I hear a sweet ring of guitar light its way into the room. That’s a D#, I think… yeah, and with a major 7 to tell you this is jazz. Then a cool, soft voice adds itself to the picture growing in boldness with each syllable, exclaiming fresh Americana from folk roots. Fused with a heavily rhythmic strum pattern, she takes it away. I say to myself:
What a hip tune, man.
I had the opportunity to hear Joanna Beard play her music at a fundraiser for a local ministry to help women in their time of need – during an unplanned pregnancy (Check out the org here, if you’re interested. They do amazing things for our girls in the city).
After a conversation with her between sets, she agreed to go to coffee with me to talk about a really important subject – the relationship between art and faith.
Joanna Beard, Artist of Many Disciplines
Thankfully for her, the Christian leaders in her life have encouraged her to pursue these passions, and she cultivated her artistic abilities with that kind of support.
When she went to YWAM as a young adult, she was stationed in Herrnhut, Germany. It was here that she began growing in her skills with intense focus. And to her surprise, she also began growing in leadership.
It wasn’t long before she was a small group leader in their photography school. Later, she became an outreach leader. After that, she worked with the Schools of the Kingdom and of Worship at this YWAM base.
She traveled all around Europe and East Asia during this time of her life, meeting other artists and holding discussions about faith.
So why do I tell you all this? Am I just writing a cool bio piece for her?
No. My point is to show that Joanna has spent her life pursuing art. And it surprised me immensely when she said her whole goal was to figure out the concept of art and missions. Art and faith. Humanity and God.Figure out the concept of #art and #missions. Art and #faith. Humanity and #God Click To Tweet
Joanna Beard, Artist of One Faith
Over a cup of joe, she explained one of her paintings to me. It was a bold rhinoceros standing almost triumphantly over layers of underground kumquat trees and breaking through barriers in front of it.
It was here, as she described the symbolism, that I saw the true value in Joanna’s view of art and her faith in Christ.
“I have this compulsion to create. It’s because of God in me. Christ in me. Just the fact that He’s a Creator and he made me to create. It’s my very identity,” she explained.
Of course, it drew me in. In a recent podcast, I’ve personally published about our God-given identities to create art – to be an artist.
She told me about the lessons God was teaching her in life which she would express through her work. For example, as the rhinoceros in the painting broke through barriers and had thick-skin, she should do the same in life, art, and bold faith.
Art imitating life, no? Or maybe art informing life, and vice versa.
Interestingly, as Joanna pursued her art, it seemed that God loved her faith and continued to open doors for her. She met a woman in Scotland at an artist’s gathering who would later become her arts coach. She kept falling into roles where she had greater impact for God’s Kingdom.
Now, she will be leading an arts group at her church, called Herbarium. This is going to be a great opportunity for her to start developing artistic abilities in those in her church. She also views it as an opening to start connecting artists from the community.
Her overall goal for the near future is to put more of her art out into the city. She’ll be performing more shows, and displaying more paintings. The purpose, of course, is to impact the people around us – get them to dig deep inside themselves and engage with the great struggles of humanity. And hopefully, to find God through it all.
What I saw in Joanna was an integrated approach to life. Art isn’t separated from faith, and neither are separated from the work that God has called us to.#Art isn't separated from #faith, and neither are separated from work for #God. Click To Tweet
Advice from the Artist, Joanna Beard
First and foremost, you have to produce work. Talking about art is not even on the same playing field as actually creating it. This takes discipline, focus, and prioritization. But building a portfolio is the single-most important thing that an artist must do for him/herself.
It’s also really important for an artist to trust that God will provide. It is hard to step out on a limb and devote time to your art when you also have to put food on your table. However, Joanna says, not only will God give you everything you need to do the work He has called you to do, but He will also connect you with the right people at the right time.
And this she says as an artist through personal experience.
Sometimes, it doesn’t look how you pictured it. And sometimes, you’ll have to adapt your work in a way which bring in sustaining funds for you. But if you’re open to God’s leading, you can be creative in your art.
Finally, the most simple principle – you’re gonna have to work your butt off. Sorry, guys. That’s just the way it is.
Wisely, she also had some great advice for churches as they interact with their artists. Churches in 21st Century America just don’t know how to captivate and engage the artistic talents in their congregations (my words, not hers).
But what we’ll need to do as we move forward is to support the pioneer mindset (her words, not mine). Church leaders are going to have to build new relationships with artists.
We’ll have to encourage independent thinking, an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as give personal encouragement to take risks and persevere. We’ll want to give space to the artists, both literally as well as emotionally. If we can provide physical space to work, it will demonstrate the same love, trust, and commitment to artists, as giving them the autonomy to create in their own ways.
And of course, church leaders will need to focus on the artistic disciplines outside of music. No brainer, I know, but it still needs to be said in our church culture today.
Really, when it comes down to it, all of this needs to be said in church culture today. We need to pursue art for our own personal growth and relationship with God, but also to impact others. Art engages the church. It engages the city. It engages our minds and hearts.
Joanna Beard has found (and continues to find) her role in bringing art into faith and faith into art. And what an exciting, life-long pursuit full of surprises from God and the human experience.
For you Lawrence-Kansas-locals (as well as you animals willing to make the trip out to our cool city), check out Joanna’s upcoming musical performance on Saturday, November 18, 2017 from 6pm to 9pm at Z’s Divine Espresso: 2351 W 31st St. Lawrence, KS. Trust me when I say they’ve got some killer coffee there, too.
Also published on Medium.