An Email Opportunity from Dayton

This was an email sent to me from one of my professors at school, Dayton Castleman, with whom I have recently began attending church at Covenant Presbyterian in Bucktown with. The email was sent to myself, Abby, Emily, and nine other artists (visual, performing, literature) that Dayton knows (including Tomas Moreno, the artist I helped with his installation). This is a HUGE opportunity to get involved in Christian community, as well as get to know people from within the art world who are currently participating in things like installations and performances. It is entirely unbelievable to me that he believes in the three of us enough to extend an invitation.

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The Letter:

It’s a challenging time of the year to attempt gathering groups of people, but we are going to shoot for one more small artist’s gathering before the new year, and also a brainstorming pot-luck on a different Covenant project. The hope is to open up the group to all interested starting in 2010. If you are getting this, you are invited.


Part one of this email is a brief nuts and bolts of this particular gathering, as well as the other Covenant Arts initiative being headed up by Bert Stabler, and part two is more fleshed out vision for a core group, so even if it happens that you would be unable to make this particular gathering, please feel free to read and chime in on the big picture.


PART I

  • Interdisciplinary Artist’s Small Group

We are going to shoot for next Saturday night, December 12 from 7 – 9PM. This time seems to work best for most folks. I know that I spoke to one or two people about Sunday the 13th, but forgot that the Covenant Midnight Clear concert was that evening. Tim and Renee Driver have generously offered to host this gathering in their West Loop loft.

We agreed that in general Sunday night would be a good night to plan for in the future, starting at once a month, but this is still a point of discussion.

Please let me know if you are able to come!

  • Covenant Relational Arts Community InCUBATE Mash-Up Brainstorming Pot-Luck Thingy

If you have not gotten wind of this project in the works, Bert Stabler and his gal Katie are hosting a pot-luck to discuss the possibility of a Covenant relational art initiative a la an InCUBATE (http://www.incubate-chicago.org) model-ish thing. A gathering and discussion of this idea will be happening on Tuesday the 14th of Dec. at 7PM .

PART II

  • Artist’s Small Group

Our first gathering was relaxed and fruitful in establishing a basic consensus as to what it might look like when we get together. There was agreement that all should be invited from the church, but that we would do our best to articulate the multidisciplinary group as geared toward the “arts professional.” I’m still interested in tweaking that language, but the idea is to build the group for those that understand the arts as central to their vocational life (students as well!), whether or not they make any meaningful income off of it. This language is not intended to exclude the “hobbyist” but simply to communicate that it’s not some kind of “artsy” coffee social. In fact, I think hobbyists might benefit greatly from being a part of a community like this.

The basic desired outcomes that emerged were the following. I’ve listed them in the order of what I perceived was the group sentiment in terms of priority. Feel free to chime in on this if you sensed differently:

  • 1. Fellowship and support through sharing, conversation and prayer
  • 2. Sharing and critique of work and current projects
  • 3. Dialogue regarding issues related to working in the art world
  • 4. The possibilities of collaboration on projects

Some suggested means of accomplishing these priorities were also explored. I suggested a few models based on the experience of building a healthy group of this sort in Philadelphia. Some of these ideas were:

  • As a way of creating a sense of familiarity and community each person would be given a nice solid chunk of time to share their work with the group over the beginning months. Something along the lines of 30 – 45 minutes to simply show or present whatever the artist desires as an artist’s “bio.” This process would be scheduled, and could extend over as long a period of time as needed. As newcomers participated, they too would be invited to present. I think that the Philadelphia group took almost a year to do this. It allows each person to give more than simply a cursory glimpse into their practice. We could do one of these per gathering. Musicians might present a few works, artists could show images of artwork or curatorial projects, writers might do a reading. We would work to facilitate this for a variety of different practices, and leave time for responses. Hopefully this would also be happening on an informal basis, but these more formal presentations can be illuminating, and allow for more depth.
  • Each month we would have a time for sharing and prayer requests. Each of the spheres within which we operate comes with its share of joys and challenges. As we get to know and trust each other, we hope that a willingness to share, listen, and bear one another’s burdens through encouragement and prayer will grow. Ideally, if it grows, we could perhaps do “group plants” for subsets that desire to meet more regularly, or around a particular discipline.
  • We would try to support each other through attending performances and openings. This already happens on an informal basis, but this is a way that announcements and news of these things could be expanded.
  • We would distribute an occasional suggested reading that could be discussed in the group. As the group is established, a possibility would be reading and discussing a book as well.
  • As appropriate opportunities arose, we could organize to work together on a project of some sort. We batted around the idea of collaborating on some sort of movement/dance/installation based project to accompany the Palm Sunday Messiaen performance. These kinds of things might happen both within the church and beyond it.

These are just a few suggestions, but maintaining an open and organic group would mean that other ideas for how we might organize the community would always be in play. Think of these as structures that can support spontaneity.
A key component to this is going to be allowing it to grow from the roots up. I’ve seen too many church arts groups that start with a cute name, a logo, a website, a facebook group, have a huge kick-off with much fanfare, and come to nothing. I sense that the small core group that is establishing is interested in building community, not some sexy, artsy church sub-culture. It’s important to start with that, and add these types of trappings if/as needed.

Finally, essentially, the foundation of this group should be understood as the Gospel. My hope is that we would help each other remember that the source of our unity is Christ, the source of our ability to remain candid in conversation and critique as we aspire to honor God through the excellence of our work is Christ’s love, and the source of our ability to embrace hope rather than cynicism is Christ’s resurrection, and the guarantee in Christ of all things being made new.

Hope you all can join in on these things!!!

Dayton and Bert

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