Supporting your local creative community by providing a safe and welcoming Artists Coalition can help empower individuals on their spiritual journey. It can also set the stage for future collaborations between artists and the wider spiritual community.
Below I share with you tips and suggestions for developing a spiritually centered Artist Coalition inspired by my personal experience in Art Ministry and with the Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village, MO.
In 2013 a group of artists formed the Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village. Co-hosts over the years have included Shannon Sleeper, Jenny Hahn, Ned Kelley and me. This group has served as a networking and support group for local artists and creatives. Through the Unity Artists Coalition I have witnessed new friendships formed; improved self-confidence of participants; the emergence of community leaders; and a deeper exploration of using the arts as a tool for spiritual and self-awareness.
Below, I share tips for those wishing to create a similar Artists Coalition program at their church or spiritual center. These are not intended as concrete guidelines, but rather thoughts and observations on what has worked for our individual program based at Unity Village, MO. It is my hope that this information helps to encourage those who are called to bring the artists together in their spiritual community.
I wish you love & blessings on your creative journey,
Rev. Jeniffer Hutchins
Founding minister, Unity Arts Ministry
So, you want to start an Artist Coalition…
1. Tune in to Spirit: If the idea of starting a fellowship for artists in your spiritual community is tugging on your heart, the first place to start is by tuning in to Spirit. Pray for guidance and clarity. Meditate upon the Creative Spirit and what role you are being called to put into action.
2. Talk to Leadership: Before beginning a new program, be sure to share your vision with the leadership of your spiritual community. Explain how your vision would support both the artists and the wider community. You may wish to ask for permission to host meetings at your spiritual community or inquire about sharing your meetings through the church’s outreach (ex. community bulletin board, notice in the Sunday bulletin, FB page, etc.).
If integrating the arts into your spiritual center is important to your leadership, note that building a strong community of artists is the first step in developing a wider outreach for the arts. Long term visions for collaboration with artists might include starting an art gallery, incorporating performance or visual arts into the Sunday service, or offering creative workshops and classes.
Over the past few years, many of the artists in the Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village have taken active roles in other Arts Ministry programming such as: leading creative book studies; volunteering to host creative stations at local spiritual centers and Unity Village events; assisting with our FaceBook groups; and have played key roles in developing and maintaining the Unity Village Chapel art gallery.
3. Host an Initial Gathering of Artists: Invite artists and creatives to gather at your spiritual center or a local coffee shop. You may wish to center your meeting around a creative book study or have a few informal gatherings to determine interest in forming a regular artist’s coalition meeting. If your group decides it is ready for a formal Artists Coalition, move on to the next steps.
The Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village was inspired by an informal group of artist friends. We would meet at Unity Village Bookstore, talk art, share projects we were working on and fantasize about an art studio on grounds at Unity Village. One day, Shannon Sleeper stepped forward with the idea of starting a coalition to support other creatives. With the support of friends and Unity Village Chapel the first meeting was set up. Over the years, group members and dynamics have changed, but the mission and vision remain the same.
4. Mission & Vision: Set a clear mission and vision for your group. What is the primary goal of your gatherings? Who do you serve? How do you serve?
The Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village was designed to be a community-led support and networking group for local artists / creatives within Unity and wider New Thought movement. We serve our community by hosting monthly meetings; maintaining an online FB group; and occasional arts related fieldtrips.
5. Choose a Location:
Choose a central location that works for your members. It may be at your church, a nearby coffee shop, or arts venue. Be sure to ask what different venues charge or if they require a percentage of love offerings received, etc.
Start where you are. Our coalition group currently meets at the Unity Arts Ministry Studio at Unity Village – Dreams do come true! Prior meeting locations include Unity Village Chapel Arts Gallery, Unity Village Chapel Community Center, and Unity Village Bookstore & Coffeeshop.
6. Determine the date, time and duration of your meetings.
The Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village meets for 2 hours monthly on the 2nd Saturday. By request, a writer’s group was recently formed by members of our primary group. They host a separate 1.5 hour meeting directly after the UAC meeting. They have also opted to also meet for lunch once a month. Both groups currently take a break during the summer months as we have found numbers to be low during this season.
7. Plan for your meetings
- Develop a simple outline to keep your meetings on track (see sample below.)
- Put together a list of potential creative activities, networking discussions, and guest speakers. (See UAC at Unity Village program highlights below for ideas.)
- Plan for snacks. Whether you set out chocolates or have a full pot-luck spread, feeding your artists is important. Consider if you want to have members sign up to bring snacks or plan to purchase them using the love offerings collected.
- Develop a plan for managing finances, if applicable. If you plan to collect love offerings at your meetings, talk with your spiritual center’s leadership to determine the best way to manage the flow of money.
8. Advertise: Once you have everything planned out it is time to send out your invitations. Invite creative community by creating Events on FB; making flyers to post at your church; designing bookmarks or postcards that can easily be passed out; and encouraging members to invite friends. Word of mouth is by far the best marketing tool for drawing in new members.
9. Stay Connected: We invite you and your members to join our online group “Global Unity Artist Coalition” at www.facebook.com/groups/GlobalUnityArtistCoalition
10. Inspire: Unity Arts Ministry would like to highlight the varied forms of arts ministry in expression throughout our movement. If you would like to share about Arts Ministry or Artist Coalition experiences at your spiritual center please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*While Unity Arts Ministry encourages the formation of Artist Coalitions in other ministries, each coalition is to be independently run and maintained in association with an existing ministry. Please note, Unity Arts Ministry does not accept any responsibilities for Artist Coalitions outside of the group we facilitate at Unity Village, MO and the maintenance of the Facebook group “Global Unity Artists Coalition.”
Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village
Sample Meeting Outline
- Welcome & Pray-In
- Upcoming events
- New Members
- Volunteer / Committee Announcements
- Member News & Events
- Activity, Networking, or Guest Presenter (45 min)
- Collection of Love Offerings
- Thank guests
- Close the circle
Programming Highlights of Unity Artists Coalition at Unity Village
- Ben Neal – the art of poetry
- Jacquie Fernandez-photography
- Cheri Jamison – branding, packaging, and pitching artistic vision with authenticity
- Ned Kelley – improv
- Devi Wetterer-Interplay
- Teresa Hogan Keene – advice from an art gallery director
- Paul Hasselback – The Power of Imagination
- Franceska McCullough – Skyped from UK, 11 Million Hands for 11 Million Lives Holocaust Memorial and Activist Project
- Sharon Kay – self-publishing
- Ben Katzara – cake decorating and viola
- Kevin Ritchie – artist talk
- Stan Slaughter – eco-troubadour
- Jen Hutchins – art journals
- Andy Waggoner – Unity Worldwide Ministries video/drone operator
- Nathan Phelps – Indian dancing
- Victor Dougherty – Sound & Soul
Selection of Past Activities:
- Artist Trading Cards – explanation/instructions, creation time, brief Trading Session
- Kindness Rocks – rock-painting party
- Art Gift Trade – everyone was paired up with someone else and created artwork (not limited to visual) inspired by partner’s artwork
- Poetry Share
- Beat Spirit book – poetry activities
- Artist Show & Tell – members bring in their own artwork to share with one another
- Field trip to Kansas City First Friday art event
- Field trip to a local theater to watch, “Loving Vincent”
- Field trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
For more information on the Unity Artists Coalition visit the following page on our website.