What does leadership mean for a Christian working in the arts? That was the question we put to a small group of people at the Husk Coffee & Creative Space a couple of weeks ago. For those who work in politics, business or law, leadership is often linked to hierarchy (though we believe that leadership is not only positional).
Within the arts, where many people do not work in companies or with a clear promotion path, leadership may seem like a nebulous concept. Based on our conversation with the group, which included Morphē Arts, Sputnik and the Arts Centre Group, as well as representatives from film, fine art, fashion and performing arts, here are five ways that Christians can be leaders in the arts.
Leaders step out in front
Leaders take risks and do what others don’t think is possible. In the arts, this could mean anything from telling an unperformable story to working with seemingly incompatible materials to stepping into the space created by the failure of others. Where are the boundaries around you and your work, and how can you broaden the horizon?
Leaders ask questions
Art can provoke, poke and criticise – it can speak into culture and point out the direction of travel. Art engages people’s emotions in a way that facts often can’t, which is why charities rely on emotive photography and films to recruit donors and volunteers. If there is a social or political issue you are concerned about, how can your art form give you a voice on the subject?
Leaders are excellent at what they do
If you want to lead in the arts, you need to be a good artist! Sometimes, this is a springboard – if you want to ask questions and be a voice into culture, people will first need to appreciate the artistic value of your work. But for some artists, the art itself is the product of their leadership; there doesn’t always have to be an additional message or purpose for wider society. How can you invest in the growth and development of your artistic talent?
Leaders lead others
Leaders are role models; they set a precedent that others can follow. They help other people to be better at what they do and invest in people for the long-term, for example through apprenticeships. Good artists can have very high standards, but it is important to support aspiring artists still on the journey. How can you mentor, support or advise younger upcoming artists?
Leaders don’t fit a one-size model
Leadership may mean being at the forefront of your field. It may mean using your art to critique, question and challenge. It may require leading others, running a business or taking risks. Being a Christian leader in the arts may include evangelism, contributing towards God’s kingdom, or being counter-cultural.
Being an artist can be a vocation, just like being an entrepreneur, politician, charity worker, or childcare provider. Ultimately the question we must all ask is, why has God sent me to this place? What is He asking me to do, say or be?