“The human impulse to create reflects our being created in the image of a Creator God.”
– Francis Schaeffer
Who we are and how we view the world is often shaped by unexpected struggles, interruptions to our life, things that remind us we are not in control. Our lives and our plans are in God’s hands. Our creative efforts and artistic outcomes this school year have been shaped by just such unexpected complications. The resulting processes and inspired creations are beautiful examples of what God can do when we trust him with our “mess.”
Creativity Matters for Christians
Creativity puts us in tune with the Holy Spirit when He whispers, or shouts…
Produce this play.
Sing this song.
Write this story.
Paint this scene.
He is right there with us, even in the minutiae of…
Move this direction.
Draw this line.
Play this note.
Emphasize this word.
It is crucial, especially in challenging times, that we leave margin in our lives for the Holy Spirit to breathe creativity into our hearts. It is in this intentional space that we often encounter that providential creative “magic”–and couldn’t we all use a little “magic” as we move into 2021? God spoke all of creation into existence, and his words to us, through the Holy Spirit, might just move us to create as well, if we place ourselves in a posture to listen. Creativity is often referred to as an act of worship or sacrifice. Through art, we find deep communion with our Creator as well as with our community of fellow artists.
Barbara Ernst Prey, member of the National Council on the Arts Advisory Board to the National Endowment for the Arts, writes:
A lot of what artists do is tell stories. They help us make sense of our world, and they broaden our experience and understanding. The arts enable us to imagine the unimaginable, and to connect us to the past, the present, and the future, sometimes simultaneously.
Great literature, films and visual art transport us to different places and cultures; great art even allows us to see ourselves and our own community through a different lens. To see King Lear performed on stage helps us confront our own complicated family dynamics. Likewise, if we study the faces captured in Dorothea Lange’s black and white portraits from the 1930s and 1940s, we can better empathize with those who endured the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.
At their best, the arts strike a universal chord that suggests that we are not alone in our experience of joy, or grief, or courage.
There are universal languages of theatre, music, and visual art which allow us the unique opportunity to both communicate with and influence the world around us, in a space where our audiences are willing for their beliefs to be challenged or confirmed, perhaps both. God is in the business of redeeming all things, including the arts, and He invites us to join him in creating and portraying truth, goodness, and beauty to a hurting world.
In Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch describes creativity as “our God-given desire to make something more than we were given.” Well, this school year has certainly given us a new set of parameters, and I have watched as our fine arts teachers have wrestled with these parameters, prayed about the best ways to move forward, and risen beautifully to the challenge of continuing to impart a passion for this creativity to the students whom we love so well.
Traditionally, the arts have served as both an expression of and an escape from the harsh realities of historically difficult times. In keeping with this tradition, and learning from it, our CCS fine arts departments have chosen to focus on this idea that Art can be a balm, both to the creator and to the onlooker.
Creative Approaches to Creative Endeavors
Harkening back to a time when the arts indeed acted as a balm to a world in turmoil, this year’s drama stage has been transformed into a 1940’s radio station, and we have been working on classic Staged Radio Plays such as It’s A Wonderful Life, The War of the Worlds: The Panic Broadcast, and The Happy Prince. To be honest, live radio plays were not initially on my radar. However, the more I prayed and researched, the more I became convinced that this was exactly what we were being called to do, and I fell in love with the idea. It has truly offered the maximum flexibility that we have needed to roll with this Semester’s unique challenges. When I first presented this plan to the drama students, they were less than enthusiastic about the idea. One even lamented, “So, we will not be doing any real acting.” (She has since recanted that sentiment.)
I am happy to report that, though both the students and I miss the comedic physicality (and anything but socially-distanced blocking) of the work we were doing on last spring’s ill-fated The Comedy of Errors, we have all come to embrace and greatly appreciate this new theatrical art form. We have delved into previously unexplored areas such as voice acting, live sound effects, and commercial jingles. Students have been challenged with multiple roles and characters out of their comfort zone. We have highlighted the fundamental acting principles of “listening to one another” and “being in the moment.” We have laughed a lot. Because we have been filming rehearsals, we have explored important aspects of on-camera acting. In addition to these fortuitous benefits of producing live radio plays, we have all grown in the important life skills of resiliency and flexibility, continually reminding each other of how grateful we are to be creating theatrical content in a year when theaters around the world are dark.
In fact, all our Fine Arts departments have created something new and worthwhile from within this school year’s unique parameters. We have given ourselves and our students the margin needed to hear the directions in which the Holy Spirit is leading us. And we are using these artistic outcomes to express, to connect, to make sense, to comfort, to heal, and to entertain. These creative endeavors are our acts of worship and of sacrifice and of obedience in a difficult season, and I pray we will look back on the beauty of the story the Lord is creating for us.
Yes, our planned Christmas concerts and drama performances were cancelled. (I am choosing to say, “We have put a pin in our plans.”) However, we can look back and see that there is great beauty in the process. Did we not still make our offerings of time and energy? Did we not still fan those flames of love for the art of creation? We are nurturing students who will, hopefully, be lifelong creators, living in the image of the Creator God.
Our efforts are not wasted for lack of an audience. The Lord is blessing these sacrificial efforts as an act of worship and is using these days of practice and rehearsals to instill an appreciation, if not a full-blown passion, for the arts.
As we move into 2021, I encourage our entire CCS community to continue to create margin within our classrooms and within our families for creative endeavors. We as believers should be leading the way in finding creative opportunities to connect with others in a time of disconnection. As Francis Schaeffer noted in his classic Art and the Bible, “The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.”
Mrs. Carlene Cearley serves as Director of Theater Arts for our Upper School. She is a member of NCTAE (North Carolina Theatre Arts Educators), a very active participant in NCTC (North Carolina Theatre Conference) events, and an avid patron of the Dramatic Arts. Mrs. Cearley holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Old Dominion University, and, prior to working at CCS, she was employed by the U.S. Navy, where she built simulators for nuclear submarines, and by NASA, where she built touch-screen kiosks for NASA museums across the country. Mrs. Cearley began working at CCS in 2003 and has served in various capacities ever since. She is a strong proponent for all theater and film opportunities at the school. In addition to her roles as Theater Director and Drama Teacher, Mrs. Cearley is heavily involved in the North Carolina Film Production community, where she is an actress and runs her own location scouting business. She and her husband, Greg, are active covenant members of Harvest Church Cary and have two incredibly creative and talented children who attended CCS throughout their school years: Chandler (2014) and Caroline (2016).