Monday, August 29, 2011

Glimpses of the sculpture

Here is a look at how the sculpture that Steve Prince created has been coming together as we've been painting it the past few weeks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gallery Show 2011! It's almost here!

The 3rd Annual Village Art Project Gallery Show!

Thursday, Sept. 1st, 6:30-8:30pm

We'll be meeting at the Mount Pleasant Mobile Home Village garden for the official unveiling of Steve Prince's completed sculpture "Good News," and then travelling to the Ward Theater in downtown Mount Pleasant at 7pm for the official Gallery event. Transportation will be provided from the MPMHV to the Ward for those who need it!

If you love art, love kids, need inspiration, need a good idea for a date, or are simply looking for a good reason to get out of the house, this event is for YOU!

This event is FREE and open to the public.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Come join us as we celebrate a summer full of creativity and community.  You won't leave the same!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Final Week: CREATE Community and Masks

We added one last art project to our schedule for the summer so that we could review what we had learned this summer about great communities, and to finish painting the masks that will be added to a sculpture designed by Steve Prince! To see the photos of the night, click HERE.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Steve Prince week was so good...

After a whirlwind week of art and kids and community it's too easy for me to let my mind move to "the next thing" without deeply reflecting on the good that we've experienced together.  The gospels demonstrate over and over and over that God's Kingdom (the center and heart of Jesus' mission and message) is something that is easily overlooked.  It doesn't look like we thought it would, it doesn't accomplish what we assumed it might, it includes folks we had every good reason to write off as outsiders to its joyful, hopeful experience, and it shows up in small, cramped spaces we don't normally give the benefit of a second glance.

So I benefit from taking the time to consider where I might have seen signs of God's coming reign this week (and make no's coming and it's already here).

1.  I saw it in the joyful, regular presence of two girls that haven't been able to come on Thursday evenings.
2.  It was there in the fact that a group of incredibly diverse individuals were finding commonality and participating together in a way that began to minimize and deconstruct the boundaries that our "first impressions" so often erect...and doing that by creating beautiful things together.
3.  I saw it in the way a group of mostly-white folks, young and old, sat, listened and learned in respectful, appreciative awe of a black man because he was absolutely worth respecting (and this in a town where maybe 2% of the folks that teach anything are people of color).
4. I saw the kingdom in a diverse group of guys enduring with grace and love a very long, uncomfortable situation (full of drunken revelry and even loudly yelled racial epithets) to cheer on a struggling younger brother in a cage fight...something he'd been looking forward to like a kid at Christmas.
5.  It was there in the reality (no doubt hidden to some) that relatively wealthy, well-educated folks were coming to a trailer park to learn about beauty and creativity and the awe-inspiring love of Jesus.
6.  I saw it in the gracious willingness of brothers and sisters to stay home with kids, and watch the kids of others, so that other brothers and sisters could participate more fully in the weeks events.
7.  It was there in the way many adults from the neighborhood were courageous enough to come out and do art with us this week and (hopefully) felt welcomed, encouraged, and accepted as they were.
8.  It was there, and continues to be there, in the conviction of many of us that the ground we "consecrated" this week was holy before we set foot on it, because God has, in James words, chosen the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of his Kingdom.  We who live outside the Village are, in the way of Jesus, the indebted ones.  We are the learners.  We are the ones, as much as anyone else, being rescued by the work we're all doing there together.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Love and great thankfulness to you all in Jesus, the vagabond king.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Steve Prince Week! Day 1-Faces

Today was our first day with Steve Prince (! We did plaster casts of our faces as our first project. They will be used as part of a larger project that is still a surprise! The kids have to keep coming back and doing the projects to figure out each piece to the puzzle. Here and here are some pictures of the day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Week 7 - Including "E"veryone

I went to Sam's Club a couple weeks ago with a friend to get some more flooring for our basement. When we arrived there were but a handful of people shopping. As we met the greeter she informed us that technically we can't purchase anything until 10 a.m. (and that she shouldn't even really let us in, but it was 9:45), because it was exclusive shopping time for "business plus" members. I couldn't believe the absurdity! Here we were coming to spend money at their store and not only that, but my friend had a membership! It just wasn't the "right membership" for the time of day I guess. It's such a small example of feeling excluded, but it did make me feel kind of bad - like I wasn't good enough to be shopping there at that time.  These kinds of experiences on a grander scale cause people to not reach out, to not attempt relationships, and to feel rejected .  The kingdom of heaven is about inclusion.  May we be about the kingdom of heaven.

This past week at the Village we talked with the kids about the final letter in the C.R.E.A.T.E. acronym. As the title says it stands for including "E"veryone. It sounds so simple and obvious a concept, but excluding others creeps into our daily lives in big ways and small, whether we conciously do it or not. Including everyone is a way to live, not just one aspect of life. Rob introduced the theme for the night by selecting 6 boys to sit around our community table. "What do you notice about this group?" he asked the kids. Jocelyn immediately raised her hand, "They're all boys," she said. Exactly! So the kids role-played a scenario where Jocelyn asked if she could sit down at the table with them and they told her no because she was a girl (even though Daniel's immediate response was ,"yes," until Rob told him he had to say "no." :) Seems juvenile right? Boys vs. girls, but gender inequality still pervades our churches and our societies worldwide, as does racial inequality, economic inequality, etc. The role-play ended with a diverse group sitting around the table: young and old, dark-skinned and fair-skinned, short hair and long hair, boys and girls, and various economic levels. It was a most appealing and most beautiful picture, and the group I wanted most to be a part of.

The projects for the night consisted of reductive monoprints (not as mysterious as it sounds) and simple sketching. For the reductive monoprints the kids each got their own piece of acrylic with yellow ink on it. They used cotton balls and q-tips to wipe off the ink in various shapes and squiggles, and then pressed their paper on top of the ink to make a print. They did this two more times with red and blue ink, but used the same paper. The results were multi-layered prints that were surprising and beautiful. The idea behind this project was that when we collaborate with people who are different than we are and combine our resources, energies, and ideas, we end up with something much more exciting and dynamic than if we only lived and worked in groups of people who are all the same and all think alike. For the second project of the night we divided into groups and went throughout the neighborhood with each group looking for one object to draw. Once the kids agreed upon an object, they sat down around it so that each person could draw if from a different angle. Every person saw the object differently, but the whole picture could only be seen when all of their perspectives were put together. Get the picture? :)

So let us not forget this day what the kingdom of heaven is about: including everyone, especially the excluded. The ones who live on the margins of society, the ones we tend to forget about, the ones we don't think to concern ourselves with until or unless it becomes personal. Let us go to the poor, the aging, the dying, the sick, the disabled, the orphans, the widows, the foreigners, the suffering, and tell them the good news! They haven't been forgotten! The the "kingdom of heaven is at hand" and to them it has been given! Let us examine our lives for the ways we live that exclude others, or maybe just simply don't include others - I take this to heart as much as I'm asking you to. Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

An alternative vision: including Everyone

I've never been good at drawing.  Actually, it’s kind of comical how bad I am at it.  I draw about as well as an intoxicated hippopotamus with one of those really tiny #2 pencils that don’t have erasers and that are made exclusively for fill-in-the-bubble surveys and putt-putt golf score sheets.  And even then, my drawing displayed next to the Hippo’s would still earn me the label of “impressionist.”  I have this hypothesis that when I was a kid some adult must have taught me how to be bad at drawing as some kind of cruel joke.  I just can’t believe I could learn to be this bad all on my own.  This is precisely why I’m so glad drawing well isn’t a requisite to being part of the VAP community.  I’m not excluded because I can’t draw.  That would be ridiculous.  But the thing is: people have long excluded one another for reasons no less arbitrary.  And the Church is certainly not innocent.

Basic sociology tells us that simply by being a Church-goer we’re more likely to be anti-gay, racist and sexist.  And I guess that makes sense.  When we proof-text the snot out of the Bible we can make it say just about whatever we want.  It’s amazing what poorly contextualized exegesis can do.  But the story, when read as a canonical whole, seems surprisingly clear.  It was always the plan that through Israel the whole world would be blessed – would be brought into the covenant for the explicit purpose of making a “new covenant” including everyone.  It is in this new covenant and the ushering in of the kingdom that all things are being made new.  It is in the abolishment of division that we see God’s people being made into the image of Jesus.  It is by the church living as a community in which barriers of race, class, gender, and so forth are completely irrelevant to community inclusion that we live in an eschatological now.  A new way of being human is established as principalities and powers are informed in no uncertain terms that their time is up.  The walls have been torn down and smashed to pieces.  It is here that we share in the victory of Jesus and experience the kingdom as the people of God.

Of course, nobody ever taught me to draw poorly.  Nobody needed to because I can draw poorly all by myself.  The problem is nobody ever taught me differently.  In the same kind of way, our society (including the Christendom oriented Church), by not teaching us otherwise, teaches us to exclude others.  Division and separation is "just the way things are" and we end up being okay with it.  It will take a new vision, the provision of a different kind of story to subvert and destroy the old.

This new story was provided to a bunch of kids in a trailer park on Thursday for the VAP theme including Everyone. As an all boy group gathered together a girl approached and asked for a seat at the table.  “No,” they said, “This is for boys only.”  The girl misses out.  She is excluded from the community for a reason as arbitrary as not being able to draw well.  But the point of emphasis is that the boys miss out just as much.  They miss out because the girl has something to offer that is just as important and matters just as much as what the boys bring to the table.  Then, by way of continuing the illustration, a new group of people were established around the table.  A diversity of gender, age, skin color and class were represented.  This message is absolutely beautiful!  But it isn’t beautiful for beauty sake – it's beautiful because it's a glimpse of God’s plan for the future that we're invited to make real in our time.  

Jesus is the climax of the story.  He announced that the long awaited kingdom has arrived.  He celebrated it with all who would join him – sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and the like - welcoming them to table fellowship and telling them their sins are forgiven.  May we do likewise and create this kind of community – embracing values of the kingdom.  May we see commonly accepted boundaries and divisions for what they are, and may we have eyes to see an alternative vision.

The kids in the Mt. Pleasant Mobile Home Village get it.  Do we?

Watch and listen:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Week 6 - Time

I apologize for the tardiness of this week's VAP update.  As you may know, we took a camping trip with 24 of the VAP kids to PJ Hoffmaster State Park.  We had a fantastic TIME together.  In fact we have a fantastic time together every Thursday evening when we gather to create art.  During those times, we do much more than create art however, we are also creating community - building relationships with one another - becoming friends.  Without the gift of time, none of what we do would be possible.  Time involves commitment, time involves sacrifice, but time together is so life-giving that the sacrifice it involves becomes obsolete.  It's easy to get carried away with our busy day-to-day lives, and forget that time is what we have especially when we think we don't have any.  Aaron introduced the theme for the night by showing the kids an apple seed and an apple and a flower seed and a flower.  The idea being that it takes time to grow into something fruitful and something beautiful.  Individually and together.  And it's not always easy!

Once again this week we focused on one project for the night - collages.  These weren't just any collages though, they were collages done on old panel board, and had to represent growth.  The kids were instructed to use the bottom half of the panel board to display the roots of a plant, and the top half to display the plant, flower, tree, etc. they wanted to create.  They used fabrics, patterned paper, tissue paper, string, buttons, newspapers, magazines, and other materials and mod-podged the materials to the panel board.  Kids were spelling out words like "hard" and phrases like "takes time" to represent their understanding of what time is and does for relationships.  Maya's collage showed an orange tree in three different stages of growth.  Mary's collage was one big apple tree.  Mikel's collage was of a city with a small plant budding in the midst of all of the buildings.  Their art really showed their understanding of how it takes time to build a community.  I hope many of you will be able to make it to the gallery show in a couple of weeks to meet these artists and let them explain some of their art to you!

Now I know it's not easy to make time in our lives to be together.  Again, that involves sacrifice and commitment.  But when we value people, when we value eachother, the way Jesus valued people when he walked on earth, we grow just like the flowers and the trees.  We learn that it's ok to be inefficient, that life is messy, that just because relationships are hard it doesn't mean they're bad.  And if we persevere, we end up with something beautiful, something that offers a little bit of  relief from the rest of life the way a tree offers shade to the wearied traveler.  Let us take the gift of time and use it the way Jesus did - to love other people.  Love to each of you in the name of our humble Savior who always has time for us.

Christie (I forgot to sign out of Aaron's account :) )


Monday, August 1, 2011

Community takes TIME

This past week our theme was Time and how it takes time to develop strong and lasting communities. To see more pictures of the night, click here.

Grand Rapids/Camping Trip!

Our annual trip for the VAP was this past weekend. We traveled to downtown Grand Rapids, MI to visit Heartside Gallery, an art studio that invites everyone, especially the homeless, to express themselves through many forms of art. The art is then displayed and sold to benefit the artists. The kids were able to tour Heartside Minisitries and create some of their own art! Then we drove to PJ Hoffmaster State Park where we enjoyed beautiful Lake Michigan and spent the night camping. To see more pictures of the trip, click here.

A few pictures from the VAP trip to Grand Rapids