Easter arts week in Devonport, Plymouth
How an idea to use a community arts space in Holy Week came to fruition for a small Baptist church. By Michael Shaw
Last April I was sat in a local café when I had an idea: the café has an art space you can rent, could we hire that space during Holy Week and tell the story of Jesus’ passion?
I knew that if I only talked about the idea, it would get to Christmas and nothing would have happened. I would still be thinking it was a great idea, but doing nothing about it. So within a few days I'd booked it.
I now had a small problem. I am neither an artist, nor do I have any idea how to put an art exhibition together. I sought advice from a local artist and others who had done similar projects, and made the sensible decision to delegate.
I was able to get Rachael on board, who came on loan to us from a large local church. Often when we think of small and large church partnerships it is often seen as a one-way process, with the resource-rich church giving and the resource poor church receiving. Here it was mutual: we received Rachael's time and skills, and in turn were able to help her explore a calling in a way they weren't.
It became her project. Rachael had to network with artists, local groups (like the Salvation Army hostel), local schools, Christian artists and other artists. I had already written a brief based on 14 “stations” of the cross, but she would gather them all together, assign stations, chase them up, collate the art, create the room, liaise with the café, plan an opening evening, produce and distribute publicity.
Eventually it all came together. On the Tuesday after Palm Sunday we opened an exhibition with contributions from local schools, other local churches, local artists, both Christian and not.
It attracted visitors throughout the week, and much encouraging feedback. Some of the comments included:
"A very interesting selection of challenges through art."
"I liked the transition of babe to the various stages of the Easter Story to resurrection. Each piece made it come alive."
"Very moving. So many artists and ideas to tell one very important story. I sensed God's presence in the stillness of this place."
We were fortunate to get a small grant from the South West Baptist Association, which made the week possible, but for a small church in an urban-inner city area, it was really good to see what an impact we could make with few resources. We are thinking about maybe doing a similar event in the run-up to Christmas and doing the same thing next year around Easter time.
The Revd Michael Shaw is minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church, Plymouth