Art as Incarnation

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Christmas, a feast of thanksgiving for the incredible fact of the incarnation—that God would take on human nature, including human flesh, to redeem it and draw us into union with Him. “The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Just in case you’re rusty on your Latin, the word incarnation quite literally means en-flesh-ment.  To incarnate something, then, is to en-flesh it, to give it physical properties.

So what does that have to do with making art? As I’m learning from Madeleine L’Engle in her book Walking on Water, and as she learned from artists and theologians before her, to make art is to incarnate an expression of the soul. If our bodies are the incarnations of our souls themselves, our art may be the incarnation of an idea, emotion, desire, belief, question, or some other movement of our souls.

(I would like to interrupt myself here and assert that my understanding of this is very, very feeble, even by human standards, but I’m going to charge on and try to explain what I’m learning anyway, just in case it may prove useful to someone. I suppose this is what you call “comparing notes on the human experience.”)

The following is the best I’ve got (so far) on how incarnating movements of the soul/creating art works:

  1. God stirs our souls.
  2. God inspires us to make art about those soul-stirrings, and He even inspires our specific artistic choices.
  3. We attempt to listen to, trust, and obey God’s inspirations. We create art, and hopefully art that looks at least a little bit like the vision He’s placed in our mind’s eye. At this point we may not understand why the colors, words, shapes, or chords flowing out of us are the right ones, but that’s part of the trust and obedience. (Side note: I think this is what people mean when they talk about “good art” or “authentic art.” In my opinion, good art is created when the artist trusts his or her inspirations, instead of letting fear or vanity get in the way. I’m pretty sure it’s going to take me my entire life to figure out how to do that.)
  4. When the piece is finished, we step back to contemplate it. Now the colors, words, shapes, and chords—the incarnations of our soul’s movement—teach us more about those stirrings. They help us understand what we feel, believe, wonder, hope, etc. and why. Essentially, God now teaches us through the concrete piece of art He has just inspired us to create.

Mind-blowing, right? God allows us to share in His power of creation. We are artists, and we are tools in the hand of God. Rather, to be an artist is to be a tool in the hand of God.

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

-Mother Teresa

So how does this process play out for the children who participate in Athentikos’ I AM ART camps?

In case you’re new to the I AM ART concept or need a refresher, the I AM ART five-day curriculum centers around story. On the first two days of camp, the kids begin work on a piece that represents who they are and where they come from. They craft their pieces lovingly and are often very proud of the results. On the third day of camp, the children are instructed to drastically modify their piece in such a way that the piece looks, to them, destroyed and irredeemable. Faces are downcast and dreams seem ruined. But then, during the fourth and fifth days of camp, the artist leaders show the children how to continue crafting their piece into a new work of art that is even more beautiful than they imagined it could be.

As a result, the kids’ perspectives change. Through this material-spiritual process, they learn:

  • What is ugly can become beautiful.
  • What seems impossible is not impossible after all.
  • What seems to be within our control is not within our control, but it is controlled by the Master Artist, who loves us even when we don’t understand what He asks of us.

The art that the children take home with them is an incarnation of this new perspective—a physical reminder they can touch and feel when things look dark again.

And this incarnation is important, because sometimes when we are close to giving up hope, all it takes is a beam of light through the clouds, a hand on our shoulder, or a symbol of hope lovingly painted, to remind us who we are.

And believing you are God’s masterpiece changes everything.

 

MacLean James: A Refresher Course in Humanity

I recently sat down with self-described lover, winner, and musician Ethan MacLean James to talk about his experience in the Se Luz/TEN FE I AM ART camp that was held this past June. If you too have an ultra chill and cuddly personality, you may be especially interested in his perspective on I AM ART. What’s that you say? You’re hot-blooded and prickly? Not to worry, the MacLean flavor is enjoyed by all. Keep reading.

Why did you decide to do I AM ART?
One of the partner organizations for my IAA trip was TEN FE, a nonprofit co-founded by Julie Leubbers, who is a Spanish professor at my former college. I had helped TEN FE a little in the past (i.e., attended fundraising galas to play ring toss and drink wine), but I knew that this was my chance to actually make a substantial, discernible difference. Raising awareness is great, and very much needed, but I wanted to see the effects of TEN FE’s work for myself.

What were you expecting before you went?
I am fortunate enough to have traveled internationally before. In my high school years I took two trips across the Atlantic, coming back with a total of nine countries under my belt. These trips were of pure educational and tourist intentions though, not to mention I only experienced fairly upscale accommodations the entire time. This, as you can guess, is a little different than what I experienced with IAA.

Inhabitants of developing countries are usually depicted in one of two ways: The incredibly poor, and the incredibly rich. The middle class as we know it just doesn’t really exist. I didn’t think I was going to get to experience the wealthy part of the country, but I came to terms with that. After all, this wasn’t about me. Still, the whole “mission trip” thing is pretty foreign to me to begin with, and when you throw in a language that I slept through two years of in high school…well you get the picture. Basically, my expectations were that this place was going to destroy me and my soul. Hyperbole aside, I really was nervous. But I had already paid the non-refundable deposit, so what’s a boy to do?

What were you surprised by when you got there?
Everything. The view. The people. The dollar-quetzal exchange rate. I felt like a king dropping 200 Qs on dinner.

What was your role in the camp? What did you do?
My initial role was to lead one of the workshops and teach the kids music. However, things happen sometimes, and I ended up with two other jobs instead, one of them assisting Tamagochi with his miming workshop and the other being the camp maestro and sound-system helper for the large-group sessions in the afternoon. I also took as many other opportunities to help with setting/packing things up as I could so that I would get truck rides from site to site. Those Guatemalan hills are killer.

MacLean Helps Tamagochi Teach the Mimes
MacLean helped Tama teach the mimes…
MacLean Sporting His Clown Nose
…and wore his clown nose proudly.

Tell me about one or two moments from your trip that stick out to you.
In Latin American countries they have what are called chicken buses—retired North American school buses that are often extravagantly painted and used for public transportation. I was walking down the street one morning and ahead of me turning the corner I caught a glimpse of the side of one of these buses. It said Dawson-Bryant Public Schools. Dawson-Bryant is in Coal Grove, a tiny village right next to my home town of Ironton, Ohio! Of course, by the time I got my phone out to take a picture it was long gone.

Another moment that stuck out happened during the first day or two of camp when I was feeling very discouraged about not being able to say the things that I wanted to in Spanish. I wanted my chicos to know I cared, and I wanted them to care about me. But a few of them were trying to ask me a question, and I was obviously struggling, so they kind of huddled up and whispered for a few seconds, then came back to me with their question in English. That showed me they did care.

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MacLean’s chicos dressed him up in toilet paper…
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…as a ninja!

Now that you’re back and have had time to reflect on your experience, what does the camp mean to you?
An accurate view of the world around us is extremely difficult to achieve without experiencing it first hand. That’s what this camp helped me start working toward. Time hasn’t really changed anything, though. The trip hit me hard and fast and that feeling has remained to this day. I documented my trip every night via Facebook, and this is what I wrote upon my return:

What I learned in Guatemala today: Epilogue
“You are our teacher now,” one of my chicos said to me as we prepared to make some art this week. Boy, was he wrong.

Kids like these will teach you more than you could ever even try to teach them. They are the perfect example of determination, purity, and wisdom in the face of adversity. Each one of them is amazing in his or her own right, and it was an absolute honor to work alongside them.

Now, as I sit in a nice air-conditioned apartment in Cincinnati, complaints of tiny airplane seats and dry, overly salted pretzels still fresh in my mind, the image of these children walking to work in the fields to put some tortillas and beans on the table drifts into my daydreams. I try to guide my thoughts elsewhere, to happier times, my own life reruns and sneak peeks of future joy, but they circle back to the same place over and over again.

Was it enough to put a few extra grins on their faces for the week? Could we have done more? Should we have? Of course. But they won’t complain.

Those smiles are priceless. I only wish they happened more often.

I hope and plan to one day go back and see them again so that they can teach me a refresher course in humanity. God knows it’s needed.”

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mac-and-friends

I AM ART and the Unity of Soul and Body

The premise behind the I AM ART camps is that through art—a physical, concrete means of expression and learning—God teaches us and draws us closer to Himself. I have seen this happen for both the children who participate in the camps and the artists who lead the workshops. The children learn how to look at their lives differently and see, instead of inescapable problems, opportunities to overcome their challenges and choose their own paths. The adults, meanwhile, also learn many things, including humility and trust. I AM ART camps are weeks of personal revelation for everyone involved.

So back to the premise. Why has God decided to teach us these things through art camps? Why did He inspire Scott and Amelia Moore to begin I AM ART? Why didn’t He decide, instead, to teach us all of these things at church or in prayer?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I have a few thoughts.

First of all, God of course does teach us these things in church and in prayer. But we are somewhat poor creatures, and often don’t understand Him. Or maybe we’ve fallen out of the habit of going to church and praying. Or maybe we were never in it. So in His infinite mercy, God seeks us through other means.

But, art? Why something so concrete, so physical—something that gets on your hands and in your ears and often takes days to scrub off? I believe one answer to this question is that, actually, “man’s soul is not in his body as a hand in a glove or as a rower in a boat” (Summa Theologica, part 1, question 76). Mind-body dualism, popularized by the father of modern western philosophy, René Descartes, in the mid-1600s, is actually a lie. We are not souls caged in bodies. We are human beings and our substance is both soul and body, substantially joined.

Perhaps this seems obvious to you or perhaps you feel shocked by the claim. I personally think it explains a lot about human existence and the Bible.

For example, the mind-body unity is why, for better or worse, we learn best when all of our senses are engaged. Until I am burned the first time, I do not believe that the source of the warm cheery glow in my fireplace will hurt me. And until Thomas put his finger into Jesus’ side, he would not believe that Jesus had risen. (Note that Jesus, while disappointed that Thomas would not believe Him otherwise, actually encouraged Thomas to put his finger in His side.)

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The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio

Learning from the physical world is also corroborated by Scripture: “Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made.” (Romans 1:20).

The unity of our souls and bodies also explains

  • why concrete sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations connect us more strongly to our memories and emotions than anything else
  • why we communicate meaning with our bodies
  • why the words “I love you” change meaning based on how the speaker has manipulated their vocal chords to achieve a specific tone of voice, where the speaker directs their eyes, and how the speaker is physically touching (or not touching) you
  • why practicing physical discipline helps us achieve spiritual discipline as well
  • why Jesus asked us to not only pray but to fast as well
  • why Jesus laid hands on people, mixed his saliva with dirt to open blind men’s eyes, commanded that we be baptized with water, and, most importantly, took on flesh in order to bleed and die for us

The list could go on and on, but the essential point is incredible when you think about it. Our souls and bodies are substantially united. We are not one or the other, we are the unity of both. God created the physical world from nothing as a divine gift to help us understand and love Him. This knowledge imbues absolutely everything with meaning and sanctity.

And it is one reason that we can be sure God communicates with us through art.

hands covered in paint

You Are Art

I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Team

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On Thursday morning Laura held her breath and waited to see if her students would come back to class after she had melted their art before their eyes. Miraculously, they did, and as they sat down she finally got to reveal a sculpture she had made of her own melted pieces and those of her translator and workshop assistant—a mass of colorful, curling and swirling plastic, reminiscent of a Chihuly blown glass chandelier. The students approached with wide eyes and began turning, touching, and examining the sculpture from every angle.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]“Sometimes in our lives we might feel like trash,” she told them. “Sometimes we feel like we’re not who we’re meant to be, or who we thought we were going to be. But even when we can only see pain and ugliness, God has a purpose for us. Today we’re going to put our pieces back together to create something unexpected, and even more beautiful than before, just like God can do with us.” Without missing a beat her students broke into smiles and began eagerly reaching for the hot glue gun, lifting and turning their own melted pieces up to the sculpture to find where they would best fit.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7819″ img_size=”full”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]The finished piece was magnificent. At the art show on Saturday it spun in slow circles in the square between the church, municipal building, market, and school—right in the heart of Santiago. Rainbow colors shone and stretched as the sun’s rays pierced it through and Laura’s students stood guard around it, careful to make sure the other kids didn’t touch or bump it.

The other students’ pieces had been transformed as well. The cut-up prints now fluttered above our heads as giant paper stars and the once stripped bicycle passed in gay circles—bell tinkling, plastic dinosaur spinning, streamers flying—as kids and adults took turns peddling around the tables filled with art. Around the corner, a 140-foot mural stretched across the side of the soccer stadium, boasting symbols of pride and hope for Guatemala: the sun, the ceiba tree, the white nun orchid, Quetzales, giant kites, and even Santiago itself in miniature.

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IAA_Se_Luz_2016_Mural.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”The I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Mural.” caption_location=”outside-image”][vc_column_text]That day we celebrated all we had learned and created by singing, dancing, hugging, laughing, and even letting paper lanterns drift into the sky as a sign that we had given everything we are to Christ.

Best of all, when Laura asked her students a critical question, they responded differently than they had on Wednesday:

“Do you think this is trash now?” she asked.

“No!”

“Do you think this is art?”

“Yes!”

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9454.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Laura’s class proudly displaying their art at I AM ART Se Luz 2016.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9009.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Adolfo proudly displaying the Chihuly art he made at I AM ART Se Luz 2016, after it was destroyed and repaired.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0006.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Chihuly Sculpture at I AM ART Se Luz 2016″ caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0202.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Singing Soy Arte at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]We all understand now, that no matter how you feel, no matter what you’ve gone through, no matter how may pieces you’re in, the same can be said of you. Give yourself to God and watch with patient trust how He forms you into something you never imagined you could be. That’s what we did this week, and our hearts are still singing:

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

Una creación de Dios / A creation of God

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

Envuelto en amor / Enveloped in love

Es amor / He is love

Es amor / He is love

Dios es amor / God is love

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9921.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”The I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0167.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Artwork displayed at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9956.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Celebrating at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0094.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Artwork displayed at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0113.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Adolfo watching his sky lantern fly into the sky at I AM ART Se Luz 2016.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0125.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”A Sky Lantern released at I AM ART Se Luz 2016.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” url=”https://athentikos.com/give” fullwidth=”true” bg_color=”#dd9933″ btn_hover_bg=”#000000″]Give a donation to I AM ART[/mk_button][vc_column_text]I AM ART needs you. Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to help us continue this mission. THANKS![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Held in Pain

Children processing conflict at Athentikos I AM ART 2016 Se Luz

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Conflict day … On the Wednesday of each I AM ART camp week, the workshop leaders direct their students to destroy or drastically modify the pieces they’ve spent the last two days working on—pieces that represent the children themselves. Everyone knew this day would be difficult and many of us went to bed on Tuesday with knots in our stomachs.

The kids’ reactions were much as expected. Those in the recycled art class kicked angrily at the lights, flowers, and feather boas they had been instructed to rip from the bike they were transforming into recycled art. In the printmaking class, every face was downcast as the children cut into their prints and set them aside, for what purpose they knew not. And in Laura’s mixed media class, Adolfo stared in horror, shaking his head and mouthing the word “no,” as she held his meticulously colored plate over a pot of boiling water.

What we learned that day was, for me, completely unexpected.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7805″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Jenn, the printmaker, tried to explain to her students that even though today was painful, they would be using their now cut-up prints to make a new, more beautiful piece of art tomorrow. “You’ll just have to trust me,” she told them. “But what if we don’t?” one student replied.

Meanwhile Laura’s students gathered their melted plates, cups, and bowls in their arms and began walking out of class. “Where are you going?” she cried. “We’re going to throw it away,” they said. “It’s trash now.”

“It killed me inside,” Laura says, her voice breaking. “I know what’s going to happen and I wanted so badly to just hug them and tell them it’s going to be okay, but I couldn’t.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7806″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]The other artists echoed her sentiment and suddenly I understood a little bit better how hard it must be for God to allow us to experience pain and how much more it hurts us and Him when we don’t trust Him. Though God never positively wills our pain, He does at times allow us to experience it, with a clear vision of how He will use it to make us new, more beautiful creations.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7807″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]

We went to bed on Wednesday night aching for our students who we had left in pain, who couldn’t see our vision, who didn’t trust us to transform their pain into purpose. All we could do was trust that God had His own, larger vision, and was holding us in this pain, using this camp to transform us all.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7808″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Discovering Dignity

I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Day1MixedMedia-3

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Today is Wednesday, the “peak” of art camp, and I am finally carving out time to sit and write. We spent last weekend in Antigua, resting and preparing ourselves for the week. On Sunday we made the 40-minute drive from Antigua to Santiago Sacatepéquez, the location for the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 camp. To put it simply, the transition was drastic.

Antigua, Guatemala’s capital when it was under Spanish colonial rule, bursts at the seams with color and enchantment. Volcanoes ring the city like sentinels, while tourists and natives alike bustle down cobbled streets, their shadows gliding across thick adobe walls painted orange, yellow, maroon, and teal. In Antigua, we ate, drank, and enjoyed ourselves to our hearts’ content. Coffee, wine, and chocolate were staples of our diet, and when we weren’t eating, shopping for gorgeously-crafted textiles, or touring nearby coffee plantations, we relaxed by the hotel pool, slept, and took long, hot showers.

“I wish we could just live here,” Laura remarked at one point. “Yeah, but”—MacLean shook his head and sighed—“gotta go help kids.”

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_6238.jpg” image_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Santiago Sacatepéquez. Here, many families live in houses made of corrugated steel and cook beans, rice, and tortillas over an open fire. Those who are better off build their houses out of concrete and cook meat on stovetops. Poverty and a national history of racism, war, and corruption combine to magnify the social evils of alcoholism, drug addiction, gang violence, and teenage pregnancy. Santiago was downgraded from a red zone, or town with an average of one murder per day, just a few years ago.

In addition, at times it seems that everything in Santiago is bleak and dirty. A walk up the hill behind town offers a sweeping vista of steel rooftops in various stages of rust, broken occasionally by concrete walls—a patchwork of gray, tan, and reddish-brown. On the streets stray dogs wander in circles looking for scraps of food and we can’t look ahead as we walk for fear of stepping in dog or horse feces. The dirt that covers buildings and streets soon covers hands and feet as well. At our hotel (it still surprises me that Santiago even HAS a hotel) we experience intermittent losses of electricity and water.[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_4810.jpg” image_size=”large”][vc_column_text]On Monday and Tuesday, though, we discovered that in spite of the struggles the children of Santiago face, they are as full of color as the streets in Antigua. The artists used their workshops to help the kids explore who they are and where they come from, with magnificent results. In the mixed media class, for example, the kids colored plates, bowls, and cups with hues that reflect their emotions. In the miming class, each child practiced trust as he closed his eyes and ran toward a wall of his peers, their arms open, waiting to catch him. In the paper-making class, children traced and decorated their own footprints, recalling that they walk in the light of the Lord, who is always watching over them.

As artists, we left feeling overjoyed at the way the children had used the tools we gave them to express the beauty of their individual selves. Their dignity is seldom celebrated, often violated, resulting in wounds that cannot be healed by anyone but God. At the end of day two we felt thankful that He had put us in this place and used us as His instruments—His artist’s brushes and tools—to help the kids recognize their infinite worth.[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery images=”7787,7788,7789,7790,7791,7792,7793,7794,7795,7796″ column=”5″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Giving Life Through Art

Courtney Smalley

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]I had an enchanted childhood. When I wasn’t coloring, playing dress-up, or playing with my stuffed animals, I would daydream for hours in my backyard, swinging on the jungle gym, singing softly to myself, and listening to God whisper through the leaves how much He loved me. In the age of innocence I walked in my own golden Garden of Eden. I think of it often now when I pray.

In addition, I am the only child of two wise, loving parents. Growing up my mother was my playmate by day and my favorite storyteller by night. She encouraged all of my wide-eyed wonder and creative efforts with the most sincere enthusiasm. My father, who came from a broken family, hugged me every day and often told me how my mother and I were the fulfillment of his lifelong dream to have a family that loved each other. Not for a moment did I doubt my infinite value or the infinite amount that I was loved.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Smalley_Dad.jpg” image_size=”large” lightbox=”true”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]I am well aware that not everyone grows up this way. In 2014 I travelled to a small, rural town in Guatemala and met a group of kids who my Spanish professor, through her recently founded non-profit, was sending to school. There was one little girl—Elvia—who looked at me with such astonished, aching hope whenever I paid attention to her, that I sobbed at night thinking about it. Elvia barely has enough self-confidence to speak her own name, so I don’t know her story. Others’ stories I do know: Lluvia and Luis’ father was killed while walking home from work one day, by a man he may or may not have owed money. Irineo, an orphan, spent part of his childhood shining grown men’s shoes in the town square and sneaking into farmers’ sheds to sleep at night. Marvin, the gentlest, sweetest 12-year-old I have ever met, still says he wants to be a barber like his father, who died of alcoholism.

[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Smalley_Marvin.jpg” image_size=”large” lightbox=”true”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]In less than a month I’m going back to Guatemala to see these kids, and this time I’m bringing a team of artists with me. Through Athentikos we’ll be putting on an art camp called I AM ART, designed to help Elvia, Lluvia, Luis, Irineo, Marvin and the other kids understand that they are works of art created by God, and therefore of infinite worth, infinitely loved.

God has asked me to share my time and talent as a writer and photographer to help with this camp, but as a recent graduate who works at another nonprofit, I am still a little lacking in the treasure department. If you would like to contribute to I AM ART, and send me there as the official Storyteller (i.e. person-who-gets-to-take-photos-and-write-about-what-God-does-in-the-hearts-of-the-kids-and-artists-during-the-camp), you can visit my fundraising page. THANK YOU for supporting Athentikos. Even when we don’t have enchanted childhoods, God never stops trying to reach us and communicate His love. I believe He’s using I AM ART to do just that.

Thank you![/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” url=”http://athentikos.kindful.com/i-am-art-se-luz-2016/courtney-participates-in-i-am-art-a-special-art-camp-for-at-risk-youth-in-guatemala” target=”_blank” bg_color=”#dd3333″ btn_hover_bg=”#dd9933″]Support Courtney in I AM ART[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]