A Space to Create Art

When the leaders of First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina, decided to complete an expansion build on their 175-year-old campus, they prioritized a group of believers with unique needs: artists.  

“There were several people who shined the light on just how many Christian artists find themselves between their faith and their vocation,” says Chelsea Fraser, First Presbyterian’s fine arts ministry director. “Their artiness doesn’t necessarily fit at church, and their faith doesn’t necessarily fit at work or in galleries or on the stage.”

That prompted the church to include hanging rails for gallery space on all three levels of its new wing. The team also ensured that a new auditorium for First Presbyterian’s contemporary worship service would have a space for theater and concert performances. Faith- and non-faith-based community groups can use these performance spaces for concerts and recitals.

“Our church’s mission statement is that we want to be a part of God’s transforming the heart of this city,” Fraser says. “We want to do that through radical, gospel-driven relationships, so these arts initiatives really just take that main heart and kind of push that out into a specific part of our congregation in a specific part of our community at large.”

The church also is bringing in art from outside its community, including 14 baroque masterworks from the Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery. And for six months starting in November, First Presbyterian will exhibit works by visual artist and author Makoto Fujimura. 

Community outreach at the church, which has an average weekend attendance of roughly 2,000, also includes holding regular lunches for artists to discuss their craft and how they’ve used it to minister to others. Participants have heard from established artists discussing why their craft constitutes a spiritual practice.

“One of my goals with this ministry is that we will help unlock and empower the full potential of who God has made us to be,” Fraser says. “For artists, in particular, it is to figure out how to better integrate their art in their faith or for people who are dabbling in the arts to experience the fullness of being made in the image of God.”

Nadra Kareem Nittle
Nadra Kareem Nittletwitter.com/NadraKareem

Nadra Kareem Nittle has written for Outreach magazine since 2009. She has written about faith and other issues for a number of publications and websites, including the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, About.com's Race Relations website, TheLoop21.com, PRISM magazine and the Inland Valley Times. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.