Art For The Soul

A few posts back I wrote about my brother, Walt Hampton, who makes wonderful music, teaches it and shares it with others.  The giving of music is an act of joy and generosity.  In that same spirit, today I’m writing about my friends Chuck and Janis Lindley, who teach and share visual art in a uniquely generous way.  Their art outreach, called Made to Create, operates on the principle that creativity is essential to the human spirit.  The thirst for beauty runs deep in people–so deep, the Lindleys believe, that when we help people develop their own artistry we help strengthen their ability to respond to what is good.  For Chuck and Janis, teaching art is a way of caring for people.

Janis painted this picture of a woman in India who was wearing a lot of jewelry and wielding a sledge hammer.

Janis painted this picture of a woman in India who was wearing a lot of jewelry and wielding a sledge hammer.

I first got to know Janis when she taught my sons’ high school art classes.  Janis and I were both teachers, and in our own ways we were both artists, and this commonality made us friends.  Chuck and Janis later moved to India, and our home was one of the places they would stay on trips back to the U.S. By the time the Lindleys were making these trips and lodging in our upstairs bedroom, I had committed myself deeply to the work of writing–and that meant joy, but it also meant a lot of frustration.  I vented about this to Janis, bluntly and sometimes almost rudely, and didn’t hide my visceral doubts about whether art actually does the artist much good.  Knowing that frustration is part of the artistic process, Janis encouraged me to keep writing and told me what she liked about my work.  This–encouraging others–is her persistent habit, and it is one of the reasons people feel safe when they try out art with Janis and Chuck.

My granddaughter Edie showing the artwork she made in the Lindleys' toddler class.

My granddaughter Edie showing the artwork she made in the Lindleys’ toddler class.

Made to Create is the Lindleys’ outreach of fine arts classes, creativity workshops, and open studio.  These are offered in their Tacoma home and other places.  The Lindleys also plan to open their home as an art ashram, a place where people can enjoy art as a spiritual retreat.  Some of the students the Lindleys have taught are fairly well-to-do, others marginalized.  Chuck and Janis first developed Made to Create about six years ago while living in India.  There they worked with art galleries, neighborhoods and NGOs to teach art to middle-class students, to poor children and to girls scarred by sexual trafficking.  Janis told me about one of these girls holding an oil pastel for the first time and joyfully discovering the color and beauty she could produce with it. Experiences like this have convinced Chuck and Janis that when people find that they are capable of creating something good, they are more able to respond to life in a hopeful way.

Two years ago the Lindleys returned to the U.S. and are now living in Tacoma.  They teach art to toddlers, children, teens and adults, with lessons that include technique, experimentation, and art history.  The Lindleys also offer art experiences through the YMCA and use art for mentoring foster children.  Through the support of donors, Chuck and Janis are able to offer these experiences at affordable rates, and they stress that cost should not prevent anyone from attending.  They love and enjoy their students.

When I asked them what message they would like to communicate to people about Made to Create, they laughed a little.  Their reply?  “Get in here!”

Janis Lindley at Diversion House in India, a safe place for girls previously abused by sex trafficking. Janis and the girls created the mural together.

Janis Lindley at Diversion House in India, a safe place for girls previously abused by sex trafficking. Janis and the girls created the mural together.

Staging a Miracle at Tacoma First Presbyterian

I am an alto in the choir of my church, Tacoma First Presbyterian.  There are about twenty of us in the choir, and I like to think we sound good, although we are almost all amateur musicians and none of us had to audition for our spot. The choir sings every Sunday for 10 months out of the year, and although our hearts are in what we do, I won’t say that this weekly glory-to-God-in-the-highest never becomes routine–to us and to the congregation.

So in the very best way possible, it shook this alto up a bit last week to find myself in the midst of a choir that had doubled, surrounded by guitars, brass, handbells and organ.  Under the leadership of our new music director, Daniel Perrin, our church put on a concert in our sanctuary on July 22. Our own musicians were joined by many that Daniel knew from ourside our church, including 13-year-old Natalie Dungey, who has won a national trumpet competition two years in a row.  All of the music was glorious.

But I think what excited me most was the creative example that this was.  We were not limited by what was immediately available to us or by what we were used to.  Daniel has been with our chuch for about five months, and like our pastor Eric Jacobsen he believes that our beautiful old sanctuary is the perfect venue for creative new expressions of worship.  Daniel took what we already had, musically and architecturally, and added to it by writing new arrangements, recruiting outside musicians, positioning brass players in the balconies, and having to pull it together in such short order that in rehearsal we spoke of avoiding train wrecks.  (This was beginning to seem like triage . . .) But the musicians caught the vision, and the heavens opened–right there on the corner of Division  and Tacoma Ave.

Sometimes it’s instructive to see what happens when an artist sticks his neck out and offers much more than what has been asked for.  What would happen in our faith community if other artists in our midst began finding ways to offer their writing, their painting, their dramatic gifts?   Risky, but who knows?  Maybe the snowball effect would be miraculous.

So I want to say a heart-felt thank you to Daniel and the guest musicians for this wonderful example.  May the inspiration linger and spread.