My testimonial from Friday night

Friends; what follows is the text of my artist testimonial that I shared at the CCO Art Auction and Open Studios this past Friday...

P. Timothy Gierschick II / CCO Art Auction and Open Studios / March 23, 2007

About four years ago, a group of six artists, who had met under various circumstances, some by working at the same art-handling company, eventually found out that each of them were also followers of Christ. So they began taking advantage of this by meeting in each other’s living rooms, critiquing work; socializing and supporting each other.

I was part of that original six, which eventually through God’s provision became the group who joyously moved into these studios. We became known as the Church Studios, and so began this wonderful partnership with Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, largely through the vision of our friend and fellow artist, and now Chicagoan, Dayton Castleman.

Now, it’s hard to overestimate the great importance of something so simple and basic as space, on an artist’s life. Before we had this dedicated space, most of us had little or none to work with. Brendan and Duy I think, were working out of little corners of rooms, and I’m not sure Keith or Dayton had any space at all – I was working in a small basement with bad light, and no usable walls. For some of us, this was our first studio, fresh from school. So, just through providing this space alone, Olivet has done a great and lasting deed, through the impact it’s had on us artists, our practice and faith, and therefore our impact on the world.

Since 2003, we’ve gone through many different phases, struggles, and joys together. Much of the struggle is caused by our decision [or necessity, depending on how you look at it] to put ourselves, as both disciples of Christ, and committed visual artists, in that seemingly incongruous gap between the church and the contemporary art world. [When I say church, I mean community of believers, informal and formal]. And I say gap, because, even though the overlap of the church and the arts has begun to re-form, it is still a touchy place, in its infancy…in many ways, the church is only now taking a really sincere, hard look at its relationship to the art world, and the many possibilities that are there. Hitting us more at home are the sometimes tense and hard– but continuously rewarding – stumblings and workings-out of the exact form of our place in and relationship with this fine congregation.

In many real and gritty ways, that is exactly what we as artists of the Church Studios are doing: bringing form to an idea which has few contemporaries. Believing that all of life should inherently be imbued by the Gospel, we continue as artists to build [and re-build] that ruined land-bridge between the church and the art world. It’s all for the better then, to partner with people like the CCO – a group which, like us, believe that all of life is for the glory of God, and that we should actively engage it, in increasingly redemptive and authentic ways.

A minute ago, I mentioned space, and how important it is… because of this space, my own work has been able to grow and mature, and establish its own size, rather than be dictated solely by less-than-desirable environs. In addition, this community has gently prodded me to become more serious, more accountable, more committed, in my time and involvement here. Because of this, my work has become increasingly accepted in the larger art world. Simply put, even for me alone, this place has already been a thousand-fold blessing. Mornings for me at the studio involve a short devotional and journaling time…and often the blessings which come to mind during that time are just overwhelming.

If you ask any one of the artists here how this overall process I’ve been talking about is going, you’ll likely get a two-part answer: it’s going wonderfully; but it’s really hard. Being an artist these days for most of us means having, essentially, a second [or third!] job. And throw a child in there – ask Keith about that – or a serious time commitment to one’s home congregation, which I and some others have, the equation becomes even more complicated. But I find a continuing joy in the entire process. That joy, people, is what we feel when we are doing what we’re made to do and in the power of the Holy Spirit fitting pieces into the wholeness, the Shalom, that is the full Gospel of peace – as much as we can know it in our present consciousness.

Now, this is all fine and good, but there are even more details that make up this life that I have somewhat philosophized. There’s studio fees; time commitments; mandatory meetings…icy parking lots. So, I thank each of you for showing up here, and by doing so, validating and encouraging this process that we have taken up as artists and followers of Christ. Your presence here, your bids at the auction, your donations, handshakes and encouragement go a long way in the quality of this event and these studios, and in the ministry of our partners in the Coalition for Christian Outreach.

Last night, I heard Psalm 135 read, and a phrase stuck out to me as having a particular poignancy. In the fourth verse, David says the Lord has taken Israel as his “peculiar treasure.” I thought, what a great way of thinking about ourselves as well, grafted as we are, in our own peculiarities, into the people of God. And it speaks also, to our own life, work, relationships; all that we are made of and that God has placed in our hearts.

So…for your support of the Church Studios, this “peculiar treasure;” thank you.

Rob Matthews  – (Tuesday, 27 March, 2007)  

Really enjoyed the presentation Tim. It was right on target. Thanks.

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