LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, December 29, 2008

Reflecting on the Arts

I always enjoy a time of reflecting at the end of the year and this morning I'm thinking back to some of my favorite moments in the arts:

* hanging and admiring a new painting by good friend Beverly Key (who I featured last year) that fits perfectly in our den and looks as though it's always been there. The painting is an abstract but we see at least three deer hiding amongst trees, brush, and an azalea bush--much like they do in our back yard.

* sitting beside my husband and my parents at Les Miserables and experiencing that incredible music again

* watching many stirring moments in Big River, performed by Theatrical Outfit at the Balzer Theater in Herren's, but especially when Jim is "reading" Huck's palm and sees "considerable joy, considerable sorrow" ahead for them

* watching my daughter's face and hearing her laugh during "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play", also at the Balzer, and seeing her go from actor to actor for autographs afterward

* reading Little Women with her this summer

There are many more but I'm going to stop for now. What were some of your favorite moments with the arts this year? I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Christmas Might Have Meant to the Father

A few months ago in early fall I wrote an article about Christmas. My assignment was to explore what the birth of Christ might have meant to God the Father. I approached it at first with trepidation. How could I begin to fathom what giving His only Son to us cost Him? The scripture "His thoughts are higher than our thoughts" kept coming to mind. Humbling though it was, I enjoyed the experience very much. I used Handel's Messiah and the prophecies referenced in that wonderful work as my framework. If you'd like to read the article, click here.

Thank you for reading this blog. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Image's Top Ten Picks for 2008

Today I was planning to provide the link to an article I wrote about Christmas but it's not on the magazine's website yet. I'll send you the link when it's posted.

In the meantime, check out Image Update's Top Ten Picks for 2008. Here's the intro:

With all of the books, films, CDs, and visual art featured in this e-newsletter, we know there's much to choose from each year. Hence our gift to you just in time for Christmas: a list of our top ten picks of 2008. In chronological order of appearance, here are ten of the works we've featured in ImageUpdate this past year that stand out to us (and many of which would make fine gifts). This is an admittedly subjective list—these are personal favorites of ImageUpdate contributors. If you'd like to read the original ImageUpdate feature on any of the works, click on the links provided. We hope you'll enjoy this list and that you will find time to spend in the company of the many gifted writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers we have featured in ImageUpdate this year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jane Wolford, Part 2:Fay Jones and Thorncrown Chapel

Dr. Jane Paradise Wolford seeks to "enlighten the public about the transformational potential of architecture." She has a Doctorate in Architecture (in History, Theory, and Criticism) as well as a Masters degree in Architectural History from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Wolford wrote architectural articles and conducted market research for more than two decades for a firm that provided market analysis and costing services. She currently researches and writes for The Greenway Group, in addition to other consulting projects. For more than a decade Wolford has spearheaded educational initiatives for advancing architectural education among the public in her active role as a Board Member of The AIA’s educational outreach, the American Architectural Foundation based in Washington D.C. She also serves on a small, select Board to preserve and run the Octagon Museum, the oldest museum in the U.S. dedicated to architecture and design. She's a founding member of the Design Futures Council for DesignIntelligence. Wolford lives in Atlanta and maintains active memberships in many professional organizations related to architecture, preservation, and sustainability. These include lifetime membership in the Society for Architectural Historians (SAH), the Southeast Chapter of Architectural Historian (SESAH), the Construction History Society, Southface, and The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

LeAnne: Who are three architects (past or contemporary) whose work we must know and why?

The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright because he was probably the most famous American architect. He definitely marched to the beat of his own drummer and defied convention but he was unique in his perspective and extremely talented. After years of conflicted feelings studying his architecture and visiting his buildings I have decided that I am willing to separate the strength of his architecture from the frailty of his humanity (e.g., abandoned his wife with five young children to live with a married woman and her children --- Mrs. Cheney--- but that’s another story) because he was so uniquely talented. Features of his style reflected a comfortable human scale complemented by the warm, rustic features of stone, wood and other natural materials. The architectural features of some of his houses from the early twentieth century (such as low roof lines with overhanging eaves), often reflect a prairie aesthetic characteristic reflecting the long, flat vistas stretching for miles and miles in the Midwest. His most famous residence, Fallingwater, is a breathtaking alliance of architecture and nature --- perched on the edge of a waterfall.

The Swiss architect Le Corbusier ---because his architecture heralded the emerging modern aesthetic in the 1920s and 30s in Europe. His Villa Savoye (1929-1931) expressed the dictums of Modernism --- no ornamentation, white planar surfaces, suspended by pillars, an open plan free to be configured as the occupant desired, and long ribbon windows offering unencumbered views.

The American architect John Carl Warnecke is important because he was an early contextual architect who successfully merged modernism with a respect for the building’s context. As the focus of my doctoral and masters’ research, personal interviews with Warnecke for more than the last decade (by my husband Arol and myself) taught me about contextualism and its relationship with architecture. Designer of hundreds of buildings, a few of his most famous designs are President John Kennedy’s grave with the eternal flame and the Hawaiian State Capital (a modern building with a Polynesian flare). In addition to his architecture, he is also known for his romance with Jackie Kennedy after Jack died.

LeAnne: You and I attend the same church. Because of our church's recent building project, I've become fascinated with the award-winning Thorncrown Chapel, designed by Fay Jones. Can you tell me more about him, his work, and his relationship with mentor Frank Lloyd Wright?

E. Fay Jones was probably Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous apprentice. He is the other contextualist my husband and I had the pleasure of interviewing extensively and touring his most renowned building with him before he passed away in 2004.

Jones and Wright had an immediate rapport when they met while Jones was a professor. Jones’s entire family visited Wright in his winter workshop, Taliesin West, near Scottsdale, Arizona. Later, Wright invited Jones's entire family to his home and design institute Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Jones returned to both sites numerous times as both friend and apprentice and became a Taliesin Fellow.

A quiet, unassuming intellectual (also a strong Christian) who taught Architecture at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Jones’ most well-known buildings are chapels and residences in his home state (as opposed to ego-driven skyscrapers). Thorncrown Chapel, a small, breathtaking glass chapel nestled in the Ozarks, pays tribute to the beauty of nature created by God. Since it won The American Institute of Architects' coveted Gold Medal in 1990, pilgrims flock to it daily to enjoy its transcendent beauty. Jones' residences express the ultimate tenets of contextualism with nature. They blend gracefully in the Ozarks with their cladding of wood and stone; in this respect they give homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie-style buildings.

When the design for our church was underway Fay Jones was already too ill with advanced Parkinson’s disease to become our church’s architect. However, he did advise John Busby (our architect), my husband (Arol Wolford), and myself about our church design. Ultimately, John Busby did a great job incorporating Jones’s principles, along with his own design expertise, into the finished product of our beautiful sanctuary.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jane Wolford: A Taste of Things to Come

Dr. Jane Paradise Wolford seeks to "enlighten the public about the transformational potential of architecture." She has a Doctorate in Architecture (in History, Theory, and Criticism) from the Georgia Institute of Technology in addition to her Masters degree in Architectural History from Georgia Tech. Wolford wrote architectural articles and conducted market research for more than two decades for a firm that provided market analysis and costing services. She currently researches and writes for The Greenway Group, in addition to other consulting projects. For more than a decade Wolford has spearheaded educational initiatives for advancing architectural education among the public in her active role as a Board Member of The AIA’s educational outreach, the American Architectural Foundation based in Washington D.C. She also serves on a small, select Board to preserve and run the Octagon Museum, the oldest museum in the U.S. dedicated to architecture and design. She's a founding member of the Design Futures Council for DesignIntelligence. Wolford lives in Atlanta and maintains active memberships in many professional organizations related to architecture, preservation, and sustainability. These include lifetime membership in the Society for Architectural Historians (SAH), the Southeast Chapter of Architectural Historian (SESAH), the Construction History Society, Southface, and The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

LeAnne: What drew you back to school to get your degrees in architectural history and architecture?

With my bachelor’s degree in English, I had been interviewing architects for our construction information publication and found them fascinating. When my older daughter turned 16, I felt I had a little more freedom since she could drive her younger sister the half hour distance to their school so I decided to enroll in Georgia Tech’s masters program in architectural history. I had been trying to study architecture on my own ---- periods, styles, and theory --- but found the undertaking too comprehensive outside of a directed study program.

After I finished that program, and was looking for God’s direction for my next steps, I was invited into Tech’s Ph.D. program. Although the first three years of classes were difficult due to the full-time requirement (in contrast to my master’s which I did part time), the last three years of self-directed research and criticism by committee members was even more grueling. But, ultimately, armed with the doctorate, I finally understand architecture in the multitude of its ramifications.

LM: What can the study of architecture teach us about God? Ourselves?

That is a big question. I think architecture reveals a lot about God’s role as Architect and Builder (Hebrews 11:10). In the Old Testament he gave very specific instructions to Moses (Exodus 26), David (1 Chron. 28:11-19), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40) about the construction of his places of worship --- from the choice of the builder down to the smallest details ---- design mattered to Him.

God is also concerned with beautiful design in his creation of nature everywhere. Oceans, mountains, trees, plants, flowers, etc. point to God’s wondrous sense of design – and we haven’t even touched upon his marvelous creation of the human body. All his creations (disclaimer --- as he created them) are not only magnificently beautiful, but are awe-inspiring. The colors of vegetation and natural landscape features such as mountains or oceans both complement and contrast each other in color, texture, structure, and a multitude of other qualities. But dissonance and ugliness are not qualities of God’s creations in their pristine state. Only man’s fallen nature interjected these ugly realities into his earthly paradise. Peace, Joy, Harmony, Beauty, and Order were subservient to the promptings of man’s will after the fall. In our imperfect nature beauty can be stumbled upon every now and again --- but it is not the norm. This is what the study of architecture can teach us about ourselves – we crave balance, stability, order and beauty. Good architecture can speak to these needs.

I believe that the focus of my doctoral research offers a possible solution to increased Beauty and Harmony in our world --- contextualism (check out my website for more info). Contextual buildings can forge attractive relationships with their environment --- offering a unifying effect to a previously fragmented environment. My expertise delineates the metrics of contextualism that can help a person design anything to relate more intimately to its surroundings --- whether built or natural --- and forge visual connections, resulting in peace and harmony, with its neighbors. My contention is that there is enough stress in the world without introducing more in our architecture. Like a good book or movie, I don’t believe our buildings should increase our adrenaline --- but offer a balm to our fallen condition and give us a taste of things to come in heaven.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Soli Deo Gloria's Listening Room

Soli Deo Gloria is dedicated to enhancing, promoting and preserving the classical sacred music repertoire in the Biblical tradition. An important part of SDG's mission is commissioning new work. Check out Executive Director Chandler Branch's blog for news about this week's premier in Paris of a new musical work for choir, orchestra and soloists by composer Peter Bannister. The title of the work, Et iterum venturus est, comes from the Nicene Creed and translates “And he shall come again.” Et iterum venturus est is inspired by Bible prophesy in both the Old and New Testaments and is epic in its reach into the past and embrace of the future.

I'd also like to call to your attention the treasure trove of music and video interviews with composers commissioned by Soli Deo Gloria in Soli Deo Gloria's Listening Room. Because I love to know what makes artists tick, I am really enjoying the videos. It's well worth your time to check it out.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Few Words about Art

You know how I love quotes. It's been a while since I've shared any. Here are a few I especially like today:

“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” George Bernard Shaw

"The test of the artist does not lie in the will with 
which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the
work he produces." St. Thomas Aquinas

“There is no vehicle which displays the Glory of God and the Wonder of God as clearly as the arts. Art is the reflection of God’s creativity, an evidence that we are made in His Image.” Martin Luther

“Thy will be done in art as it is in heaven.” Willa Cather

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Pablo Picasso

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Phillip Spears, Part Two: "God's Light"

Today I'm finishing up my feature of photographer Phillip Spears. Phillip came to faith at the age of 15. He has a BS in Design from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1983. Since then, he's been working as a commercial photographer in Atlanta. He specializes in educational marketing and annual reports. He and his wife, Dr. Dana Spears, have three children, Anna Kate, Maggie, and Benjamin.Make sure you check out his website for some gorgeous images.

LM: Tell me about your "God's Light" series.

I actually stole that term from a guy I used to work with. Photographers are all about light. We are always trying to manufacture or emulate God's light. I wanted to apply this to a particular set of images using light that only happens naturally and atmospherically.

My clouds series on the website is the second incarnation of the "God's Light" series. I want to put together a big series. This will be a much more serious attempt than the first. It'll be my first real foray into fine art photography in years.

I've been shooting thunderstorms for a long time. I love watching a storm, especially when it's over and especially if it's early or late in the day. It's like a symphony and a ballet all at once. The light is changing so fast. Everything is moving.

The clouds series was taken during a storm over about 35 minutes. It was magnificent in beauty and scale. I love being able to watch it happen. God is both infinite and personal, and shooting these storms feels like a personal gift to me. I know the Creator is watching me enjoy it and enjoying me enjoying it.

LM: What has been a highlight of your career?

One highlight was born out of one of the worst times in my life. My wife Dana and I lost our first child, Sarah, when Dana was 4 1/2 months pregnant. I was 30 or 31 years old, and that was my grow-up moment. Even though Sarah was still in utero, we had named her, referred to her as our child, told our Sunday school class about her. When she died, we held her and prayed over her. It was a very difficult time.

Dana's great aunt gave us some money to do a memorial. We didn't know what to do at first. Our church at the time had lots of young children so I did a series of children's portraits--about 40 or 50 shots up close that weren't sophisticated but were very meaningful. I prefer to shoot on location but we did this in a studio we set up at the church. I called it "Children of the Covenant." One Sunday morning, we ran the series as a slide show with a song that the worship minister had written. That night, I did a eulogy for Sarah.

About a year ago, we reproduced the project. The new work is better than the first one. We took some of the same kids we shot earlier and photographed them now as adults. In the slide show we had the younger photos morph into the adult ones. The series hung in the church for four or five months.

I think that first "Children of the Covenant" series was meaningful to the church as a whole, not just to us as a memorial to our child. Producing that series, looking into the eyes of all those little children, being immersed in all that wonderful innocence helped me to heal from the most traumatic thing that has happened in my life.

Though it is not technically the most demanding project I have worked on I think it does what I want all of my work to do. It serves to remind us that we are human, made in the image of God.

Phillip Spears, Photographer: Being Creative an Act of Obedience

Photographer Phillip Spears came to faith at the age of 15. He has a BS in Design from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1983. Since then, he's been working as a commercial photographer in Atlanta. He specializes in educational marketing and annual reports. He and his wife, Dr. Dana Spears, have three children, Anna Kate, Maggie, and Benjamin.Make sure you check out his website for some gorgeous images.

LeAnne: I like to start at the beginning because I'm fascinated by how an artist grows and develops. How did you get started in photography? What draws you to it?

I came to photography largely against my will. Although it is one of the few things I've been naturally good at since a young age, my long term interests were in several other areas, mostly the ministry. When I was ten, I got a Polaroid Swinger camera so I was able to take pictures instantly. Four or five years later, my older brother, who in my mind could do everything well and easily, got a 35 mm camera but he couldn't make it work. I could and so I latched onto photography for some identity. In high school, I was one of the yearbook photographers. I came to faith at about 15 and earnestly wanted to do something intellectual for the faith like preach. Throughout high school and college and early career turmoil, though, my friends continued to encourage me and tell me that photography was what I should be doing.

I thought I wanted to be a civil engineer--I had a romantic notion about what that entailed --so I went to Georgia Tech for one quarter. I hated it. Then I met a guy named Dave Fredericks, on his way back from a summer missions project, who was studying photography at the Illinois Institute of Technology. I was planning to go on to seminary, but I needed a four-year degree first and photography seemed like a good choice. But unfortunately, I neglected my studies. Then, the summer before senior year, I went to Africa on a missions trip and made some wonderful images there--some of my best still. That trip helped me realize that I was much more attuned to photography than I was to ministry. So I got serious my senior year and did really well. My professors were stunned at how fast I progressed. 

When I graduated, I went back to Atlanta and worked as a commercial lab tech and studio assistant until eventually I got an offer from a successful commercial photographer to join him, which I did for ten years. Then I decided to go on my own.

Photography was the thing other people encouraged me to do--to develop the creative part of my character. On the other hand, my father had warned me about how difficult a creative life could be. He practiced medicine but he was actually a poet at heart.

The voice of God has been very clear, though, throughout my career that I am doing what He created me to do. And I love what I do. It took me a long time to realize that. Life in the creative world is open-ended, with advantages and disadvantages, including doubt. But this is what I need to be doing. And photography has changed me. I'm a radical introvert by nature but my job requires me to interact with a lot of people every day when I'm shooting.

I'm drawn to photography because I love the images. I love to make things that surprise me and to imagine what something might look like. When the finished product is something better than I expected, I'm just amazed.

LM: What do you think it means to be an artist and a Christian?

First, I'm a little uncomfortable with the term "artist" because it implies a certain level of achievement that's best judged by someone else. I'm more comfortable with 'creative' or just 'photographer.' To your question, in some ways, being a creative and a Christian can make being a creative a lot more difficult. Most creatives have no rules. A lot of times for them it's just a design project with no real meaning.

For Christians, there's an innate connection to universal meaning. I used to worry: is my work Christian? But simply by my being a Christian, my work has that quality. The better believer I am, the more my work will reflect God's glory. In that way, it's sort of easier to be both, I guess. I'm not as concerned with the outcome. I'm being obedient to God in my work. If that kind of work is commercial, then I'm happy with that. It has made me a better artist than I ever would have been. I love making beautiful things out of nothing. Commercial photography has been much more of an education than you might expect. Because I've had to do it--to deliver the shots within certain parameters--I've learned so much.

And being a commercial photographer has required me to work. I know creatives who can't not do their work, but I'm not like that. I would be happy to sit and read C. S. Lewis and history books forever. But this work has required me to practice. And it has forced me to compete with some of the best creatives out there. There are brilliant, creative photographers today whose work is inspiring in its inventiveness and beauty. Now I am aware of what I believe is some of the best creative work ever done.

Being creative is the way I practice being a believer. It's an act of obedience. I want to do it well to a particular end. Life is now a stewardship project, which is life-affirming. I'm unbelievably grateful that God has given me this gift. I love that I get to be creative. Being creative is a fundamental part of being human.

C. S. Lewis's book The Abolition of Man has a lot to offer creatives. He divides our humanness into three categories: appetite, intellect, and the soul or the heart--the seat of the emotions. Lewis calls it "the chest." His book is a critique of modern ideology. We've done away with the soul. The appetites will always overrule the intellect if not directed by a well trained heart or soul. We've lost the sense of who we are. We've become so material that we see ourselves as only instinct and brain and so have seen our animal appetites overwhelm our intellect.

I want to give people back a spirituality in a world that's very unspiritual. I make things because they are beautiful and that's enough, really. And maybe that's the reason God made beauty--simply for us to enjoy or to remind us who we are.  

More from Phillip Spears on Thursday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for so many things--first and foremost, salvation made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's Son. This YouTube on my friend Crystal's blog says it all.

Thank you for reading. I'll have a great new feature next week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

For Fun

Because this blog tends to be serious, I'm shaking things up today. I'm having technical difficulties, however, with no time to investigate further so here's the link to the YouTube on my friend Nancy's fabulous blog.


Next week: a new feature!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

deAnn Roe: Still Before the Lord

Today I'm concluding my interview with deAnn Alyse Roe, Director of Visual Arts at her church in Pennsylvania and the blogger behind Vertical Creativity.

LeAnne: What are some ways you're helping people to "live in their creativity"?

deAnn: I post much of my own creative journey on the blog, my struggles and highlights, which I hope encourages others to approach God through their creativity as well. I also feel strongly about the importance of arts communities. These gatherings offer people a chance to meet with others who are exploring their creativity through a particular art form. Currently there are three arts communities at our church: a photography group, a reflective writing group for women and a new writing practice group that will begin in January. Other art communities are forming--sketching and painting. The synergy that builds when a group of like-minded creative people gather is unbelievable and fun.

LM: What are your favorite creative outlets?

dR: Oh my, I have several. But honestly, the current favorite depends on were I'm at in my spiritual journey. I've always liked words. I'm a big journaler and occasionally a poem will birth from a place of gratitude or grief. Sometimes when words can't express what's on my heart, I sketch or sit before a canvas and paint (usually with my hands and fingers--I like the feel of the paint and the texture of the canvas). In high school, I played the saxophone in marching band. Recently, a friend sold me their saxophone. When the mood strikes, I pick it up and squeak out the only song I know, "I Love You Lord." It's a song from my heart to God's heart, a real source of worship for me. However, photography, particularly macro photography, has really captured my interest.

LM: Why?

dR: Photography causes me to slow down and see--really see the world around me. There are two little lakes close to my house and it's a near perfect day for me when I meander through the tree-lined trails in silence, enjoying God's presence. I don't zoom past anything; instead, I get on my knees, nose to the ground and investigate a fallen acorn, decaying leaf, spider web, or dew drop on a blade of grass. Then after taking in its wonder with my eyes, I try to snap a shot that will remind me of the experience. With macro photography, you get up-close  and personal with your subject. You see things that you never would have noticed if you hadn't slowed down to really look. This gives me a deep sense of gratitude for the beauty of creation and God's love for me. 

Also, photographs can tell stories or lead your mind into imagining--whether it's the aged face of a stranger, the broken TV on the curb, even the Ghost "Peeps" [marshmallow puff candies] that I saw abandoned alongside the road (yes, I took a picture of them!). There is something healing about slowing down our pace of life and being fully present in the moment--and the arts cause us to do this. I believe it's important to develop our creative voices for this reason: to break out, from time to time, of the fast-paced lives we've grown accustomed to living, to slow down and "be still" before the Lord.

Coming soon: new features!

Monday, November 17, 2008

deAnn Roe: Vertical Creativity

deAnn Alyse Roe is Director of Visual Arts at Living Word Community Church in York, PA. As Director, she is curator of the monthly art gallery exhibits and creates the sacred space installed for the season of Lent. She plans to offer classes on discovering creativity soon. She's also involved in the Spiritual Direction program at her church through which she meets with a small group of women every month and walks alongside them in their spiritual journeys.

deAnn's blog is Vertical Creativity. She says that God has put on her heart a passion to develop her creativity and meet with Him through her creative endeavors. She believes that spiritual formation through the arts is very real. It's her desire to explore this and offer her experience to others and encourage them in their own creative and spiritual journeys.

LeAnne: Your blog is called Vertical Creativity. What is the focus of it?

deAnn: The focus of my blog is to encourage people--from artistic dabblers to professional artists--to live into their God-given creative Imago Dei (image of God). I can't help but think there is a connection between our creativity and our spirituality. So, I try to help people think vertically about their creativity and to consider approaching it as prayer, which has great potential to deepen their relationship with Jesus. I call this practice, "sitting before the canvas," being fully present and in prayer. Your canvas may be a sketch pad, hunk of clay, your garden, computer keyboard, the viewfinder of your camera, or an actual canvas for painting, etc. Then create whatever bubbles up from within. 

I also post local art scene happenings hoping to encourage people to get out and interact with other people's creative endeavors. Vertical Creativity is currently a blog but by the beginning of the new year, it will be a website with an attached blog. I'm excited to see where God takes this ministry.

We are all created in God's image. Therefore, we all have the ability to creative. Vertical Creativity is a place of encouragement as we move along the creative journey.

LM: Why do you want to see people "live in their creativity?"

dR: I believe that we can meet with God in unique-to-us ways as we seek to discover and live in our creativity. God is Creator of everything beautiful and we can co-create beauty with Him. But it's hard to get past the negative inner critic we hear so often, that voice that tells us we are not creative, that we are not artistic, that it's a waste of time, that we have absolutely no ability. That squelches the Imago Dei that is within each of us. You never know what can be created through you until you take the time to try, and then allow God to surprise you!

More from deAnn Roe on Thursday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Interview about Culture with Andy Crouch

Click on over to BeliefNet for this interesting interview with Andy Crouch, who wrote Culture Making: Rediscovering Our Creative Calling. Andy is editorial director for The Christian Vision Project at Christianity Today International, a member of the editorial board of Books & Culture, and senior fellow of the International Justice Mission's IJM Institute. His writing has appeared in several editions of Best Christian Writing and Best Spiritual Writing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Come and See

Today I want to call your attention to an article written by acclaimed artist, Makoto Fujimura. The article, called "Come and See: Leonardo da Vinci's Philip in The Last Supper," describes his experience with one of the most famous paintings of all time. Enjoy.

I hope to feature Fujimura soon.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

On Abstract Art

This morning I was checking out a new blog that looks interesting: Tolle Lege. I haven't explored it fully yet--I was actually drawn to it because the blogger quoted from Philip Graham Ryken's book, Art for God's Sake.  I read the book last year, I think, and found it helpful. 

Here's the passage I wanted to pass on to you today:

"Some Christians continue to think that certain forms of art are more godly than others. They make a sharp distinction between the sacred and secular, not recognizing that so-called secular art is an exploration of the world that God has made, and therefore has its place in deepening our understanding of God's person and work...

"What Christians tend to dismiss is abstract art, especially as it has come to expression in modern art. Yet abstraction has God's blessing as much as any other art form....

"Therefore, as Christians we are not limited to crosses and flannelgraphs, or to praise choruses and evangelistic skits. These simple forms may have their place in the life of the church, but God wants all the arts to flourish all the fullness of their artistic potential, so that we may discover the inherent possibilities of creation and thereby come to a deeper knowledge of our Creator" (pps. 34-35).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Last week, an artist friend of mine and I went to a special exhibition, Sculpture in Motion, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. What we saw fascinated us. Here's some info:

"Amid lavishly blooming flowers and trees a collection of extraordinary sculptures comes to life at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Sixteen artists capture the energy of the wind, water, sound, sun, magnetics and touch in more than twenty-five works of fine art. The dynamic sculptures move and shift forming endless compositions in perfect harmony with the beautiful gardens. This exciting exhibition is the most extensive survey of outdoor kinetic art ever held and includes some of the most prominent kinetic sculptors working today."

For an overview, click here.

For photos and descriptions of each work, click here. Some of them have YouTube links so you can see them actually in motion. But I found many of these works to be stunning even when they weren't moving. 

If I had to choose, my favorites were Kristina Lucas'  Masdevallia Extravaganza 2008 in the Orchid House and Tim Prentice's Yellow Zingers 2008 nestled outside in the trees.

Next week: a new feature

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brad Davis, Poet

San Diego born and weaned, Brad Davis now lives with his wife Deb in Pomfret, Connecticut, where for 21 years they have worked at Pomfret School, a secondary boarding school. He has also taught Writing Poetry at Eastern Connecticut State University and, most recently, the College of the Holy Cross. Having received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art, his job at Pomfret is to administer all things "Broken Bridge," a Fine Arts outreach of the school. He edits the Broken Bridge Review (a journal for emerging adult poets and writers), directs the Broken Bridge Summer Arts Workshops (an immersion program in art-making for high school students), curates the Broken Bridge Poetry Prize (a national contest for students in private secondary schools), and leads the Broken Bridge "062" Creative Writing Workshop (a seminar-style program for aspiring writers who live in Connecticut's 062 zip code area). Brad and Deb have a son and daughter-in-law who live in Brooklyn, New York.

For information about Brad's poetry collection, Opening King David, click here.

LeAnne: What draws you to poetry?

Brad: I am drawn to images and ideas. By image (plain, textured, or figured) I mean a sensory impression, and by idea I mean anything from a concept to an emotion to a motivation. In poetry I find a concentration of both image and idea that is usually compressed into a brief language event. And yes, I am drawn to brevity, perhaps because I am drawn to contemplation, the poem functioning nicely as a springboard to, as Merton spoke of it, thinking into and with the heart of God. I also love the music of language, especially of plain speech. Though I am not as much a sensualist (one who, apart from virtually anything else, loves language for how it plays on the tongue and in the ear) as many of my poet-friends, if a poem is aurally clunky (without meaning to be), it cannot be an excellent example of the art. I am drawn to poetry for the experience of how it makes my brain work: in an encounter with a well-written poem, whether on paper or articulated at a reading, I see, hear, feel things vividly in my inner self that enlarge my experience of the beautiful, broken world in which you and I serve as stewards.

LM: Why should Christians read poetry?

BD: I have issues with "shoulding" on people. Actually, most Christians encounter poetry on a weekly basis, but they don't think of it as such; besides the hundreds of songs they listen to on the radio and their iPods, every Sunday they sing hymns and spiritual songs, read aloud from the Psalter, intone canticles, and listen to the words of the prophets and the poet Jesus. Music, secular or sacred, is poetry's number one delivery system in the modern world, and yet I suspect most believers fail to make the connection. For them, "poetry" remains one of those subjects they hated in high school. That said if there are Christians who, as stewards of the Mystery, understand that before compassion there's the necessity of attending to the culture in which they serve, then they "should" read all kinds of things, the culture's poetry included. And go to art installations and lectures and other highly valued cultural events. Even NASCAR races (poetry in motion?) and music festivals. How can you connect meaningfully with a neighbor about kingdom stuff if you don't know anything about his or her cultural orientations, or favorite music, or the language used to describe his or her lived experience?

I often joke that the best reason for Christians to read and grow comfortable with poetry is that poetry is the highest form of kingdom communication. In the Garden before sin, the only recorded example of speech is the poem uttered by Adam when introduced to Eve. In the Bible's most ecstatic, transportive moments (prophesies, love lyrics, proverbs, laments, beatitudes, parables, doxologies, etc.) the human authors launch into poetry. And, of course, every biblical representation of heaven reveals a realm in which all inhabitants do all of their communication business in poetry. So there would be two big reasons why we Christians "should" read poetry: first, for its value in understanding the world and communicating with the culture in which we serve (see Paul in Athens), and second, because (see tongue in cheek) poetry is the official, eternal, and highest mode of kingdom communication--so get used to it! I joke about the second reason, but it may not be entirely wrong-headed.

More from Brad Davis on Thursday.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joey O'Connor, Part 2: From a Heart of Grace and Truth

Joey O'Connor is the executive director of The Grove Center for the Arts & Media in San Clemente, California. He is a pastor and author of 18 books. He is currently writing a screenplay about slavery and genocide in Africa in the late 1800s. He lives in San Clemente, CA with his wife and four children.

LeAnne: One part of your mission is to create a national network of artists in the church. How are you accomplishing that?

Joey: Facebook! One of our larger goals is to create or be a part of a national network of artists and artistic organizations who want to develop a creative hub for intentional artistic spiritual growth and excellence. As a small ministry, we've had a number of false starts in this area, which is a matter of trying too much too soon. Our best work this past year, in terms of national networks, has been in developing relationships with Mission America Coalition, Hollywood Prayer Network, Visual Story Network, and some conversations with Christians in Visual Arts (CIVA). At the most basic level, we receive emails and phone calls from people all over the national looking for how to connect with other artists and groups. We try to help people do this as best we can. With so many social networking sites out there, we've decided to camp on Facebook and build from there.

LM: The Grove Foundation for the Arts gives grants to professional and emerging artists. What are the requirements? Who can apply? 

JO: Over the past five years, The Grove Foundation has given over $40,000 in small grants and scholarships. We've also helped other artistic ministries in their fundraising efforts. That said, every penny has come from money we have raised through our donors. We have no endowment or pile of cash we're sitting on. At this time, we are accepting no new applications because we're not in a position to release any funds. Previously, the majority of the grants were given to artists, churches and non-profit artistic ministries in the Southern California area.

LM: What else would you like to say about The Grove Center for the Arts and Media?

JO: From speaking to a number of ministry leaders in the arts throughout the country, there is a great desire for education, collaboration, and eliminating redundancies in the Church as well as a very strong desire to create new culture in our society. We need to move forward with new ideas, innovation, and not imitation. We are very committed to helping develop tools and resources that help churches, pastors, and worship leaders incorporate the beauty of the arts in their worship services. Artists are always looking for their next commission. I believe we've already received it: the Great Commission. Artists and churches need to be committed to authentic spiritual formation and community building so we truly will be a city on a hill. The danger is to put artistic craftsmanship before authentic apprenticeship of Jesus. Pursue excellence, yes, but let's have it proceed from a full heart of grace and truth.

Next week: another new feature

Monday, October 20, 2008

Joey O'Connor: The Grove Center for the Arts & Media

Joey O'Connor is the executive director of The Grove Center for the Arts & Media in San Clemente, California. He is a pastor and author of 18 books. He is currently writing a screenplay about slavery and genocide in Africa in the late 1800s. He lives in San Clemente, CA with his wife and four children.

LeAnne: How did The Grove Center for the Arts & Media come about? 

Joey: It came as a complete surprise to me. As a writer and pastor, I have always loved the arts, but I never had the aspirations to develop a non-profit ministry. The Grove came out of a time of prayer in August, 2002, while I was spending time alone with the Lord at the San Juan Mission. As I sat among the beautiful mission gardens and architecture, I thought to myself, "What if there was a place for people to get away and be renewed? What if there was a creative, sacred space for artists in the Church?" After a couple of hours of thinking and praying about this, I asked, "Lord, are you speaking to me?" By the end of my time in the gardens, I said, "Okay, Lord. I'm in." We had no plan. No vision. Only a calling.

Three weeks later, very unexpectedly, I received a phone call, and six acres of lemon and avocado were donated to develop this retreat center that didn't have a name yet. Within the year, the six-acre gift turned into a twelve-acre gift. We formed the non-profit and started doing retreats for artists in the Church.

Our vision is to see Christ in culture through the arts and media. Our mission is three-fold: 1) Cultivate spiritual transformations in people's lives through retreats and events. 2) Connect artists, non-profits and churches. 3) Create film, audio and printed resources for creative ministry in the Body of Christ.

LM: What do the retreats offer? 

JO: Right now we are offering one-day retreats on the actual Grove property. Our focus is the spiritual formation of artists and creative people in the Church. The day retreats are a combination of solitude with the Lord, small group discussions, a creative spiritual formation exercise, guest artists, pastors, and worship leaders...and a great meal. All of our retreats have received very positive feedback, but we pay real close attention to our retreat evaluations. The retreats are not focused on artistic "product" (i.e., what the artist produces), but giving artists a place to grow deeper within the Lord among others who share similar values.

LM: Tell me about Grovefilms.

JO: Grovefilms is the media ministry of The Grove. We have several goals with Grovefilms. First, we want to provide high quality church media to churches across the world. We also want to be very intentional about supporting the work of filmmakers who are Christians. Every time someone buys and downloads media from Grovefilms, filmmakers are financially supported through the sales of their products. Next, we wanted to produce our own short films and feature-length films with stories of spiritual transformation. There are a lot of great stories to be told! Last, we wanted a tool to produce sustainable income for the ministry. We want to show our ministry partners that their investments are taken seriously.

More about The Grove on Thursday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quite a Concert

I'm excited to be offering a new feature next week so be sure to check it out.

Today, I thought I'd pass along this article by Mark Gavreau Judge that appeared in Books & Culture about a concert that the writer calls "a holy joy." 

It starts like this: 

"On Friday, September 19, I witnessed one of the most miraculous things I've ever seen on a stage. I use that adjective with purpose; the only way to describe what happened is the language of religion.

"It was the 2008 NEA National Heritage Fellowship awards presentation, held at the Strathmore Music Center, a spectacular concert hall outside of Washington, D.C." Click here to find out what happened.

I wish I had been there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Craft or Message?

Today I want to turn your attention to the blog of literary agent, Chip MacGregor, where he answers questions about writing and publishing. Scroll down to the second and third question. That section starts like this:

"Ben wrote and asked a question that is obviously related to my earlier criticism of Fireproof--"You said that good messages and moral content don't trump quality...but does quality trump message and moral content?"

To read Chip's answers, click here.

On this Columbus Day, may we spend some extra time in prayer for our country.

Coming soon: new features 


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Words to Create By

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalm 19:1

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Philippians 1:27

"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32

"You are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world." Matthew 5:13a, 14a

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nigel Goodwin: Missionary to the Arts

This weekend, I had the privilege of spending more time with my friend Nigel Goodwin, Executive Director of Genesis Arts Trust. On Friday night, author, radio talk show host and culture expert Dick Staub did a Q&A with Nigel at a reception in Nigel's honor. (Click here for my interview with Dick last year.) Dick called Nigel "a pioneer" in helping people around the world understand faith and culture, and faith and the arts. 

When Nigel came to faith in Christ in the 1960s, he was told that you could not be an artist and a Christian. He, along with other artists who were Christians, struggled with their identity. He spent some time at L'Abri in Switzerland where Francis Schaeffer and Hans Rookmaaker were his mentors. They helped him to understand that it's okay to think and be a Christian and to be an artist and a Christian. He soon married Gillie, a lovely young woman he met at a wedding, and they began to invite people into their home and listen to them. Nigel says that everyone asks these questions: "Does anyone love me?" and "Is it safe?" He and Gillie created an environment that was safe and loving--a place where people could ask anything. 

Pastor and author John Stott commissioned Nigel to be a missionary to the arts and years later, he continues to invite people into conversation, creating a safe space for them to be themselves, to ask questions about Christ, to gain a new understanding of how faith and art can work together. He is never too busy or distracted or tired to engage a person, whether friend or stranger. He takes the time to talk to artists who need encouragement as well as servers in restaurants who need to be acknowledged for the people they are. He is as comfortable with famous actors as he is with those who will never set foot on stage. Nigel often speaks about the arts and culture at churches, colleges, conferences, and homes. He loves his Lord, his wife and family, and his calling. The world is a better place because of Nigel Goodwin.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Arts Series

Last night several arts enthusiasts from our church met to discuss creating a new arts series. We already have a strong worship arts program but this will be a new series of events outside the regular worship arts lineup. One main purpose of it will be outreach to the community. We're just beginning the planning process but are considering concerts, lectures, readings, dance performances, visual art exhibitions, film discussions and more, all intentionally geared toward different age groups. 

We had a special guest join us: our good friend from the UK, Nigel Goodwin. (Nigel was the first person I featured on this blog when I began it two years ago.) A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Nigel worked in theatre, film, TV, and radio for over 10 years. He trained under Francis Schaeffer at L'Abri. Now, as Executive Director of Genesis Arts Trust, Nigel encourages and supports Christians in the arts, both celebrities and as-yet-unknowns, all over the world. 

My husband and I met Nigel several years ago. A common love of the arts brought us together, and we were thrilled to have him take part in our wedding. Since then, he has spoken at our church several times and will do so again this Sunday. I'm hoping to have some time to interview him again for the blog before he goes to encourage artists elsewhere in the US.

If your church has an arts series like the one I've outlined here or if you know of something similar, please tell me about it by leaving a comment. I know of several myself but would love to hear from you.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Les Miserables

Even though it was my third time, it moved me again as before. Maybe more so. After all, I'm older now, and wiser, I hope, and a mother, too, which has changed how I view just about everything. But I think that if I were to see Les Miserables a dozen times, I would still be moved by this story of grace, forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice, love, courage, compassion, loyalty, and more. I found myself marveling that this classic that deals so obviously with important spiritual questions should be so popular, still bringing in crowds after years of touring the country.

The first two times I saw it, I was in my early 20s. I identified with Cosette's and Eponine's feelings of love for Marius as well as the students' idealism. But yesterday, I ached for Fantine and her motherless child. And Javert seemed so much more human to me--still obsessed with Valjean and the law but truly baffled by Valjean's act of mercy toward him. 

Even more, though, I found myself caught up in Jean Valjean--a sinner given a second chance to make a life for himself beyond his circumstances. To be honest and honorable, even when it cost him dearly. To live the life of a man and not a number. Would I have been so brave and true? I hope so.

This cast had strong, powerful voices that soared with the music one moment, then faded to exquisite harmonies the next. If the words were in another language and I could not understand them, I would still be moved to tears--and cheers. 

Les Miserables has given me much to consider and remember. That's what good theater does. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Michael Card, Part 2: Creativity and Community

Today I'm concluding my interview with Michael Card. In a career that spans 25 years, Card has recorded over 20 albums, authored or co-authored over 14 books, hosted two radio programs, and written for a wide range of magazines. Through all of these means, his love of teaching the Bible and his focus on the importance of biblical community shine through. 

LeAnne: In your book, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, you talk about listening. Why is listening important for artists? What (or who) should we be listening to?

Michael: Listening represents that state of openness in the artist that really is the basic expression of love. The best way to show someone you love them is to listen to them. We should be listening to everything but always listening for God in the process, realizing all along that He loves by listening to us as well.

LM: Why is community important for Christians in the arts?

MC: Because creativity, true biblical creativity, always happens in the context of community. This is not to say that artists don't create alone, but that they derive a purposefulness in creating that only comes from listening to the needs, hurts, or joys of the community. I think the reason so many artists despair is that they are disconnected from community.

LM: What are you working on right now?

MC: I am currently trying to finish a book on the topic of slavery in the New Testament. I was discipled in the context of two African American churches and heard Jesus referred to as "Master" in both. I had never heard Him called by that name in the white church and so I started investigating why. That journey led to this book and I hope eventually a record.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Michael Card, Part 1: The Imagination

In a career that spans 25 years, Michael Card has recorded over 20 albums, authored or co-authored over 14 books, hosted two radio programs, and written for a wide range of magazines. While he has penned such favorites as "El Shaddai," "Love Crucified Arose," and "Emmanuel," he never imagined selling more than 4 million albums or writing over 19 #1 hits. The popularity of his work seemed a stark contrast to his goal in life--to simply and quietly teach the Bible. 

In addition to teaching, performing, and writing, Card hosts a radio show, In the Studio with Michael Card, which is broadcast on many radio outlets across the US, including Moody Radio stations and affiliates. Each show features Bible commentary, a look at the creative process, and demonstrations of faith lived out in community.

Whether it's through his writing, concerts, teaching or his radio program, the core of what binds these seemingly diverse endeavors together is biblical community. It is at the heart of everything Michael Card does.

LeAnne: You write in your book, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, that we hunger for beauty. Why is that?

Michael: I believe our interior hunger for beauty is a reflection or perhaps a vestige of our being created by the God who is beauty. Most of our behavior connects back at some point to this fact.

LM: What is the call to create and where does it come from?

MC: The call to create is universal and goes back to our having been created by a creative God. It is part of His fingerprint on us. It comes from Him I suppose but you might also say it is imprinted on our souls. It comes out through various creative drives we all have.

LM: Why is it important for Christians in the arts to understand the imagination? Where can we go to learn more about it?

MC: Christians need to understand the function of the imagination in order to communicate truth and beauty more biblically to a world that hungers for them both. The imagination is a God-created bridge or connection between our hearts and minds. It allows art to speak to them both. It allows us to communicate to a more fully-integrated person. I think we go to the Bible to learn more, as we seek to interact at the level of the imagination with the text. That is the best place to see how it "works."

More from Michael Card on Thursday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seeing Your Soul

While I'm working on the new features, I've been enjoying pulling quotations and passages together for my posts. Here is a group of wonderful quotations I found in The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken, a book I recommend. 

"The poet's job is not to tell you what happened, but what happens: not what did take place, but the kind of thing that always does take place." Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination

"The primary job that any writer faces is to tell you a story of human experience--I mean by that, universal mutual experience, the anguishes and troubles and gifts of the human heart, which is universal, without regard to race or time or condition." William Faulkner, Faulkner at West Point

"My assumption is that the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all." Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life

"The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says 'look at that' and points." C. S. Lewis, The Personal Heresy

"It is the function of all art to give us some perception of an order in life, by imposing an order upon it." T. S. Eliot, On Poetry and Poets

"You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul." George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Eric Moore: The Gift of Song

Singer and actor Eric Moore started singing in church at an early age. His first professional acting job was in 1995 with Tom Key in Cotton Patch Gospel at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. He has since appeared in many shows in Atlanta and regionally and has some film credits too. 

We have had the privilege of seeing him in several shows at Theatrical Outfit. One of my favorite moments from last season's Godspell was Eric's performance of "All Good Gifts." He had the audience in tears--with many nodding in agreement and thanking the Lord right along with him.

This weekend, we saw him at Theatrical Outfit as Jim in Big River, a musical based on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was an excellent show by a cast of strong performers, powerful moments of poignancy, and of course, the humor of Twain. Eric, with a voice that's rich and full, makes you believe he's experiencing what he's singing for the first time and you are invited along on the journey with him.

"Singing has always been a part of my life," Eric says. "I feel the ability to sing is a gift from God."

Eric says he tries to make sure the work he does is a good representation of his Christian life. "Everything that I have done and everywhere that I have been is due to the gift of song that God has given me." 

We are thankful, too, for that gift. Keep singing, Eric!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today is 9/11. Let's remember the lives lost and the lives changed forever that morning.

Flannery on Learning to See

A few more words from the brilliant fiction writer Flannery O'Connor. This passage is from "Writing Short Stories" in the book Mystery and Manners. 

"Fiction operates through the senses, and I think one reason that people find it so difficult to write stories is that they forget how much time and patience is required to convince through the senses. No reader who doesn't actually experience, who isn't made to feel, the story is going to believe anything the fiction writer merely tells him. The first and most obvious characteristic of fiction is that it deals with reality through what can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched."

"Now learning to see is the basis for learning all the arts except music. I know a good many fiction writers who paint, not because they're any good at painting, but because it helps their writing. It forces them to look at things. Fiction writing is very seldom a matter of saying things; it is a matter of showing things."

I'm so excited about all the new features I have lined up for the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Flannery on Fiction

Today's post is taken from Flannery O'Connor's excellent essay, "The Nature and Aim of Fiction", which appears in a collection of her writing called Mystery and Manners. As with most of the quotations I share on this blog, even though they are about writing fiction, the points O'Connor makes apply to other types of art as well. Enjoy.

"Very few people who are supposedly interested in writing are interested in writing well. They are interested in publishing something, and if possible in making a 'killing'. They are interested in being a writer, not in writing."

"Art is a word that immediately scares people off, as being a little too grand. But all I mean by art is writing something that is valuable in itself and that works in itself. The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode. The person who aims after art in his work aims after truth, in an imaginative sense, no more and no less."

"The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and you cannot appeal to the senses with abstractions."

"The fact is that the materials of the fiction writer are the humblest. Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you."

Coming soon: new features with a novelist, a poet, a photographer, an actor, and more 

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Randall Flinn, Part 2

This week I'm featuring Randall Flinn, Founder and Director of Dance Ad Deum.

LeAnne: Have you faced challenges from the world because of your faith?

Randall: Surely at times, but that is to be expected and rejoiced over. For the most part I have found that when we are true and comfortable and "real" in our own skin as Believers working in the arts, and when we have something significant to contribute that is not propaganda for our cause, we then gain many listening ears and hearts. And the applause ain't bad either!

LM: Have you faced challenges from the church because of your art?

RF: Would you be shocked if I told you sometimes this is the greatest warfare of all--where we strain at gnats and swallow camels? Praise God for those churches and pastors and Christian leaders who "get it" when it comes to the arts as good gifts of God to be celebrated and stewarded and offered not only to the "holy house" but also to those in the outer court.

LM: What would you say to encourage other artists who are trying to live their faith and their art in the world?

RF: Don't stop. Pray, weep, persevere. He who began a good work is faithful to complete it!

And network--not for vanity or self-promotion but for the life-giving fellowship of other Believers who are wired just the way you are! The Lord still needs His Joseph in Egypt and His Esther in Persia and all the Daniels in Babylon He can get. No, it's not the church or missions organization--it's the world, but you can still be God's priest and servant and wash many feet in that very place.

Remember, there is a mighty spirit and He dances with us and over us. Here is my offering on that truth.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Randall Flinn: Dance Ad Deum

Randall Flinn is founder and director of Dance Ad Deum. Flinn began his dance training in Houston over 25 years ago with Glenn Hunsucker, Camille Long Hill, Dina Vail, and Patsy Swayze. His most recent modern dance influences have come from studies with The Limon Company and Steve Rooks, former principal dancer with Martha Graham. He has taught and choreographed locally as a guest artist for the Houston Ballet Academy, The Episcopal High School, Houston Met Dance Company, Joan Karff Dance Company, The High School for Performing Arts and North Harris Performing Arts Dance Company. He was selected as a guest choreographer for Houston's Dance Salad 1999, Dance Houston 2006, and Texas Weekend of Contemporary Dance 2007. Nationally, he has served as guest faculty and choreographers for Cirque Du Soleil--Alegria, Ballet Magnificat, Belhaven College, Friends University, Project Dance NYC, LA, and Sydney, Australia, Hillsong, Australia, and Dance Revolution Conventions. Having lived throughout Europe and Asia for ten years, Mr. Flinn has also been a guest artist for Hong Kong Ballet, City Contemporary--Hong Kong, Guanzhou Modern Dance Company--China, Xaris Danz Europe and Youth With a Mission International Schools of the Arts.

LeAnne: What is Dance Ad Deum? Where did the name come from?

Randall: Ad Deum means "unto God" in Latin. Ad Deum is a professional contemporary (modern, neo classic) dance company based in Houston, Texas. The company began in January 2000, birthed by an ongoing passion for some years to establish a professional dance work where dance artists of Christian faith could fully integrate and pursue their vocational calling with excellence in an environment where their faith could also freely be expressed. Dancers have moved here to Texas from all around the globe to pursue their passion for their faith and their dancing. I still stand amazed!

Not that long ago, professional dance and Christian faith did not fare well among the Christian community nor within the mainstream community of the arts. The church (well, parts of it) was open to liturgical or praise dance offerings by well meaning worshippers. However professional presentations of dance by highly skilled dance artists who truly were seeking to honor God and bless mankind were rare to find.

Well, a new day has dawned and a multitude of very high-caliber and Christ-centered dancers have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this. They are out there all over the world engaging, influencing and impacting the church and the mainstream culture. To this I say, "Praise God--finally!"

LM: What is Dance Ad Deum working on now?

RF: More than I care to think about--that is what we are working on now! Next big performance is Texas Weekend of Contemporary Dance in Houston at the Miller Theatre on September 12/13. We are premiering a new work by Mr. Steve Rooks, former ten-year Principal Dancer with Martha Graham. Steve is a fellow believer-artist who is also working as the Lord's Daniel in the midst of Babylon, so to speak. His life and work as a follower of Christ is that of a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. [Note: To read LeAnne's interview with Steve Rooks last year, click here and here.] 

Ad Deum has a full touring season both nationally and internationally. In November, we make the long journey to Malaysia to work with both the church and the mainstream dance culture.

LM: How has your faith affected or impacted your passion for dance?

RF: I believe my faith and a true understanding of a biblical worldview of the arts opens my life to the limitless possibilities of the glorious freedom of the children of God. I have come to understand a relevant and redemptive revelation of a New Testament priestly-artist--one that seeks to bless the Lord and serves the culture around him as the Lord's servant. No need to be religious here in this position and calling. The freedom comes in resting in the relationship and calling and understanding the cultural mandate and claiming the truth that God's artists can take up their towels and basins and wash the feet of this world with art that resonates with glory and honor.

On Thursday, the conclusion of my interview with Randall Flinn.

The Work of My Hands

On this Labor Day, I'm thankful for the work of my hands. I'm praying that God will:

--help me pour out my gifts with abandon, joy, and courage,
--show me how to squeeze every bit of juice out of the time I'm given to write, 
--be glorified no matter what I write or for whom (whether a blog post, article, story, essay or email)
--use my blogs and my other writing to bless and encourage others.

Today as I glance at the overcast sky outside my office window, I'm also praying for those, some of whom are family and friends, who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav.

Because of the holiday, I'm going to do something a little different and post three times this week. I have a fresh new feature I'm excited to share with you starting tomorrow. Check it out!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Craig Detweiler on the Sacred in Film and Culture

Here's an interview I found interesting called "Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century". John Moorehead talks to Craig Detweiler, co-director of the Reel Spirituality Institute, associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of A Matrix of Meanings and his latest, Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century.

Coming soon: new interviews with an actor, a director, a poet, and a gallery owner

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rosemary Rutland: Arts Enthusiast

Occasionally, I interview arts enthusiasts. Today I'm featuring Rosemary Rutland, a certified personal chef and certified pastry culinarian. As a personal chef, Rosemary teaches cooking and baking classes, creates dining memories for special occasions and makes multi-meal service for a broad range of clients. She also enjoys singing, playing her guitar and traveling. 

LeAnne: Do you think Christians should care about the arts? Why?

Rosemary: Art is beauty inspired and created by God and through God for us to enjoy. Beauty is all around us in many forms--we must choose to recognize it. One man's "beauty" is often ignored by another. Art and beauty are very personal choices. As Christians, I believe we should care about art and its expression. All things come from God and art is no exception.

LM: Why do you love the arts? Have you always loved them?

RR: My parents took me to plays as a child and I have always loved music. I enjoy art and the older I get the more I appreciate different mediums and ways of expression than I did before. For instance, I always loved watercolor but now I appreciate sculpture too. I think I appreciate the arts more each year and the importance of them in our world.

LM: Do the arts impact or enhance your daily life? How?

RR: Yes, the arts inspire me. I am in awe of the gifts that God gives to others in playing an instrument, writing songs, singing, acting, painting, photography, and creating what is in their heads and in the world around them. I spend lots of time listening to music when I am working, and my husband and I just became members of the local art museum.

Coming soon: an actor, a gallery owner, a director

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Replay: Jill Pelaez Baumgartner, Part 2

Today I'm concluding the replay of last year's interview with Jill Pelaez Baumgartner--poet, professor, scholar, and editor. Enjoy.

Coming soon: an actor, a director, a novelist, and more!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Replay: Jill Pelaez Baumgartner, Part 1

This week, I'm replaying my interview with Jill Pelaez Baumgartner. Jill is a poet, an author, a professor of English, a dean, and more. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Replay: Alice Bass, Part 1

This week, I'm pulling from my archives to bring you my interview about creativity with Alice Bass, who is a writer, creative consultant, and award-winning actress.

Coming soon: a novelist, actor, and dancer

Friday, August 08, 2008

Replay: Robert Benson, Part 3

Today is the last of my 3-part interview replay with writer Robert Benson.

I've got several great new features coming soon!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

Replay: Robert Benson, Part 1

I'll soon be celebrating my 200th post and my 2nd anniversary of this blog. I've been privileged to talk with dozens of fascinating artists and art enthusiasts over the past two years. I love to bring you fresh material every week, so much so that I forget about the treasure trove of features I've already done. This week, I'm going to replay one of my many favorite interviews--this one with the writer Robert Benson. Enjoy.

Coming soon: a novelist, an actor, and a dancer

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barbara Nicolosi on "The Real Patron of the Arts"

I came across this interview by Valerie Striker with screenwriter, author, and professor Barbara Nicolosi. She speaks frankly about the arts,  the church, Hollywood, and preparing our kids for the culture. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

About Story and Reading

This summer I've been reading even more voraciously than usual: fiction, nonfiction, fiction theory, nonfiction about the arts and artists in general. It has been a rich and wonderful summer because of it. I found a few quotes I'd like to share about books, story, reading, and the artist. 

Also, I'm excited about my upcoming features. Stay tuned.

"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 Le Guin

"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

"One must be an inventor to read well." Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar" 

"The proper study of mankind is books." Aldous Huxley  [And I would add "so is art."]

"Artists are the antennae of the race." Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

James Romaine, Part 2: The Art of Sandra Bowden & NYCAMS

Today I'm concluding my interview with Dr. James Romaine, a New York based art historian. He is the co-founder of the New York Center for Arts and Media Studies (NYCAMS), a program of Bethel University. He has an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College in economics and art history, an MA in art history from the University of South Carolina, and a PhD in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is a frequent lecturer on faith and the visual arts and has authored numerous articles which have appeared in Art Journal of the College Art Association, American Arts Quarterly, Christian History & Biography, Re:Generation Quarterly, The Princeton Theological Review, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, It was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, and Faith and Vision: Twenty-Five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts. His books include Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith and The Art of Sandra Bowden, both published by Square Halo Books. Dr. Romaine is on the board of directors of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA).

LeAnne: Let's discuss The Art of Sandra Bowden. How did that book come about? 

James: The Art of Sandra Bowden developed out of an opportunity that presented itself because Sandra was having a retrospective of forty years of work and was nearing the conclusion of her tenure of service as president of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA). The Art of Sandra Bowden is a testament to Sandra's faithfulness to her art and to God. When Sandra committed herself to being an artist of faith, she did not know any other Christians in the visual arts. Forty years later, I have students who cannot imagine that sort of situation. They have grown up in homes, churches, and schools that provide them with opportunities to intimately connect their faith and art. For artists of Sandra's generation, there was always a question of, "Can you be a Christian and an artist?" When I was a student, the question was, "How can I be a Christian and an artist, in a philosophical sense?" Today, there's a sense of, "Let's get to it. How can I be a part of this art world?"

Sometimes, when things change as much as they have for artists of faith in the past forty years, we take these changes for granted. Artists of faith emerging today owe an immeasurable debt to artists like Sandra and there should be a historical record of her work so that we don't forget where we have come from and how God has blessed us through her.

LM: You are an Assistant Professor of Art History with NYCAMS. What are two or three things that you want your students to have learned when they leave your classroom?

JR: The New York Center for Art and Media Studies (NYCAMS) is a semester studio program that provides undergraduate art majors from across the United States and Europe with the opportunity of working in New York. As an art historian, I teach two classroom-based classes. I say "classroom-based" because I try to get out of the classroom, to galleries, museums, and artists' studios as much as possible. These two classes are "The History of Christianity and Art" and "Contemporary Art". In both classes, I hope to 1) provide students with tools, such as visual literacy and an understanding of the creative process, that they can employ in their studio work and 2) give them a sense of the historical and contemporary contexts in which they, as artists of faith, are working.

LM: What else would you like to say to my readers--both the artists and nonartists--about this topic of Christians in the arts?

JR: I would encourage your readers to be shapers of culture. Books like Objects of Grace, organizations like CIVA, and institutions like NYCAMS demonstrate the vitality, diversity, and quality of work being produced by artists of faith. I would encourage your readers to become patrons of these artists, especially emerging artists. (One place to find these artists might be through CIVA.) I encourage people of every level of income to purchase at least one original work of contemporary art every year. Typically, you can get a good work of art for between $1,000 and $5,000. Someone might say, "I don't have $1,000." If you set aside $100 a month, in a year you will have $1,200. In that year, the art patron should be visiting museums and galleries to educate themselves on what makes a good work of art as well as reading books and magazines, such as IMAGE, about contemporary art. That way, when you have saved enough for a quality work of art, you will have the tools, such as visual literacy and a conception of what makes a great work of contemporary art, to collect a work that will challenge and encourage you creatively and spiritually for the rest of your life in ways that could not have been anticipated.


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