The artist is accustomed to looking deeply at the world and imagining it anew. The threat of hopelessness in this world of violence both physical and systematic is very real. The inability to imagine the world and our circumstances in the this world differently can lead to hopelessness. For all these reasons and more the world needs more caregivers. Capps calls pastoral care practitioners in situations where hope is threatened “agents of hope,” and that is the role of a pastor. And a pastor who is also an artist can teach how to build hope.
Barth describes the act of artistic creation as “giving shape to the impossible.” It is this imagination in a situation of caring with a community that allows for the in-breaking of hope. Art making “ventures to look at the outward form of [the present] and present nature as we can apparently see these only with our present eyes, but with the intention of seeing them with very different eyes and therefore of creating them anew in a better way.” The process of art-making in groups, mainly for me this has been mural creation, enlivens the whole group with this artistic imagination, which can allow all involved to project an ideal image of their own future. We can learn to imagine again and with this imagination comes hope.
Capps writes about images of hope that sustain the belief: “Imagery appropriate to hoping bears directly on the conviction that sustains the hope, that is, the conviction that the object of desire will appear and that this object has the desire to satisfy the one who hopes.” In finding images that the different communities relate to and then putting these images into a communal mural of their own making we can help to portray this image that will sustain the hope that is needed by all people, but especially those in marginalized positions.
This creative expression and imagining can lead to systemic changes. The cycle systemic violence can be halted by the building of what Lederach calls moral imagination: “Transcending violence is forged by the capacity to generate, mobilize, and build the moral imagination.” To begin to develop the capacity for moral imagination one must practice the art of imagining and re-imagining the world through creative practice. Creativity in visual arts, painting, drawing, coloring, dramatic arts, acting, comedy, freestyle and creative writing and poetry are all stimulated by creative activity. All of these outlets can be used to grow in spiritual connection and develop spiritually.
Creativity in visual arts, painting, drawing, coloring, dramatic arts, acting, comedy, freestyle and creative writing and poetry are all stimulated by the activity of the imagination. All of these outlets can be used to grow our capacity to envision, our ability to hope through the creation of imagery and eventually growth in spiritual connection will develop. These activities must be done in community. But expert Shaun Mcniff suggests in his book, Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul, “the healing, transformative, and life-creating powers of art could never have been found through solitary experimentation.” The creation of this mural in community creates a bond and allows people to see their own overlapping visions of the future and of hope.
Barth, Karl. Ethics. (New York : Seabury Press, 1981).
Capps, Donald. Agents of Hope: a pastoral psychology. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1995).
Ellison, Gregory C. II. Cut Dead But Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013.).
Lederach, John Paul. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. (New York: Oxford Press, 2005).Mcniff, Sharon. Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul. (Shambhala: Boston, 2004).