What We Can Learn About The Purpose of Art From The 52nd Annual GMA Dove Awards

I sat on pins and needles for the show. This night had been on my calendar for months. The nominees played on replay on my Spotify as I worked and drove around town. They were my jam through tough times and my celebration in moments of victory. I had researched the artists online and knew some of their stories. I followed them individually on Spotify and Instagram.

When October 22nd arrived, the excitement was palpable. I couldn’t wait to see which one of my new friends would be honored for their work. As the hours counted down to the event start, I watched the red carpet posts on Instagram. I was blown away by Lauren Daigle’s dress, so I asked who it was by. The next thing I knew, I was connecting to the designer in Italy.

Check out this red carpet pre-show for some of the fun behind-the-scenes with the artists.

When the show aired on TBN, I recorded it. I was excited to see Christian artists celebrated with poise and dignity at the level of an Academy award. For so many of us who have struggled through doubts and invisibility as Christian artists, it was a night filled with hope for me. Even the commercials fed my soul.

Too many times, artists fall in the cracks of life. They have this amazing gift to write, sing, paint, draw, dance, act, or whatever, and they don’t know what to do with it. They dabble in their craft and offer it up to the world for approval. If people don’t give their approval, if they don’t get their art, they pack it away and stop trying.

Here is the ache: it is God who gave them that talent and ability, and it is His approval that they need, not everyone else’s. If you are not serving the audience of One, you aren’t ready to serve a bigger one. God gave us the Arts to connect with him in often supernatural ways. We see visions and act on them. We capture moments of inspiration that challenge viewers to engage with the art and with God.

There are a lot of lists online about the purpose of art. Most of them agree that it is a form of human expression that often inspires social change. I would say it is so much more than that. The artist is a warrior. Artists are equipped with the ability to see the world around them in metaphors and imagery that can resonate with an audience. You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the message of a work of art, but you do have to be curious. Curiosity allows you to explore worlds outside your own and empathize with their experiences.

Art comes from a place of purpose and vision. You can’t help but infuse the work with the emotions you are experiencing and trying to recreate in it. This is why you hear sadness in Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds” and feel the pride of accomplishment with Degas’ “Little Dancer”.

Art comes from purpose but also from faith. When an artist is unsure of their faith or angry at God, their work shows it. When they are at peace with God and intentional with their work, the art becomes a respite and a place to come and engage with God. In my opinion, the highest form of creative work is work done with this level of self-awareness and reverence for Christ.

Christian art is not overtly religious, it is suggestive and impressive professionally and spiritually. You don’t have to beat someone over the head with the Bible to lead them to Jesus.

If you missed it, the 52nd GMA Dove Awards will be broadcast again tonight, October 29th, on TBN. If you are catching this after the 29th, you can still see the love performances on recordings posted on YouTube. Here’s a link to the full program. Enjoy the show!

Why Art Matters

Over five years–and five lifetimes–ago, I was on the streets making art with the homeless. I can’t remember how I learned this, but I learned that there were homeless artists on the streets no longer able to make art because they couldn’t afford their supplies. What I did after that was a series of intentional choices that made me feel fully alive.
Let me explain.
I became very intentional about finding a way to empower the artists to create again. I found ways to use throw away things like coffee grounds and flowers to create paints and dyes. I found cheap colored pencils and wood (less than a dollar each) from a local craft store to create with. Then I talked to some church leaders about what I was doing and I was asked to teach a class. I took what I’d discovered–and my own craft supplies–and taught them about ways to be creative with stuff they see on the street. I told them God had a plan and purpose for their lives and for their gifts to be used to bring Him glory.
The class was such a hit, I was asked to teach again at an outreach event. This time, I took a bag of wooden apples I got at a yard sale and told every artist in my class, “you are the apple of God’s eye. He loves you and has a plan for your life. Now paint or decorate this apple any way you choose. This is your apple, your reminder of how God feels about you.”
At the event, the class was so popular that I ran out of supplies in the first day. I was given a small budget to buy more supplies and continue classes.

There were other events and holidays and days when my church intentionally stepped out into the community with art as an outreach tool. I look back on it now, and think it was so effective because it was doing Christianity in a way people weren’t used to but could grasp.

That’s why Art is so important.

That’s why Art matters.

Art is an expression of the soul. It is a pulse on the thoughts, ideas, and passions of our culture. Other fields like medicine and business may be necessary, but art is the only field that captures what all of us are working for. As we are trying to discover our place in the world, art gives us a voice and a guiding light along that journey.

That’s why Art is so important.

That’s why Art matters.

Art is also a gift from God to intimately connect with Him. Creativity has a source, and the best artists have been the ones with a God-given knack to do what they do.
Sometimes, however, they get distracted by other influences and lose the ability to really project God’s heart. Sometimes they are shunned by the church and feel equally shunned by God.

It’s time art was reclaimed for God.

It’s time artists felt they had a place and purpose in the church.