Editor’s Note: Plasso Design is a visual arts ministry operating in North Carolina, USA. For the Art in the Church Workshop, Transpostions interviewed its founder, David Allsbrook.
1. Please briefly describe yourself and your ministry.
A thirty-something husband and father of three boys, I head the engineering department for a furniture manufacturer by day and operate a visual arts ministry in my spare time. Plasso Design brings a visual communicative element into corporate worship by interpreting the message through fine art.
2. On your website, you state that your ministry seeks to ‘incorporate visual art creation into corporate worship’. Why do you think this is important?
The most vivid memories we retain associate directly to an emotion as well as images associated with those events. For this reason, Jesus used parables to communicate moral truths. The old cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words, carries with it substantial truth.
Our brains rely on at least one of three learning styles to process and retain information, whether audibly, visually, or kinesthetically. Of the three, learning visually is the most commonly utilized. The church connects with auditory learners quite effectively through music and vocal message presentations. Kinesthetic learners find their place in the church through the volunteer and mission opportunities we offer. However, the visual learner suffocates in the dust of our programming efforts. I believe this is a major reason for the perceived barrier separating artists from the church in many communities; the Body suffers from poor communication. I began this ministry to fill that void.
3. How does this purpose impact:
• the work of art that is produced?
This ministry’s art is the most emotionally charged work I have ever created. Each piece becomes a vessel I pour myself into through the media. Prayer is communication with God; creating art spontaneously as worship is the most intimate form of prayer for the creative. This supercharges the amount of emotion in pieces created, being a live recording of an emotional conversation with the Creator.
• the artist?
I’ll be the first to admit that creating art on the spot under time constraints is one of the most intense things I have done. But it is accompanied by invaluable returns!
Artists must humble themselves, allowing God to direct the art rather than assuming the role of a broker between God and the viewer and then forcing an autocratic message. I explain my interpretation of each image in my blog, usually echoing the verbal message from that day, but I do not dictate that interpretation to my viewers.
The artist becomes especially vulnerable when the piece is created amidst its intended audience, as the creation process and the final product are open to critique. I conquered my self-consciousness when planning this ministry by realizing the best way to develop new techniques is to let your critics see them in action. For the viewer, seeing the piece come to life inspires an even deeper connection.
When I started this ministry one year ago, I received this advice: be more afraid of God than you are of man. You are just the brush God is using to paint His image. Secondly, do not try to set the world on fire; set yourself on fire and see if it catches.
• the relationship between the artist, congregation and church leadership?
For the ministry to be effective, it is important that the church leadership publicly acknowledges it as a significant part of the worship experience. Without that connection in place, the congregation acknowledges the artist as a talented member of the church, but the art is simply a novelty.
The artist and church leadership need to have open communication – they are operating separately while focusing on the same goal. A lack of communication risks losing cohesiveness between the visual and vocal messages with the worst case being they conflict with each other. The artist, pastor, and worship leader cooperatively presenting synonymous messages exemplifies the Body of Christ.
The congregation and the artist are equals. All too often ministry leaders are placed on a pedestal of spiritual superiority the “normal” members of the congregation aspire to emulate. The congregation should admire the art over the artist, celebrating the image God (not the artist) created.
4. What advice would you give to a church that is interested in introducing the visual arts to their corporate worship?
Support the artists in your congregation. Allow them to display their work. Invite them to create pieces for the church, and encourage your congregation to view the art as a valuable component in the worship experience.
Introduce the ministry slowly. Begin by displaying members’ paintings in the foyer. Encourage artists to use a sketchbook to take visual notes from their seat. Once the church ‘gets’ what the artist is doing, arrange a platform for creating during worship.
Make declaration, not decoration, your objective.