Darci Art in the Image is a visual arts ministry located at Park Avenue Baptist Church. We seek to facilitate art-making for spiritual development, pastoral care and worship arts. One of our recent events happened at the United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) on September 22. We participated in caregiving through art-making with the young adults in independent living. This is part of a project for Dr. Greg Ellison’s pastoral care class, “Caring with Marginalized Populations.” Our group has used the pastoral care models addressed in the class to adapt the model for caregiving that Art in the Image has been developing for the past two years.

paintThe young adults at the UMCH could be in a position of invisibility and vulnerable to despair, apathy and shame—the three primary threats to hope, according to Dr. Ellison in his book, Cut Dead But Still Alive. Ellison accurately describes what may be the foster care youth’s position: “For the cut dead who are trapped in vicious cycles of neglect, hopelessness hovers like clouds of sulfuric rain, nightmares of dreaded future seep into present reality, and self-esteem shrivels like gas-soaked paper-mache.”

We don’t claim to know the exact situation of any of the young adults at UMCH, but as we organized this project, we knew we must be prepared to see what might be invisible to others.

muralThe emphasis of our visual arts mural creation is on seeing and being seen, which bridges the artistic endeavor with the personal struggle of those who have been marginalized. We focus on seeing in a community that has experienced a lot of invisibility and powerlessness. Taking the time to meditate on attention, while attending to each other, is a moving experience.

Photos of the piece show the young adults voicing their experience of being muted, yet targeted. Among the most poignant imagery is a black man in the center of a circle with red X’s surrounding him, as well as a lock and chain link fence. But the movement in the image brings splashes of color, which can signal an in-breaking of hope. This was an amazing project because we could see the emotions in the work and the possibility of imagination. To exercise our ability to image together brought the group closer, and these feelings came out on the canvas to cleanse us all.

Seeing and perceiving are key ingredients in an artistic viewpoint. This artistic perspective ignites the imagination, which can spark hope—even in the most desperate situations.

Thanks to Candler’s Methodist Studies program, led by Dr. Anne Burkholder, which donated a large canvas for this caregiving art seminar at the United Methodist Children’s Home.