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.