Art and Mission

The arts have often found an uneasy place in the area of mission.  When so many issues are at stake in mission work, how can we justify spending time on the arts?  Can the arts be used to the benefit of mission work?  Is there anything intrinsic about the arts that makes them suitable for reaching people in missional contexts?  Can the arts be used for discipleship?  How might artists flourish?

Generally speaking, the arts and mission share a fundamental distinctive: they are inherently incarnational. Mission work is grounded in hands-on engagement with people in particular cultural contexts, and works of art are, by nature, particular artifacts of culture created in a hands-on way by people.  However, in spite of the similarities, there have been a number of obstacles which have, at times, kept mission and the arts from seeing one another as allies.  But it must be recognised that there have also been occasions of rich and dynamic partnership.

For one week, Transpositions hosted academics and artists who weighed in on the questions, concerns, and joys of working with the arts in mission:

Tuesday, 6 March: ‘Art and Mission — Reluctant Partners.’  John Franklin, executive director of the Canadian arts organisation ‘Imago’, will introduce our week by looking at why there is a reluctance to bring arts and mission together, and asks the question, “How might we engage the arts in a missional task?”

Wednesday, 7 March: ‘Dance and Feeling in Christian Mission.’ Linda Wells, a dancer and missionary with Operation Mobilization, tells about some of her experiences using the arts in mission work and explores how the arts help us “feel” in a way that benefits people across cultures and contexts.

Thursday, 8 March: ‘Arts and Ministry — Process over Product.’ J. Scott, a painter and non-traditional missionary in a creative access country, highlights the importance of the process of artistic creation when ministering to people who have experienced oppression, trauma, and marginalization.

Friday, 9 March: ‘Tribeca Arts Project: Artistic Collaboration Bringing Transformation.’ Tanya Walker, a PhD Candidate at St Andrews and co-founder of the NYC Tribeca Arts Project, discusses her experience working with young artists of faith to create, collaborate, and dialogue with others, through art.

We look forward to this week and hope that you will contribute to the conversation about this important topic.