The evolution of Christian Artists from a yearly Seminar gathering to a ‘movement’ of artists seeking to learn from one another and to work together and thence to a formal Association has been too many a worthwhile enterprise. It has succeeded in drawing together a network of artist organisations and of creative people who on their own struggle to make a living, are often misunderstood by their own churches and who want to learn how to operate with integrity and be more proficient in their artistic endeavours. For those in the outlying parts of the European continent the loneliness is more keenly felt, though cost and distance have rendered their efforts to ‘stay in touch’ even harder. Even if the Seminar has therefore not been practical for those who needed it most the aims and objectives of the Association have sought to keep people in touch with one another. Indeed in the last 10 years local networks and regional ‘support’ groups have also grown up, not necessarily under the Christian Artists wing but certainly inspired by and sharing a similar ethos.
The Seminar though has encountered major problems: most notably finance, but also poor facilities, reliance on volunteer staff, poor promotion and communication. It was generally felt that workshops were too numerous, (up to 25 parallel workshops each hour), and sometimes of a poor standard, and sometimes cancelled without notice - an irritation for those who had travelled miles to participate.
Inevitably the problems of coping with people from different cultural, linguistic and denominational backgrounds are immense, but nevertheless bravely faced. Even the choice of food caused problems - the preponderance of bread, ham and cheese was reviled by the southern Italians but was a luxury to the East Europeans! The linguistic make-up (see Appendix table 3) meant that translators were needed but not always available in sufficient numbers. The Seminar was always conducted in English and for many years translated into German, French, Spanish and Italian (though now only into German and French). With regard to denominational and therefore theological differences the Seminar has bravely tried to ‘be all things to all men’ *16), but has over the years met with misunderstandings and even outrage at different styles of worship. Even now, in the Symposium format, where the theological/inspirational teaching and worship sessions have been reduced to a fair minimum, evangelicals have been heard to complain at the lack of devotional input and Belgian Catholics have been exasperated that “God seems to be brought into everything!” *17) However, over the last few years many of these early irritations have been ironed out, and with EZA/EU support the Symposium has been able to continue purposefully. It has improved qualitatively, and has increasingly accepted and respected by unions on mainland Europe and by others in the political arena. More careful planning, with regard to invited artists/teachers and to the number of participants from each country, has ensured a better balance of artistic and cultural diversity.
For those with a vision for life beyond their own art form or simply making a living, the Symposium has helped to articulate the possibilities of bringing change to bear on European society. For many it has failed to go beyond a ‘talking shop’, though the meeting of artists from all corners of the continent has had an implicit benefit, that of educating one another in each others’ cultures and ways of thinking, and in approaching the problems not only of Europe but of life itself. Understanding and appreciation is not the only gain - for many artists used to a solitary and often unsupported existence, friendship and solidarity with those of a like mind has been a profound and ultimately inspiring benefit. The Christian Artists Association has shown that with it’s networks, publications and symposia artists who are willing can have a role to play in an integrating Europe. To this end, in La Rivière’s own words, it has acted as “guardian of the process” *18).
*1) This appears in the overall title of each of the ten Symposia, incorporated since 1991 into the annual Christian Artists Seminar: “The role of the arts in a Europe on the way to integration. A debate on social and cultural issues with political implications”.
*2)These themes are discussed by Calvin Seerveld in Rainbows For The Fallen World (Toronto: Tuppence Press, 1980). Calvin lectured at CA (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004).
*3)‘Middle-of-the-road’, i.e. popular, contemporary music with a broad appeal
*4)See examples cited in Steve Turner, Hungry For Heaven (Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1988), pp 36-37, 156-157 and Steve Miller, The Contemporary Christian Music Debate (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1993), pp 28-31
*5)See Appendix table 1 for a breakdown of the religious background of participants from 1987-1992
*6)He has set out his controversial critique of Christian arts and the evangelical church in the books Sham Pearls For Real Swine and Addicted to Mediocrity
*7)For example Royal Creativity and The Creative Church
*8) e.g. the International Music & Art magazine, published a few times & The Christian Artists Directory, an annual publication.
*9) As described in the membership document, my paraphrase.
*10)Aims as pinpointed in various letters to the Association’s affiliated members between 1991 and 1995.
*11) This is commonly translated into English as the ‘European Centre for Workers Questions’
*12) Treaty on European Union, article 128, Maastricht, February 7, 1992
*13) Art AD 2000, Vol. I, p. 27
*14) An award scheme of the European Commission which promotes cross-cultural projects involving participants from at least 3 member states.
*15) Khristianskoye Miloserdtse’ the Christian Mercy Society runs soup kitchens, a shelter for ‘street girls’ and prison visiting. Ogorodnikov, a former cinematographic student, was a leading Russian Orthodox intellectual and dissident who served 8.5 years in prison.
*16) A Biblical injunction. See 1 Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 22
*17) Impressions from my own conversations with participants, August 1995.
*18) Interview with Leen La Rivière, Monday August 7, 1995.