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What Does a Healthy Arts Community Look Like?

What Does a Healthy Arts Community Look Like?

When you look for support, encouragement and friendship you may search for an arts community, but what does a healthy arts community look like? There are art groups that range from relaxed to toxic and refreshing to reclusive. The fact is, there are as many types of arts groups as there are types of people. We all need companions along our life’s journey, but the quality of the companions is also important.

Most arts groups start out with wonderful ideals. They are looking for inspiring talks, encouraging every artist to take risks. They are looking for a community of support to get them through the hard times, and dependable colleagues who can help each other along the way. These are all noble goals, but so many arts groups lose their way over time. What was once invigorating becomes stagnant and what was cutting edge has become safe. What provided great fellowship in the past, has lost its warmth and zest for life.

Beautiful beginnings bring us hope and joy and remind us of what is good in the world. We rejoice in the new possibilities and relish the joy of starting fresh. The problem is that it can only last so long. We all have the similar struggles, similar hopes and similar dreams. We all sin and we are all tempted to be prideful of our own work, as well as jealous of others. Satan will find anyway to sneak into our relationships and cause havoc, and our own sins and insecurities are the perfect doorway through which he walks into our life. This is why arts groups and entertainment ministries will be tempted to give up searching for a truly healthy community. It takes hard work.

3 Hidden Community Killers

1) When the Desire to Belong Leads Us Astray

Belonging is a powerful desire which can lead us to deep relationships, but it can also lead us into sin. One of the greatest dangers is described in a lecture given by C.S. Lewis called “The Inner Ring.” . Lewis describes the dangers of loving a particular group which we want to join. The more we want to be a part of a group, the more we will be tempted to compromise who we are in order to be ‘accepted’ by the members of this group. Lewis goes so far as to say the desire to be in such a group can be the first step towards becoming a scoundrel and even a criminal. If you haven’t read it before, click on the link and take a minute to read it. It is brief, but poignant.

2) When the Desire for Deep Friendship Leads Us Astray

Friendship is essential for a satisfied life. As a Christian, you can always find the beauty of having Jesus as a friend, but there is something precious about the physical presence of a friend. When we celebrate, we want to share that joy with others, and when we are disheartened, it is the presence of a friend that helps us to bear the pain. Yet, friendship alone is never enough.

We must love more than the benefits or the friendship, or even the friend themself. We must have a higher aim if the friendship is to last, and bear spiritual fruit. I recently read Saint Aelred of Rievaulx’s powerful essay on the nature of spiritual friendship (amazon affiliate link). It is short, and to the point, reminding us of truths forgotten by our age. We must love our friends by encouraging one another to become more like Christ, and we truly see how becoming like Christ is the only way for our friendships to grow deeper and stronger over the years.

It is not the shallow friendships of this age, where people will lie to make another feel good, or to enable someone to avoid the needed repentance and transformation. Spiritual friendship is always focused on how we can provoke one another to become more like Christ, and in so doing, ensure that we all become more valuable friends to one another. This vision of spiritual friendship is critical if our arts groups are going to bear fruit year after year.

3) When the Love of Art Leads Us Astray

The love of art is the third area in which good things can lead us astray and destroy the communities we love. It is not a problem to enjoy art, to celebrate art, and to push ourselves to create the best art we can create. The problem arises when you put art above everything else. This idea is most often heard in the phrase, “Art for art’s sake.” It is here that art has subtly replaced God as the ultimate source of meaning.

Rather than art for God’s sake, we have made art the end all, be all of life. At this point, we begin to think art is outside of our spiritual life, and lives apart from the concerns of God and His word. This may be what the art world wants society to believe, but as followers of Christ we cannot accompany such dangerous notions.

God is sovereign over all of life, and cares about every facet of our lives and our culture. Thus, art, is never for its own sake. We are called to love God above all else, and to love our neighbor as our self. Our love of art is supposed to be in service of our love of God and our love of our neighbor. Any other approach invites a spiritual cancer into your imagination, your art, and your spiritual life.

Healthy Community

A healthy arts group can provide deep connection, opportunities for collaboration, and support for your spiritual growth. More than just finding like-minded people we can find a rich community with people because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Unlike worldly arts groups, a spiritually healthy arts group will see art as a gift of God, and a reminder that we are made in His image – God, the Creator, has given us the gift of creativity.

Such artists will never use their gift to mock God, or mock His followers. They will never sulk in bitterness, but will rejoice with those who are succeeding, mourn with those who are suffering and encourage one another through prayer and scripture. Such a community draws deeply from the love of God, knows the joys of God’s forgiveness, and experiences the freedom of Christ as they walk in the light of the Gospel. This only occurs among men and women who love God above all else. Only then can they love others without expecting anything in return. Only then can they love each other with a more pure love that doesn’t ‘need’ something from the other person.

The Basis of a Healthy Arts Community

A healthy community is based on people who come together not only for the benefits of the group, but for how they can give and serve one another, as an act of worship to God himself. The more central this mindset is to your arts group, the healthier it can become, and the greater the foundation there will be for the hard times in the future.

If you are looking for a healthy arts community to connect with, take a few minutes to join our newsletter and be a part of our community of artists of faith working in the mainstream art world and entertainment industry HERE, and let us know how we can encourage you and give you the resources you need.

We have artists and creatives of every level of almost every type of creative profession, and we continually create resources to encourage you and help you glorify God throughout your career. Artists and creatives come to us because we know the arts, we have studied the theology, and we have studied the culture and times in which we live.

Why do we do this? To equip you to succeed in your career and to have a thriving spiritual walk with Jesus throughout your artistic journey. If there is anything we can do to help, or any topic you would like us to address…just let us know!

Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

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5 comments on “What Does a Healthy Arts Community Look Like?”

  1. Leonardo Reply

    So much truth here. And sadly, a ton of my history in relation to the groups I’ve been a part of in the past. But what a beautiful, uplifting mix when found!

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Thank you so much. Indeed, most creatives make one of these mistakes early on in their career, and it does not lead to health, maturity or freedom.

  2. Jemma roberts Reply

    Hi. Thanks Joel for your great input and thoughtful discussion
    A group can be at it’s best a place to be built in our faith journey and creative discourse and encouraging one another
    Yet to find that mix. Secular creative and Christian groups/ church community
    I do look for and would love to discuss how others extend into their creative practice their faith and Holy Spirit guidance
    The dance between God as our source and infilling for our work but how is it navigated. Love to hear about that balance/ method for other artists
    My recent body of work related to the massive fires that ravaged much of Australia’s bush. Resulting work was called Beauty for Ashes that stemmed from finding burnt twisted tree trunks and debris o the shoreline a year later!
    I live out of Sydney teach art but would love connection to the process discussion with others of faith
    Sorry for long reply
    Kindest regards
    Jemma
    jemmarobertsartist@gmail.com
    Instagram jemmaroberts_artist

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Jemma,

      I would love to see your work. That is a great topic suggestion about the Holy Spirit and His role in our creative process. We will add that to our list of future topics. I love the reference to ‘beauty for ashes’! That is the heart of the gospel!

      Joel

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