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Creativity as a Birthright


Why do the arts matter? 


This question may come to mind when we hear about education budget cuts and view artwork in the National Art Gallery that leaves us scratching our heads. Students might even pose the question of why we have an art class at school. As an artist and an art educator, I would like to share with you why I am passionate about the arts being an important part of a child’s education.



Our birthright to be creative


Genesis chapter 1, verse 1, says, “In the beginning, God created”. The first thing God reveals about himself is that He is the Creator. Since we are children of God made in his image and likeness, God’s gift of creativity is stamped inside each one of us. It is our birthright to be creative as image-of-God bearers because our Father painted every sunset, etched the skin of every lizard, and He wants us to consider the lilies He adorned (Matt. 6:28 KJV).  



Creativity isn’t just reserved for the arts though. Creativity may be expressed in science, politics, finance, education, infrastructure - in everything. Each person’s creativity is an integral part of their God-given humanity. I use my creativity just as much when I am teaching six year olds math concepts as when I am painting for a client. To be creative is to innovate, to create new worlds, to spin something in a new way, to be resourceful. Our imaginations are powerful and flow into every part of our life. 



God’s beauty


Because God created all things and called His creation good, He’s the one who decided what beauty looks like in nature. 


So not only is God the origin of beauty, but also all beauty points to who God is. 



Why does beauty matter? Because beauty is a sign of the Creator’s presence. 



A book I have been reading this season is Makoto Fujimura’s Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life. Fujimura begins to explain why beauty matters with a story. At the beginning of his marriage, he and his wife didn’t have much. The budget was tight and they ate canned tuna most nights. One day, Fujimura’s wife comes home from the grocery store with a bouquet of flowers. Bewildered that his wife spent their limited grocery money on something frivolous, he asked why she would do such a thing. His wife answered, “Because beauty feeds the soul.”



Why does beauty matter? Because beauty feeds the soul. Because signs of God’s presence in the world feed the soul. 



If we do not feed our bodies food, they shut down. If we do not feed our souls beauty, they shut down. Fujimura’s wife knew they had a limited budget. She chose to spend part of the budget on beautiful flowers for something eternal: the soul.



This is why I am so passionate about the arts being a part of educating the whole child. As an educator trying to reach kids with unique personalities, you don’t know what kind of art will speak to them, so you try to show them a variety. But when they encounter something that they feel is beautiful… a child in wonder will learn how to pay attention to and articulate what they find beautiful in the world around them. Which means they will be able to describe how God is present and at work in the world around them. And that’s the gift we want for our children.  



That is the gift we want for each other.



Now beauty is more than just pleasing aesthetics. 



In art classes creating projects, more than just learning art techniques, we are teaching virtues of the human heart. Learning a new art skill takes courage, patience, openness, humility. The thing I hope for all of my students is that they become generous people. It takes a lot of imagination and creativity to be generous. To think about neighbours moving in and wonder, how can I help them feel welcome? To brainstorm ideas: could I make them a pie? Could I go over and introduce myself?



The aim of beautiful objects or beautiful actions is greater than to merely captivate your attention. It’s to move your attention beyond the object or action itself to higher, transcendent things, heavenly things. 



Beauty gives the opportunity for transformation because it offers an encounter with the presence of God. 



Though we might not need beauty for survival, we definitely need beauty for flourishing. Recognizing, responding to, and reenacting beauty in the world around us, aka signs of God’s presence, leads to a culture where people and creativity thrive. 



Mission


A part of St. Timothy’s mission statement is for students to “understand the past, engage the present, and form the future to serve God and neighbour to the best of their abilities.”



So what’s the point of an education in the arts at a Christian classical school? In a visual arts class, students begin to understand the history of Western art, art materials, and the elements of art. Then students are given projects to engage them in the present, to encounter beauty in the process of creating. By encouraging students' creativity and challenging them with projects to grow in virtue, our hope is for students to use their imagination and creativity to be generous with their abilities, serving God and caring for their neighbours. 



Invitation


Each one of us is an image-of-God bearer whose birthright is creativity. We are entrusted to care for culture. What better way than to feed its soul with beauty? To feed our culture with signs of the presence of God?



I invite you to have fresh eyes this Advent and Christmas - to experience something beautiful as God giving you a sign of His Omnipresence and His Authorship of beauty. 


The Word was made flesh, Beauty Himself was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Amen.



Adapted from a talk given by Angel Richmond to "Communio", a Christian young professionals' group, hosted by Cardus.

Angela Richmond is the Grade 1 homeroom teacher and Art teacher at St. Timothy's Classical Academy. As an artist, Angela creates commissioned pieces for local and international clients. Her personal work is informed by her interests in the theology of beauty, the sacramental worldview, and the interior life dynamics. 

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