[This post is part of a conversation around the new book by Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art, now featured at the Patheos Book Club.]
Artists On Call in Culture:
A Generous Mind Conversation
Connecting Around Being On Call in Culture
Recently, Generous Mind had discussions with a group of artists who are On Call in Culture in some very creative ways. The goal was to put faces to this important cause and discover what it’s like to live On Call on a daily basis.
How to Engage with the Conversation
Take a moment to get to know each of these artists through our summary of the discussions below and then dive into the posts they have written to explain how they are applying the idea of being On Call in Culture as they practice their art on a daily basis. Then make sure to join the On Call in Culture Community at www.oncallinculture.com as we engage with people just like you who are asking how they can be On Call in Culture each day!
Meet the artists who participated in the Generous Mind Conversation:
Chris Woolley, fine artist and painter
Spiritual activity follows spiritual subjects. That is what Chris Woolley has found throughout his painting career. Creating what he calls, “pretty art,” people are generally accepting toward his work. How can you not enjoy a picture of a striking sunset? But his work is more than pretty pictures. At times, they reflect the spiritual aspects of life. That is when life gets interesting.
Once he painted a piece he called “Emerald Saints.” In the foreground was a tree struck by lightning with evergreens in the back. A rock stood close by representing Christ. At the time, he had a sense of the significance of the piece, thinking it was about martyrs, but he had some reservations about what he thought that meant.
He explains, “…the emerald is stone of the tribe of Levi and…the color emerald represents life and resurrection. This seems to fit so perfectly with theme of the painting. Still I felt somewhat uncomfortable with the martyr idea. It was the right theme but there was something about my idea of martyrs that wasn’t adding up. It seemed too exclusive to me. Somehow the tree needed to connect to all Christians.” While the painting was hanging in a gallery, a pastor came up and began to talk with him about the painting pointing out that “…the word witness in Greek is the word martyr. If we are called to be witnesses, we are called to be martyrs.” Suddenly it all made sense to Chris. He said it was the link he had been waiting for and it came after the painting was complete.
Prophesy is a role Chris hesitantly attributes to many artists who bring out and question things of God through their work. “It’s hard to engage in art without thinking about God. Art brings us back to order and what God did.” It has the power to “bring truths to light.”
Another part of the role Chris sees for artists is to respond to people as they interact with the work. It’s the discussion that follows that can be life and culture-changing. “So many people lurk on the sides. We know there are people listening on the periphery. People watch how you deal with customers and gallery owners. You have to watch yourself because you’re under the microscope.”
Chris’ big dream to be On Call in Culture is to produce a lifetime of good art—creating valuable things that he wants people to see in a different manner. Along the way, he has the opportunity to discuss the questions and thoughts that come when people interact with his work.
Thank you Chris for your insights on our discussion of being On Call in Culture. Read Chris’s contribution to the conversation and find out about his work as an artist here.
Bart Williams, musician and band member
Bart sees his role in the band Claymore Disco from the perspective of influence. As we talked, he shared about the role of a platform and how the stage gives you notice. Even if it is only a few inches off the ground, it is amazing how space can have significance.
As a 23-year-old working at a coffee shop, Bart also shared how he has honed his communication skills by having to talk with strangers all the time. As he serves them coffee and chats with the regulars he gets practice in engaging those around him. That comfort with being open to new people and to being in community with others gives him the courage to engage his fans and other bands before and after shows.
While their music is not specifically Christian it communicates what they care about. Bart shared how he often has the opportunity to connect with fans about specific songs. One example is their song “Fire lit Faces,” which is about Moses and the burning bush. Bart shared how the song allows him to challenge people to be paying attention to what is happening in their lives and being open to what might be out there for them.
Madison Wasinger, SimpLEE Organized business owner
Madison is launching a new business called SimpLEE Organized where she will be taking her organizational skills and empowering people to find solutions that work for them. But every business takes time to launch so she is also working at Chick-fil-A as she gets her operation up and running.
Madison resonated with what Bart said about how the job at the coffee shop helps her hone her people skills. “People take advantage of Chick-fil-A because they know we serve,” said Madison. She has seen customers lie to get free food but has realized her job is, “just serve and let God be the judge.” By working hard and not getting frustrated she is learning how to show Jesus to others through those daily actions.
But how will that flow into her new business? As Madison shares in her contribution to the Generous Mind conversation, she wants to bring a heart of service to organizing someone’s home or office. She acknowledged that, “when you organize a home you become part of their life.” You get to invest in them and give them systems that will help people have peace and time.
Just like at the Chick-fil-A, when you have to serve without judging the customer, when you come into someone’s house you can’t judge their home. Madison sees being On Call in Culture as entering a home and making a difference as she gets it organized. She also mentioned how organizing a space allows her to bring her values into that space in an intentional and subtle way.
Chuck Asay, political cartoonist
As a young artist, Chuck Asay thought that success looked like being syndicated and/or winning a Pulitzer Prize. Now he is happy with what he considers anonymity.
But Chuck attracts plenty of attention. Recently he received what he calls a “typical” email that asked, “Were you dropped on your head frequently when you were young?” and “You need serious help – do yourself a favour and get some.” When asked about death threats, he shrugs and says, “There weren’t many.”
Although his political cartoons stimulate strong emotions and opinions, Chuck sees that as an opportunity to engage people who dislike his message. Chuck takes an approach that talks openly about political issues without attacking the person.
When asked what his big dream was for culture change in his sphere of influence, he responded, “I’d like to see change similar to the change the Christian community saw in Paul. He was blind and then he saw. I want people to shake their heads and say ‘of course.’”
So what does Chuck do on a daily basis to affect culture? He says it’s a process and then points to Jesus’ answer of doing his Father’s will. He reminds us of the story of Jesus drawing in the dust when the people were going to stone the woman for adultery. He captured people’s attention by doing that, drawing them in, and this led to a woman being saved. It’s the same with us. It could be a big thing or a little thing that God has us doing.
Chuck, it was a pleasure talking, laughing and thinking with you. You have such an easy and friendly manner. Read more of Chuck’s perspective on being On Call in Culture and find out about his work.