Arts, Conference, Voices

Art, Justice, and Hearing God’s Call

Meghan Hers is an artist and a member of Eucharist Church.  She now lives and works in Hamilton.  She graciously shared with us the story of her call to Hamilton.

Meghan

My Hamilton adventure began at the 2012 TrueCity conference.  I was in the midst of discerning what God was calling me to after I graduated.  Being from Vancouver originally and having studied in Toronto, I knew of Hamilton, but didn’t  know much about the city.  It started with Dwayne Cline’s message Friday evening, which not only inspired me, but brought home the reality of urban poverty here. I met people who were involved in MoveIn, and learned about the relationships they had formed with their neighbours across all kinds of barriers. The Arts and Justice break out session amplified my sense of call as I saw the concentration of Christian artists, and felt their desire for community, and their passion for justice.

In the midst all this I had a conversation with my now-pastor, Kevin Makins, about Eucharist Church’s vision for the arts and the city. The whole weekend was inspiring, and set my heart on fire about the work I could do in Hamilton. It felt like something important was happening here, and I wanted to join in. In the following months I got my dream job, working at Recreate Outreach Art Studio which paved the way for my dream to become reality.

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Fast forward one year and I found myself creating a large scale artwork for the 2013 conference. I love transforming large spaces using visually impactful and dramatic imagery. We ordered 900 feet of brown craft paper, assembled a team of 30 people from churches across the city, and got started. The installation consisted of three parts: a 120 foot painting of the Escarpment hung from the balcony in the sanctuary, tiny buildings made out of cardboard to perch on the edge, and coloured tape that turned the pews down below into a giant map of the city.

At one point in the conference all the attendees were asked to move to the place in the sanctuary that correlated to where they lived in the city, and to pray for that area. In the process many people met fellow Christians they lived down the street from but had never met before. The interactivity inherent to the artwork functioned to build community amongst Christians in the city in a beautiful and playful way and, for some, produced a tiny glimpse of the kingdom of God.

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I relished the opportunity to be an ‘artist-in-residence’ at Philpott church for the week building up to the conference. Getting to the church early, setting up the ‘studio’ and getting to work brought joy. Having the team of community artists drop in throughout the day gave me the chance to connect with so many other believers in the city. It made the final piece that much more satisfying, to know that so many people had participated in making it a reality.

In the process I learned a lot about leadership as well. I needed to communicate my vision to the rotating roster of artists, teach non-artists how to paint, and figure out the logistics of hanging the piece. The whole time we were also communicating with Philpott as they graciously hosted us. I felt by the end of the week that I had learned more about project management that week than in any other workplace.

Although I was completely exhausted by the time that the conference started, it was amazing to sit in the sanctuary, surrounded by the installation and to know that one year ago I had sat in the same place, completely unaware of what God was about to do with my life.  I’ve found that Hamilton is like that. People here, especially those connected to TrueCity, are committed to seeing their city changed, and invest in those around them to equip them to make that happen. There is so much opportunity for creative work, and a lack of cynicism that is refreshing. If you have an idea to do something amazing, people here are ready to believe in it and make it happen alongside you. As an artist and a Christian, that is an amazing environment to live in.

Find more of Meghan’s work and research on the role of arts in the church here: http://cargocollective.com/meghanhers