Come together. Learn together. Pray together. Create together.
By Natalie Meeks
GREENVILLE, South Carolina – Since its inception in 1994, BBI has worked diligently to bring people together for God’s glory. We began with pastors, churches and ministry leaders. Over the years, we have focused on increasingly varied and specialized groups. The body of Christ is made of many members, of countless personalities and a multitude of vocations.
One important group to whom God has called us to minister is that of artists and musicians. Due to the public nature of their work, the artist is granted a broad realm of influence in the culture. This is a calling and responsibility that must be nurtured by the church. Five years ago, we began the work of intentionally bringing this vision to life and joyfully watch as God faithfully grows it.
We call the international expression of this vision to artists – imagiNATIONS.
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview for life’s coming attractions.” One might say that Art is Reality, colored with imagination. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus and eternal life – this is the crux of our reality. Imagination through art is our voice.
imagiNATIONS functions as a partnership, led in Latvia by Madara Lazdina (Director of BBI’s Imago Dei network) and in Estonia by Külli Hansen (Director of Arts+ Estonia). Together, we seek to:
- Bring artists together so that they would grow closer to the Lord and to one another, developing new friendships and deepening established friendships.
- Consider important thoughts related to art, faith, the church and society.
- Create art together, helping to sharpen one another’s skills.
- Dream and plan together about future collaborative projects (i.e. our upcoming ‘Secret Double’ exhibition).
The much-anticipated retreat began in Užava, Latvia at Camp Ganības. Over a rainy, cold and windy weekend (July 7th to 9th) artists from Latvia, Estonia and the USA gathered for mutual encouragement, prayer, painting, counsel and conversation. Painting sessions, which generally take place outdoors, were moved inside due to the weather. This was a blessing we couldn’t have predicted; creating art indoors, in close quarters and sharing windows to the world, facilitated intimate interaction between our artists and encouraged relationship-building.
Imagination nurtures. Lectures, presentations and discussions were led by Madara Lazdina, Külli Hansen and Chuck Kelley. The fundamental goal of imagiNATIONS is to minister to the whole person of the artist. Topics covered in discussion therefore included: the philosophy of Christian art, great paintings and their “hidden” messages, the biblical foundations of the great masters and the necessity and tools required for a contemporary artist to make a practical living. Several artists from the nearby city of Talsi joined us for the first time, representing the expanding influence of BBI’s Imago Dei network. Talsi is a key city in Western Latvia.
Imaginative Art Stimulates and Integrates. Live music saturated the retreat. While artists painted, a musician played the violin and the saw, often entering spontaneously into the setting, adding ambiance with hauntingly beautiful hymns and classical music. Long days of deep thought, discourse and creativity were punctuated with traditional evening trips to the Latvian sauna. Here, friendships deepened and strengthened as stories and humor were shared.
July 14th -16th found our artists traveling for the second stage of the gathering: the imagiNATIONS Art Festival in Tartu, Estonia. Salem Baptist Church in Tartu organized a panel discussion on the nature of creativity as it relates to the image of God. The name of Tartu means “to think deeply.” This theme bleeds deep into the focus of our vision. Art is not meant to be separated from the church and theology. It is her right hand. It is the east wind, yielding powerful potential to carry the gospel out and around to our fellow man. Chuck led a session for artists entitled, “The Church and Artists: An Uneasy Marriage.”
Imagination is an Invitation. Four of our non-artist volunteers, who came to Tartu to serve, created their very first paintings. Almers Ludviks, BBI Executive Director, explained that he “is amazed at the way painting has caused him to look at nature differently.” The joy experienced by these novice artists is a testament to the Imago Dei network. As children of the Creator God, we are made to create.
Friday evening featured an impromptu concert at Salem Baptist Church, showcasing musicians playing piano, violin and the saw. This was declared to be the highlight of the week for many in attendance. The festival commenced with an exhibition of the works created during the imagiNATIONS event. Many of these paintings will now be on exhibition in Tartu for the next month.
Imagination is a Force. It ignites and illuminates. Using imagination, we behold, even now, previews of unveiled Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
Will you join us in praying for the artists, the mission and the work begun at imagiNATIONS 2017?
For that moment, ‘in and out of time’,
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
-Excerpt from “The Transfiguration” by Malcolm Guite
Natalie Meeks is Writer and Art Ministry Manager for BBI.