Interview with the Executive Team of the EEA Hope for Europe Arts+ Network

Interview with the Executive Team of the EEA Hope for Europe Arts+ Network

Over the next six months of 2021, the overarching communication theme of the European Evangelical Alliance is “Unlocking Expectations” in times of the pandemic. Readers of the EEA Newsletter will be presented with different perspectives on this theme in several issues of the EEA Newsletter. We are very pleased that the Executive Team of the EEA Hope for Europe Arts+ Network has agreed to answer some of our questions, as many artists have been challenged by the lockdowns over the last year and a half and many inspiring and creative ideas have emerged in dealing with the restrictions. We hope it will serve as an encouragement to our readers to raise their expectations above the constant restrictions in their areas of ministry and invite God to give His perspective that leads us from looking at our own limitations into hopeful, joyful anticipation and corresponding action.



What does the EEA Hope for Europe Arts+ Network do?



The ARTS+ Network is bringing together leaders of Christian art initiatives on a pan-European and on regional levels. We are helping to form round tables amongst these leaders. We support each other and try to create synergies. The most developed ARTS+ network is the Swiss group with symposiums for artists and church leaders, an annual award for outstanding artwork with a Christian message (PRIX PLUS), forums and (zoom) meetings with relevant topics, publications, common art events, and finally a growing network of artists who are eager to participate. Since the start of our network in the late nineties, we have seen wonderful developments, first in Switzerland (where ARTS+ is a branch of the Evangelical Alliance) and then in other countries. Today we have a strong European executive team with leaders of dynamic art programs or even large ministries: Dr. Jill Ford (Arts Programme All Nations UK), Amy Williams (Inspiro Arts Europe), Dr. Dianne Collard (Europe Ministries of Artists in Christian Testimonies), Verena Schnitzhofer (Quo Vadis Institute), Krisztina Tarjányi (Crescendo Hungary), Dr. Jim Mills (Creative Arts Europe), John Baker (Quo Vadis Institute) and Beat Rink (Crescendo intl., Coordinator of the Arts+ Network). You can find more information about our goals and also about our wider leadership team at and at (for Switzerland).


Where have you as a network experienced God unlocking your expectations during the pandemic?


The Pandemic has greatly expanded our reach by forcing us to offer conferences online. This has allowed us to meet many new significant people in the arts. It has also given us time to create a great website that has helped to make us better known. Through “ARTS+ Zoom Conferences” we have met about 100 leaders of Christian art initiatives – some of them even from other continents. The awareness that we need each other has become much stronger.


How has the pandemic affected people working in arts? Were there also advantages that resulted from the pandemic and creative ideas that developed from the crisis?


Certainly, there was a lot of discouragement for the artists themselves in the beginning due to cancelled or postponed events. Since many Christian artists make their living by performing, many also suffered economically. The closure of galleries, exhibitions, concerts, theatres, and the churches made the selling of art and the expression of art in its valued component of church life seemingly impossible. But after a period of grieving and lamenting the effects of such isolation, artists led the way in learning new ways to connect, sell their art and encourage each other through digital means. Artists played a key role in producing innovative streaming of worship services. Organizations such as Arts+ Europe saw their outreach to artists spread far beyond what they have ever anticipated through their online gatherings. Furthermore, ARTS+ was able to collect money and support quite a few artists in need and our people did a lot of mentoring and counselling! In Finland, a dancer came up with a project to mobilize artists after a dialgue with their Minister of Culture. As dancers were unemployed this season due to the pandemic and there was a significant drop in berry harvesting (normally carried out by guest workers from other countries), the director of Creative Arts in Finland proposed to the Ministry of Culture the idea of rallying dancers within Finland to be gathered to meet in the berry regions and in the evenings the idea was to offer dance classes based on social distancing and smaller groups.  Cities would cooperate and provide venues and lodging would be provided by the government.  If the berries were not picked, then the economy would suffer greatly.  This was just one example of thinking creatively through the challenges of the pandemic. Also, Christian musicians gave concerts in hospitals or online charity concerts. The pandemic also unlocked the idea of training webinars in many of our ministries. This has been great for connecting with a wider audience and giving them support and it will certainly continue!


People crave for beauty in their lives after so many months of not being able to attend exhibitions, sing in public and much more. How important do you think beauty is in our lives?


The pandemic has shown that people not only value beauty but crave artistic input and expression as a way of explaining the world, expressing emotions and as therapy in difficult times and situations. But beauty is certainly very important.  And it is pointing to God. Christian artistry is much more than simply telling the Gospel story. Ian Morgan Cron said it well: “You can make art about the light, or you can make art that shows what the light reveals about the world.  I think the latter is what we want to do. In a fallen world, beauty is a form of protest, a way to push back the darkness.”


Where do you see the role of arts in these times within the Church and in our witness to the world? How can God use the arts to unlock expectations?


Faith and arts are deeper connected than we think: personal ‘imaginations’ intersect with external expression and open up new, provocative thoughts. An artist´s approach often erases thick lines drawn by the Church and thus bears direct witness to the world. Churches do well when they cultivate interest in contemporary culture and dialogue with contemporary shapers of culture. As a result, church leaders become more qualified discussion partners. Churches that are culturally sensitive and capable of dialogue are more able to relate and communicate with their contemporaries who are more than ever searching for aesthetic experiences. For the Church, however, aesthetics cannot not simply be a means to reach these people, but an expression of a well-thought-out aesthetic theology and an ‘artistic interior life’. These values, when applied, help churches to develop a desire to reach out to artists from within their churches as well as artists outside the church. This is also a result of the realisation that the art world needs the Church and that the Church needs the arts.


What can the Church do to support artists in these times?


Churches could open their doors and create space for artists, for example by organizing a “creative church service” with fresh impulses of paintings explaining the sermon in a figurative way. There is a whole concept for setting up such services. Or why not invite people to a fine salon concert in the afternoon or a poetry reading accompanied by music? In general, the Church could raise awareness that artists exist, that they are important for the Church, and that they are “mind-setters” in our societies. We would like to encourage church leaders to engage in dialogue with artists in their congregations. This could lead to…


…prayer in Sunday church services backing artists and their projects,


…financial assistance for artists and their work, maybe commissioned by a church,


…sponsored workshops for their congregants taught by these artists, or


…co-sponsoring a festival of creativity for a larger city – such as the “Night of Faith, Festival for Art and Church” in Basel, in which ARTS+ is involved. But again, it often starts with simply sitting together with artists and stepping into a dialogue with them.



Photo/Arts+ Network: The Executive Team of the Arts+ Network at a digital meeting (top/left to right: Verena Schnitzhofer, Krisztina Tarjányi. Middle top: Jim Mills, Beat Rink. Middle bottom: Amy Williams, John Baker. Bottom: Dianne Collard, Jill Ford)

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