I had the pleasure of sitting down with Stefan, the director of The Create Commission program a few weeks ago and interview him about his project. In the past year I have come to admire Stefan’s outlook on life and ministry. He has a unique perspective on our call to imitate the Creator and this shows in his work. He has challenged me to think differently about how I few the world and my own faith. The following is a small excerpt from our conversation.
How did God surprise you in the past six months?
The Create Commission (TCC) team has been recruiting artists for the international artist residency coming up in November. Last year we had only two people from outside India participate. So this year we set a goal of getting four international artists to work alongside four Indian artists. However, there has been so much interest in the residency that we chose to expand it and hope now to host six international along with six Indian artists. I believe this increased interest is driven by Christian artists’ curiosity as to how art fits into Christ’s call to serve the poor and do mission. Some are also interested in seeing a model for how to do something like TCC in their own countries.
What has been challenging or disappointing?
In the past six months we decided to shut down public art and creativity classes we had been offering to middle and higher income individuals. These classes were a means to generate local income but also point people through creativity to both their Creator and a deeper understanding of themselves created in His image. The classes had been running for six years but after doing a review we realized there were more strategic ways to use our resources towards the goal of seeing art speak truth. The challenge is reorganizing and refocusing after having done it one way for so long.
What obstacles have you faced?
One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of staff who are followers of Christ. There are very few in the Indian church actively involved in the visual arts and it is particularly hard to find Christians with any serious training in art. This obstacle ends up being a constant reminder to me that we need to intentionally be working on mobilizing a new generation to take up art professionally in response to God’s call to disciple the nations. And for that we need the right theology—a theology of creation and calling—as well as practical encouragement and platforms which model it.
What has God been doing in your spiritual life in the past six months? What has He been teaching you? How have you seen him at work?
God has been humbling me by forcing me to question what is important and strategic in my work. Part of that humbling is seeing the big picture, this incredible potential for art to play in shaping a nation and bringing God’s truth to life, but maybe only being called to make a tiny little step towards it. What God wants us to do might look really small and that’s ok. I am also learning that obedience to God is more important than growing a large program, knowing that our human idea of growth is not always God’s idea of growth.
What is new, or what do you see on the horizon?
We are currently planning and preparing for the international artist residency in November. We are also in the process of reengineering the marginalized art program. We want to use art workshops not just with the marginalized, but also with church groups and college students. The idea with engaging the church is to run art workshops with Sunday schools and youth groups as a creative way of introducing a theology of Creation and Calling. We are also excited about a partnership with the Ending Gendercide program to run creative art workshops that engage college students with truths about gender justice and the value of women.
Is there one story from the past six months that has been really meaningful or encouraging?
For this final question I pulled an excerpt from Stefan’s letter from September, because I think it is best expressed in his own words:
“We are made to create—made in the image of a Creator God with a mandate to be creative and fill the earth with culture. Filling the earth with culture can look as simple as three at-risk adolescent girls, rescued from difficult situations in the slums of Delhi, starting their new lives by painting the cupboard they sleep next to.”
“Or Abdul participating in a marginalized art workshop for the very first time last month. Abdul spent his afternoon with us learning not to fear while creating, imagining what the color of water is, learning how to draw a fish, and after having learnt to fold a paper boat, putting it all together in a collage. Simple tasks yet profound, echoes of the earliest act of creation. Simple tasks yet striking, against the backdrop of Abdul’s life in a bleak 12’x12′ slum home he recently moved into, his parents having just migrated to the city as illiterate laborers to earn a dollar a day for back-breaking work.”
In November The Create Commission will be hosting their international artist residency. During this three week program artists live together and study a particular societal issue from a Kingdom perspective. Often this involves meeting with the needy affected by those same issues, and then creating art on the topic. The art produced is powerful and challenging. The cost of the residency program is $560 per artist. This covers all of the artists expenses including art supplies, food, living and working space. We are looking for partners to help sponsor each artist by covering all or part of the residency expenses. If you would like to contribute to this project you can do so here.