Annual Conference preview: Arts as spiritual practice

May 17, 2018

By: Joelle Anderson & Christa Meland

Is your spiritual practice in a rut? Do you find yourself wanting to connect with God, but your prayer routine is not giving you the depth you’re seeking? Elevate your spiritual practice by experiencing an art as a spiritual practice festival on Wednesday night of Annual Conference (May 30) at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. This event, which is open to everyone (United Methodists and non), offers you time to engage with local artists who will walk you through a new spiritual experience using artistic expressions including sculpture, spoken word, body movement, sketch, drawing, and paper cutting. Come at 6 p.m. to interact with the artists and try your hand at various art forms, then stay for a concert with nationally known singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and is open to the public, so come and invite friends and family to discover new ways of growing in love of God and neighbor!
Carrie Newcomer is a songwriter, recording artist, performer, and educator. In her newest album, “The Beautiful Not Yet,” she invites listeners to “pause the perpetual motion” of their lives” and live more present and more engaged, even in the face of division, uncertainty, or heartbreak. Recent appearances on PBS’s “Religion and Ethics” and Krista Tippett’s “On Being” have focused on her use of creative art form as a spiritual/mindfulness practice. She has toured with Alison Krauss and shared a stage with Parker J. Palmer, was a cultural ambassador to India, and has performed in schools, hospitals, and spiritual communities in Kenya. (Preview songs “The Gathering of Spirits,” “Sanctuary,” “Betty’s Diner,” and “If Not Now.”)
Here’s a look at the art forms and the artists who will present them at individual stations at the festival, prior to the concert:

Sketch: Todd Kuikka, Loon House Designs & Concepts

Kuikka received most of his early experience in sketching, oil, water color, and mixed media. After selling designs to skateboarding companies and small businesses, he served in the armed forces. Upon being medically retired, he had a difficult time re-integrating in civilian life. But through contact with and positive influences from other veterans, he found healing through art and design. He hopes his work honors his family and reflects his devotion to God, through which all things are possible.

Creative movement: Mary Blissenbach

Blissenbach sees movement in the Bible and songs used in worship. Creative movement allows one to experience the stories and songs in a new way. She has used creative movement with children to experience lesson in new ways. Instead of hearing the story of creation, how would you move if you were the water and land separating?

Body movement: Jenny Sung, One Dance Company

Sung is artistic director and founder of One Dance Company in St. Paul, which creates movement that moves head, heart, and action. Body movement allows us to reclaim and embrace our bodies as holy temples of God, created to worship, pray, preach, and dance with the triune God. Sung has been professionally dancing, choreographing, and teaching in the Twin Cities for more than a decade. Dance has taken her to packed theaters in New York and Minnesota, orphanages in Romania, mega churches throughout the Midwest, women’s prisons to work with inmates, and outdoor parks to work with youth.

Sculpture: DeAnne L Parks, full-time artist

Parks is a full-time working artist. Her work has been published internationally in calendars, magazines, and Bible studies, and on book, CD, and DVD covers, and it is held in corporate and private collections. Past exhibitions have been at The Basilica of St Mary, Central Lutheran Church, and Artistry in Minneapolis, and at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. In addition, she has exhibited at Luther Seminary, Central Presbyterian in St. Paul, and at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin. Parks will be at Annual Conference all day on Wednesday, May 30 at the Marketplace in Haws C.

Drawing: Katherine Parent, artist

Katherine Parent is a multimedia artist and musician who loves to play with memory, color, and lines. Her group art workshops invite people to explore themes of deep observation, playfulness, empathy, and letting go of shame. She is currently an artist-in-residence at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

Spoken word: See More Perspective, hip-hopper

See More Perspective is an award-winning hip hopper and a Twin Cities native, Chicago transplant, MC, poet, producer, engineer, educator, visual artist, actor, thinker, lover, and one heck of a cook. He is currently on the TruArtSpeaks and COMPAS Arts MN artist rosters teaching rap, spoken word, hip-hop music production, and social justice. He aims to inspire, uplift, and open doors to possibility and imagination with an invitation to self-discovery through meditations on community, history, and the expression of pure imagination. He has shared stages with the likes of Brother Ali, Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets, Dead Prez, Sage Francis, Michal Franti, Atmosphere, De La Soul, The White Stripes, and many more.

Paper cutting: Karla Hovde, artist

Paper cutting is both an art form and a spiritual practice for Hovde. When she is making a paper cutting of a Bible verse, she contemplates the meaning of the verse for the many hours it takes to carefully cut each letter by hand. She listens to hymns on repeat while she works, which becomes a prayerful experience. And at the end, an inspirational, beautiful piece of art emerges. By day, Hovde works as the Minnesota Conference’s communications specialist—a role in which her artistic skills contribute to her outstanding design work.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058