all there is.” Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (1987)

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” Ursula LeGuin, Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989).

Coming soon: a poet, a photographer, a painter

Monday, October 01, 2007

Steve Broyles, Part 2: Learning to Lead with Love

Today I’m continuing my interview with Steve Broyles, actor, teacher, screenwriter, consultant, and CITA region director.

LeAnne: What has been your experience as a Christian in theatre?

The communities I did theatre in were fairly conservative. In that atmosphere, there wasn’t a demand for edgier shows, so the issues of morality in terms of show content rarely came up. I don’t think there are as many obstacles in theatre in general as we imagine. Some people who work in theatre are often there because it is a last refuge of acceptance. Naturally, if I walk in as a stereotypical Christian—judgmental, condescending—I will have created my own obstacles to genuine relationships and potential ministry. Christians need to learn to lead with love. It is there we find more opportunities than we can imagine.

LM: For the last few years, you have been a member of the Creative Team of Art Within, an arts and media organization that develops scripts for stage and screen “that are relevant to contemporary culture and that explore Hope and Truth from a Judeo-Christian perspective” (www.artwithin.org). What is your involvement with them now?

At this point, I’m a distant supporter of Art Within. Since they moved their offices, I have been unable to make the weekly Creative Team meetings. There has been talk of reviving a screenplay I wrote for Art Within three years ago. So now I have to determine whether or not I can dedicate the time it would take to recommit to such a task. I have several other writing projects in various states of completion that I would love to finish. However, recently I have done more work consulting with others on their writing projects. But God’s purpose for me right now is clear; I just need to continue to practice my art and be ready for the opportunities when they arise.

LM: Tell me about your role with Christians in Theater Arts (CITA, www.cita.org).

As a CITA regional director I am the point person for the CITA south region. In addition to being a rotating member of the CITA board, I am also charged with coordinating regional meetings and events. Right now, we’re in the process of planning new long range goals for the south region as well as the national organization.

I believe in the vision of CITA to equip Christians with practical tools in the dramatic arts and to create networks for artists across our region and the country. The south region is overflowing with talented artists, working in their local communities to glorify God in the dramatic arts. We need to foster a greater awareness of each other’s work and a chance to learn and grow from each other’s expertise.

For more info on CITA, check out LeAnne’s Q&A with Dale Savidge, Executive Director, at http://christiansinthearts.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html.


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