Where Beauty is…

The cute husband reads a blog called Not the Religious Type, and frequently tells me about what’s going on there. This morning he told me two things about the blog. First, the main author is out of town and asking for guest blogs. Second, there’s a series going on about evangelism (and how people our age really hate that word). He suggested that I post something about my birthday art festival.

My first thought was that if anyone who went to the festival read the blog, they might be offended at the idea that the whole thing was a masked evangelism project. My second thought was, my birthday art festival was in no way a masked evangelism project. It is true that many artists described or spoke about God and his influence in their lives, myself included. It is true that there were some people present who would not call themselves Christian. It is completely untrue that either of these elements were part of the planning or purpose of the event. I spread my invitation net very wide, because I wanted a ton of people to be there, but I devoted no effort to making sure non-church-going people attended. The artists I asked to participate were asked because of their talent, not their religious views. The idea of setting up an art festival in order to evangelize offends me. It’s dishonest, and I suspect that it would result in some very low quality art.

That said, I do believe that art attracts people to God. I think God is in beauty, and so when you’re around a lot of beauty, you’re around a lot of God. The mistake that I see made quite often, is that Christians use art as an excuse to talk about God, rather than letting him speak for himself in what has been created. After thinking on it, I came up with four elements that go into planning the kind of event I love, where God is known through the beauty of creation.

First, appreciate creativity. The most important thing I do to bring artists together is to notice all the artists who are around me. I try to press into their creative expressions to truly appreciate what is there. It is too easy for artsy people to get snobby, to look at art in order to criticize while failing to appreciate. There is a magic that happens inside me when I start looking at art with an eye for what is beautiful and profound about it.

Second, invite and encourage. Because I am an artist, I understand that inviting an artist to do their thing at a public event is mutually beneficial. Knowing this has made bold enough to invite artists who intimidate me. I also invite people who don’t know they’re artists yet. I try to be honest with them about what I appreciate in their creations, I encourage them to come and share their work, and I reassure them that the environment in nurturing and accepting. I make the environment that way with step one. I spread my invitations to artists as widely as possible, trying to tap into the intentional appreciation of creativity in all its forms. Also, if someone offers to do something at a creativity night (or an awesome birthday festival), I always say yes. Practicing that has helped me widen the scope of what I consider art, and has brought some phenomenal new forms into my life.

Third, censor as little as possible. Artists hate censorship for a reason. It cripples our expression, requires us to falsify our experiences, and it puts arbitrary rules above the beauty of creation. I resist censorship if only because the art is better when it is uncensored. There is a built-in safety net there too, because if it is okay to say fuck, it is also okay to include a full gospel message in your poem. No one can argue that it’s offensive or inappropriate if the event is uncensored. The only reason I ever ask artists to censor their work is if there are children present. Even then, I usually offer a specific period that is family friendly, so artists with potentially offensive material can still express themselves freely after that period is over.

Fourth and finally, trust God. I am a Christian, and so I believe that God created everything that is. I believe that when I create, I am revealing part of his image within me. I believe that when something is beautiful, God is in it. So God was in Judah’s mathematical depiction of heaven, God was in Amy’s lovely seasonal metaphor for love, God was in a dark chocolate and berry cake, God was in little kids scribbling with crayons on a blank white wall, God was in Kevin’s sad and hilarious short story, and God was in Jen singing Lady Ga Ga. I trust God to show up in everything that’s good, I trust that God showing up will make it better, and I believe that people who see and experience God in beauty and art will fall in love.

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