Backyard art show inspires conversations of faith

Young B.C. artists hope to bring more artwork into the church

September 28, 2011 | Young Voices
Emily Loewen | Young Voices Editor

If you’re a young artist with passion and talent—but no gallery—what do you do with the canvasses, sketches and sculptures you make?

If you’re Chris Siemens, you invite friends to fill your home and backyard with artwork on a summer afternoon and invite everyone in your neighbourhood to take a look. “I had all these close friends who are all really talented,” 29-year-old Siemens said over the phone from Ladner, B.C., “but no one really has the time or the motivation to put something together like that.” So he made it happen this summer.

The We Have So Much to Give event took place on July 30, showing the community how much the artists have to contribute, “whether that be through conversation, art, in our time with others or through written word,” said 22-year-old Laura Klassen, another contributor.

The other artists were Kylie Kornelsen, Catherine Bennington, Casey Wladichuk, Nick Niebuhr, Tessa Nickel, Ronny Bekdashe and Lane Bekdashe.

The afternoon provided an opportunity for friends, family and neighbours to see what the young adults are capable of while sharing food and conversation. Although she loved the fun atmosphere of the afternoon, Klassen said time talking with the other artists stood out: “I think the best part was just seeing the other artists . . . encouraging one another to keep going and finding a lot to talk about, just technique-wise or bringing faith into that.”

Faith was an important part of the show for most of the artists, several of whom attend Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond, B.C. And although it wasn’t advertised as a church event, Siemens, who attends The Way Community Church, Richmond, hoped it would be one example of God’s kingdom in the city. “Just the very fact that you are a Christian and you’re gathering together, it changes the atmosphere just because of the way that you act and the things that you say,” he said.

Klassen, a member of Peace Mennonite, added that they also hoped their art would provide an opportunity for others to ask questions about faith. Both Klassen and Siemens see a deep connection between their art and faith. “I would say that they cannot be separated,” Siemens said.

For Klassen, art started out as something she did as a child out of boredom. “But as I developed my faith and my art alongside that, I realized that there’s a huge connection to Christ and prayer through art,” she reflected.

Neither artist, however, feels that churches use visual art to its full potential. Siemens thinks that many churches are receptive to incorporating more artwork, but rarely ask for it. That means it’s often up to the artist to initiate a project, which doesn’t happen very often. “Artists are scared or shy, or they just don’t see that God gave them a powerful gift,” said Siemens.

Klassen said that Peace Mennonite does a good job with music and drama, but the visual arts aren’t integrated as often. She would love to have a gallery in the church or to see paintings worked on as part of the service. She feels, though, that humble artists and a generation gap could be keeping things from moving forward, which means the church misses opportunities to enhance services. “I think it’s inspirational and helps other people worship when they see [art] being done right in front of them, and it’s not something to be intimidated about,” she said.

At the event, Klassen and Nickel had a conversation with their pastor about putting on an art show at Peace Mennonite in the future.

Both Siemens and Klassen hope this show will inspire other young artists to share their work, and encourage churches to use the talent in their congregations. They also hope to make this an annual event.

As a last word to young artists, Siemens said, “It’s just a gift that you’ve been given, so put [your artwork] out there even if you don’t think it’s that great, because other people might think it’s really amazing.”

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