Artists in community
This article explores the origin and vision of the KRUX Artist Gathering event and includes some testimonies of artists attending the event
At the Artist Gathering, artists, poets, musicians, practitioners and academics from a wide spectrum rub shoulders in an atmosphere of generous orthodoxy and encouragement.
Being a Christian in the world of the Arts is challenging on many levels. Within the relative protection of faith communities artist’s creative skills are often misdirected towards marketing-related enterprises and their studio practice viewed with either suspicion or naiveté. While the secular industry is comparatively open to ambiguity and the exploration of ‘dangerous’ ideas, it sometimes lacks the deeper knowledge of theology to engage with biblical themes in art, labeling artists as naive for their insistance on hope and redemption in the meta-narrative of the faith. The solitariness this creates on both sides invites isolation and isolation despair.
Gathering faith-based artists into a community for discourse, dialogue and practice in the arts within a Christian worldview, is therefore both liberating and life-giving.
The Artist Gathering is an initiative that sprung from a serendipitous conversation between JB Krohn (MCS Regent, DTh Stell) and Heidi Saltzwedel (MA Visual Arts, Stell) in 2015.
With about 40 local artists in attendance, the first gathering took place in July 2016 at East Mountain, a Christian Support Ministry located on a farm outside Stellenbosch. Around 30 artists from the Western Cape region attended, and some even came from as far as Johannesburg. Wesley Vander Lugt was the first keynote speaker and set a standard that brought instant import and a clear sense of mission to the Gathering. The following year Gideon Strauss was the guest speaker, as the gathering grew into a mini conference stretching over three days of lectures, presentations and discussions.
The ethos centred around friendship and hospitality, with an intimate conversational style making room for self-reflection and laughter. At the Gathering, artists, poets, musicians, practitioners and academics from a wide spectrum rub shoulders in an atmosphere of generous orthodoxy and encouragement.
The purpose of the Gathering is to engage with Visual Faith in a way that is Biblically credible and sustainable. The discourse ranges from providing a basic faith-informed vocational vocabulary for young artists, to deep engagement with the conceptual complexities imbedded in and presented by contemporary and postmodern art. The principal aim is to equip, encourage and support local artists in their vocation to the glory of the Triune God. The Gathering provides ample room for sharing work and ideas, hopes and dreams, and mutual encouragement in faithful vocation.
The Gathering has borne rich fruit in establishing friendships and collaborative artistic endeavours, especially within the Stellenbosch artist community. An active forum lively managed by Ydi Carstens (MA Visual Arts, Stell), provides ongoing stimulus through sharing of work, ideas, exhibitions, and upcoming events and opportunities both faith-based and secular.
In like manner, the Gathering has evoked a positive response within local church leadership, providing sudden and unexpected opportunities for the entrance of the visual arts within the congregational setting. Most encouraging is the growing confidence among artists of faith to engage boldly by means of their work through entering competitions and embarking on group or solo exhibitions.
Our hope is that the ripple effect of the Artist Gathering will continue to widen, resulting in God-honouring imaginative expression of delight in the Triune God.
“I found it nourishing and encouraging to be surrounded by so many Christian artists.”
“There are other Christian artists, writers, thinkers out there! […] the speakers began to speak to questions that I’d been wrestling with for some time now. I absolutely loved the event. It was worth flying down from Johannesburg for, and I’d do it all again! I knew within the first few hours of being at the artists gathering that God really did want me there.”
“I experienced something of this [age-old, rich history of Christian art] community at the Artist’s Gathering 2017. I also realize that a healthy understanding of the arts is part of a healthy understanding of the world. The more my understanding of God’s love for the world grows, the more my creativity and artistry is growing.”
“The most significant to me was being given a vocabulary to express thoughts, questions and ideas that I rarely bring into the open; conversation and fellowship with people I can connect with on a deeper level.“
“This event had such a big impact last year in the way I approach my art. It gave me “language” with which to express myself and a standard for me to measure my art. It was wonderful to be part of a community of like minded thinkers and people who I can learn from.
“I experienced the event to be very warm and homey, energetic and inspired.”
“The artist gathering offered me a lot of inspiration as well as emotional support. It has put me in contact with a few artists who are already regarded as established artists in the fine art industry and with whom I am still in contact – this especially means a lot to me as an emerging artist who wants to learn and and get exposed to new opportunities.”