2016.03.23 - Roots

After my experience that fateful Friday evening, most major life decisions were filtered through the lens of working towards bringing art to the low-income population.  It was about this same time that was hired on as the Director of Student Ministry at my church.  I did this for about 4 years, after which I felt distinctly called out of the position.  I felt God tell me that the season of vocational student ministry was over.

I pursued a couple careers: firefighting, teaching.  I even entertained ideas of entrepreneurship.  But, behind each idea and pursuit was the sense that it would eventually be a means to an end - another step on the journey towards launching an art academy.  

And so, I entered the summer of 2015 unemployed, knowing where I wanted to get to, but unsure of how to get there.  Did I just find a random job and begin saving?  Did I try to launch a business, with intent of having it one day fund the academy?  Did I just launch the thing and build the bridge as I walked across it? 

These are the questions that churned in my brain as I sought to answer the question: "What next?"  It was about this time that my wife, who was far from a passive spectator in all this, stumbled upon an after-school program.  They were serving low-income students.  They were "arts-based."  Could this be the perfect fit?  I would soon find out.

2016.03.06 - Seeds Planted

This was many years ago.  But, I still remember it vividly.

It was Friday night.  And like many of my Friday nights, I found myself shuffling into the chapel of my seminary.  Before every Friday evening class, there is chapel service.  Perhaps because the seminary recognized we needed a breather - that for many students, after a full work week, transition to the "weekend" was running a 20-hour gauntlet that looks something like this: class, drive, sleep, coffee/drive, class, lunch, class, drive.

So, like many, I was a little bleary-eyed, a little distracted, a little hopeful that whoever led worship this night would not prompt us to stand up.  I found a seat near the back, on the aisle (in case I needed to step out to "use the restroom").  I made it through worship and settled into my seat hoping not to fall asleep during the talk.

The speaker was announced.  Melanie Spinks.  She was an alumnus of the seminary and working artist.  I recognized her name because she currently had several large pieces hanging in the school that I had admired.  I perked up a bit.  

She began to talk about the arts and about their crossover with the Church.  About how if we are, in fact, made in the image of God, then creativity is an essential part of being human.  After all, is God not the ultimate creative?  By this point, I was captivated.

Then, she moved from the theological and theoretical to the intensely practical.  She began talking about the effects of after-school art programs in low-income communities: academic success rises, graduation rates rise, crime decreases, gang activity decreases, drop-out rates decrease.  

Chapel talks are intentionally pretty short, given the weariness of the audience.  But, in the 10-15 minutes of Melanie Spinks' talk, the course trajectory of my life completely changed.  From that moment on, I began thinking, plotting, planning how to use the arts to address issues of poverty.  The seeds were planted.