Why Artists Need Community

I’ve written various blogs about great books that discuss faith and art.

What I haven’t shared is the most shocking thing I learned from those books.

As I researched how faith and art connect, I realized that a common thread connected all the resources I discovered.

Somehow, even though many of them had very different backgrounds, all these authors seemed to know each other.

My journey to learn about faith and art started in 2014 when I took a course that required reading You Lost Me by the Barna Group.

You Lost Me covered many topics, but one chapter discussed creatives struggling to fit in Christian culture and praised Christian musician Charlie Peacock for mentoring younger artists.

That was the first time I felt someone had vocalized a certain problem: the struggle for artistic Christians to feel accepted.

I began looking for more research on this struggle.

About two years later, someone recommended I read Francis Schaeffer’s book Art and the Bible. His insights helped me understand how the Bible supported artists and why many Christians had forgotten that.

Not long after that, I discovered an excellent speech by author Simon Morden critiquing Christian Fiction. At one point, Morden quoted Os Guinness’ book Fit Bodies, Fat Minds.

I read Fit Bodies Fat Minds and found Guinness’ thoughts on artists to be immensely helpful.

Then I discovered Guinness and Schaeffer were close friends.

At roughly the same time, I listened to a pastor, Steve Stockman, co-lead a talk at Taylor University. After some research, I went out and got his book Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2.

This book helped me understand how artistic Christians could operate in secular settings, and surprised me with the connections Stockman made.

When talking about Protestants and the arts, Stockman quoted Modern Art and the Death of Culture by H.R. Rookmaaker.

I researched Rookmaaker and discovered he was another one of Schaeffer’s close friends.

In another chapter, Stockman talked about a 2002 meeting where U2’s lead singer visited Charlie Peacock’s home and talked to Christian musicians about charity work in Africa.

Suddenly, a name I heard at the start of my search connected to something I was reading years later.

Sometime after I finished Walk On, the person who recommended Art and the Bible sent me a copy of Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner.

While Walk On and Art and the Bible gave me hints about why certain artists struggled in Christian sub-culture, Imagine gave that struggle a historical context.

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when Turner mentioned he was one of Schaeffer’s students in the 1970’s. In another chapter, he commended U2 as Christian artists flourishing in the secular world.

It wasn’t until I reread Walk On that I noticed Stockman mentioned Steve Turner as a good friend of U2.

Something else about Imagine surprised me: when I looked at the book jacket, I discovered it had endorsements by musician Michael Card and screenwriter Brian Godawa.

I had already discovered Brian Godawa’s great article “Storytelling and Persuasion,” collected in the book Apologetics for a New Generation.

A few months after finishing Imagine, I discovered Card’s book on Christian creativity, Scribbling in the Sand.

In one chapter, Card cited a letter H.R. Rookmaaker wrote to a young Christian artist in 1966.

Another connection I didn’t expect.

A few smaller connections followed, which are less extraordinary. The point of all this is simple: after 2 to 3 years of research I found writers who helped me develop, and strangely they all seemed to know each other.

I hadn’t just discovered some great writers: I had discovered a group of writers who had created a web of common acquaintances and influences.

They came from different generations; Schaeffer was born in 1912, Godawa in 1962.

They came from different countries; Rookmaker was born in the Netherlands, Card was born in Tennessee.

They came from different faith traditions; Guinness describes himself as Anglican, Stockman preaches at a Presbyterian church.

Yet through a combination of meeting each other or listening to each other’s work, these people influenced and (in many cases) supported each other.

To, me this web of connection illustrates that artists thrive when they have a community.

Sure, we can learn a lot about our artistic gifts and how to use them on our own.

But when we meet people who understand what we’re trying to do, support us as we grow and give us insights that help us grow, we develop much faster.

We flourish so much better when we find kindred spirits.

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2 thoughts on “Why Artists Need Community

  1. A topic I’ve thought I’ve thought about quite a bit but appreciate you putting into words. Guinness, Schaeffer, and Rookmaaker are to this day among my favorite authors and critics; I still find “Modern Art. .” to be highly relevant. Have you read Ryken’s “Christian Imagination?”

    Like

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