Last issue in this space, I lamented the fact that there seems to be less and less art created for our worship spaces. Wouldn’t you know it, as the issue was being printed, a story ran in The Banner, the magazine of the Christian Reformed Church, about folks at a church in Langley, British Columbia, doing a lot of art around a Lenten theme to be displayed in its physical space and online.
Inspired by what this church did, with their blessing I’ve adapted the idea for an Advent and Christmas gallery of work. Here are some ideas for pulling it off:
Get the Word Out
It’s never too early to start piquing the interest of your congregation. Even if you’re still figuring out the logistics, prepare members and artists alike for what could be. Publish a few notices early on: “Calling all artists for a special Advent/Christmas celebration. No matter your skill level or medium, we have a place for you! Let [name] know if you’re interested.”
Find a way to make sure every contribution finds a place. Juxtapose a beginner’s work with an expert’s. Resist the urge to group by age or experience. Include artists’ details and their comments near the art so viewers can get to know the artists and find out what motivates them.
Most artists agree that constraints often force a greater level of creativity with better, more interesting results. Here are some ideas:
Content: Give your artists a Bible text to work with: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth” (Luke 1:14, about John the Baptist), or excerpts from Mary’s Song from Luke 1:46–55: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” or “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation”—or maybe a phrase like “A Light Splits the Darkness.”
Size: Ask that all submissions, in any medium, be 8" x 10". Requiring them to be submitted digitally might be too much of a constraint, however, so have someone at the ready who can scan or take a decent photograph of the pieces.
Deadline: Be clear that any submissions must be received by a specific date. And as the deadline comes closer, and you’re doubting yourself, stand firm. The results will likely be better for it. Another option is to have multiple deadlines throughout Advent for artists to submit to a growing gallery. Seed these time frames with work from people you know can deliver.
Attribution: Be clear early on that works submitted must be original, and if they’re based on another creative work, attribution must be given.
Make a Statement
Like a museum or gallery exhibit, use adhesive vinyl lettering for your text or theme so viewers immediately have a sense of the context the artists were working in. Do it up right. Show the insecure—that is, all artists everywhere—that you respect their work.
Get the Works Out
As I write this, we are still in the throes of COVID-19, with little known about the future of in-person gatherings. If things are yet uncertain when you read this, plan your display for online viewing on your church website, Facebook, or Instagram, the image-based social media application. Maybe even display the work in your church’s windows so members and passersby can appreciate them.
Throughout the project, work hard to validate any and all who find the courage to submit something for public viewing.