By Katherine Parent, Artist-in-Residence
It has been a unique blessing to be an Artist-in-Residence at Westminster in 2021-22. Moving with the congregation as it began to meet again in person, I was excited by how enthusiastically members participated in our first visual art project together. In our collaborative, mosaic-like triptych, each participant used oil pastel and ink to fill a square with one vision of beauty and belonging. Many told me about their own thriving art practices, while others shared that they almost never make art and found the process surprisingly enjoyable. When I facilitate art with church communities, I often think of 1 Corinthians 15:41, which celebrates how many different kinds of beauty there are in the sky alone, among the sun, moon, and stars. Each person’s story and process of creation express a unique and vital part of what gives a community life.
Facilitating art with children during their return to church school in Arts Month 2022 was a delightful whirlwind of reconnection and creativity. We played with textile paint and resists, and created a collaborative quilt that echoes the chapel stained glass windows. Their pieces centered on the theme of “what makes me feel like I belong at church?” and created images of friendship, nature, teddy bears, music, and more!
Working with pastoral staff and Westminster’s gallery director to do art exegesis at services during Lent was also a delight. As I researched pieces from the congregation’s fabulous collection that tied in to weekly Scripture readings, I got to explore many different styles of religious art and artists’ journeys from around the world. Opening up ways for people to contemplate an art piece via observation of its composition, context, and connection to sacred texts was a rewarding creative way to participate in worship as a visual artist.
In my final mini-show of Pandemic Sketchbook paintings, I explored the sacredness, humor, and beauty of some of the hard times of the past year. Each piece is grounded in a particular shade of blue that for me represents both the sacred and a longing for liberation. I believe that God is with us in our experiences of pain, illness, horror, and struggle. Processing these experiences through art is a healing spiritual discipline, and viewing someone else’s art about pain can be an empathetic and connecting experience.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to make art and learn with you this year, and I know Westminster members will continue to connect and find solace and belonging through art.