Can Art Be Missional?
November 25, 2019
by Melanie Choi
When I first joined the student leadership team at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, a group of students had been praying for Emily Carr and received a vision about a tree growing out of our school. Many people marvelled at the tree and gathered around its trunk. Through reflecting on that vision this year, I started to believe that InterVarsity could be a light at Emily Carr.
Fall: Doubts and Uncertainties Creep In
At Emily Carr, we host a special weekly gathering called Untitled where we invite students to study scripture and respond creatively. During the fall, my campus staff Bryn had envisioned that we would study Revelation and hold a gallery show in the spring, reflecting on what we learned during our studies.
Initially, I was quite terrified of the idea. Would non-religious students come out to study the Bible? What if we get ridiculed, and no one comes to our show? I didn’t believe that, as a student leader, I could guide students towards a deeper understanding of Revelation, let alone get people to create something out of a text that I didn’t feel qualified to teach. But through some encouragement from Bryn, I prayed and asked God what his plans were for the spring semester. As I reflected on the vision we had discussed when I first joined the leadership team, I felt God encourage me. I felt comforted.
Spring: Learning to Lean on Community
Studying Revelation was not an easy task. It has very poetic language and depicts many provocative scenarios. It reveals and foreshadows many parts of the Bible. To my surprise, there was a bigger turnout to the studies than I had anticipated: eight students came!
The art show was just before finals season, and the same doubtful thoughts came back to me. I expected a low turnout due to students’ busy schedules. However, because many of them had to stay in their studios to finish their final projects, we had a lot of opportunity to invite people to take breaks and look around the gallery.
Before the show, our community came together and hung our works. It gave the artists time to speak to one another and also pray for each other. It felt wonderful seeing our group assist each other during the process of setting up. Having a community had helped my anxiety at the time. This meant that I didn’t need to burden myself with everything, from the planning and setting up.
During the show, some of our graduated members from InterVarsity came to support us. It was a nostalgic moment because I remembered when I was just in first year and they were leading me. They had impacted my life in a way that brought me hope, and through the show, I wanted the same for those who came to participate.
A Different Way to Witness
In the end, six of the eight students at our Bible study showcased art. The Revelation art show was a new way to witness to others. As a viewer, you could tell that our work was different than other shows. The whole process was challenging, but it enabled our campus group to reach out to the school community. We were able to introduce our interpretations of Revelation and engage with students around how the text influences our lives.
Melanie is one of more than 400 student leaders who took part in InterVarsity this past year. Would you donate to help see more students like Melanie take steps of faith?
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