Thursday, June 8, 2017

Faith and Arts

One of our church ministries is a Community Arts Program, the Noel Community Arts Program (or NCAP for short). I was on the original board that set this ministry into motion several years ago, and have participated in several of their activities. In fact, Callie and I have even taught a few classes on Bible Journaling for the program. The vision of NCAP is to help people find and explore their God-given gifts of creativity, both members of Noel and the surrounding community, regardless of their financial ability to pay for lessons. We offer ongoing art and music lessons and camps (both group and individual) at the church for all ages, and do outreach activities at various organizations in our community. 

This was their first time for NCAP to offer a Faith and Arts trip and I was interested as soon as I saw it advertised back in the fall. Once the plans were finalized, I had a conflict with the dates and the costs were higher than I had anticipated, so I declined. However, in a few weeks, Britney, the director contacted me with revised dates. I really had no idea what to expect on this trip. I just knew that I felt like I was supposed to, so I decided to take the plunge and sign up. 

Just after Easter, I set out early one morning and rode with a group to Dallas where we caught our flight to Chicago. We arrived in the late afternoon and immediately had our first new experience--hiring an Uber driver to take us to our retreat center. 

We had time to get settled into our rooms at the Cenacle Retreat Center before we went exploring the area. 

The Cenacle Center is located in Lincoln Park, an upscale Chicago neighborhood only a half mile from the lake, so after a quick exploration of the center, that is where we headed first. 

We began each day with a morning devotional and prayer time. During this time, we were posed with thoughts to keep in mind during that day's program visits.

Uptown Murals at Uplift High School
 Jesus People, USA
 The People's Music School

I must admit that I was worried about a few things going into this trip. There were just 7 of us going and I didn't know any of them very well, some not at all. And I was BY FAR the oldest in the group. By about 20 years at least! I had nothing at all to do with the planning or organization, which is a foreign concept for me since I have been in that role on almost every trip I've taken. But, I decided to just trust and go with the flow and I'm so glad that I did. 

The trip had 3 main elements and they really seemed to be the perfect balance this time. 

1.  Tours of programs - Each day, we toured several different community arts programs or programs that were started from the arts in some way.

Murals at Uplift High School in Uptown Chicago
Jesus People, USA (which began out of a musical movement)

Southside Community Arts Program
The People's Music School

Urban Retreat Center

2.   Sightseeing - There was a little extra time built into our schedule each day that could be used any way we wanted. Most of us used it to see as many sights as we could fit in.

The Lincoln Park Zoo
 Cloud Gate (aka, The Bean)
Gourmet Donuts and Cupcakes
The Chicago Cultural Center
Deep Dish Pizza

Wrigley Field
The Art Institute of Chicago 
Jill and I slipped away to visit one evening. (We even witnessed a possible heist attempt!)

3.   Personal Creative Time - Each day had 2-3 hours of personal creative time. We all brought whatever mediums we were most comfortable with (and could be carried in a carry on bag) and we used the time to work on projects and just create. Some of the group were writers, some were song-writers and others were visual artists and photographers.
I personally worked on documenting my trip and thoughts from the trip in a travel journal that I created for the occasion. I used watercolors, brochures and journaling inside a book that I altered.
While the trip was a stretch out of my comfort zone in several different ways, I absolutely loved it! It was a great group of people and I had such a good time getting to know them and to see the city of Chicago in new and different ways.  I was most inspired by the historical buildings, seeing the city in full bloom and learning how individuals and groups are sharing God's love through the arts in a city that is often more well-known for its violence and turmoil.
Even better was the chance to explore my own creativity and to see how my faith fits into that--where Faith and Arts collide. I'm already saving my pennies for the next trip!

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