Reconciling Community Art

This Great Idea was inspired by the mural created for the UMC’s Our Movement Forward, 2019 summit.

Communities are deeply struggling with hatred, racism, division, and Covid. How might your congregation be a place for open, honest conversations, the accountability necessary for justice, and eventually, reconciliation?

A Starting Point: Create a safe space for processing complex emotions. Find resources for talking about Grief and Trauma, creating Mindfulness and Contemplative Practices with Children and Teens, and/or developing Hope & Resilience with all ages in our Pastoral Care lib guides.

A Next Step: Move from personal emotions to communal concerns. Equip leaders and members of all ages to navigate challenges with helps from our Conflict, Division, & Reconciliation lib guide.

Make Art: Move conversations into community-transforming art:

The UMC’s Our Movement Forward mural is an example of art amplifying, clarifying, and beautifying a challenging conversation. Your community could replicate and/or build on this idea by creating an outdoor mural or multi-media art piece.

Step 1: Pick a theme (joy, hope, reconciliation, etc.) that reflects your conversations.

Step 2: Decide if the art will be a painting, mural, multi-media sculpture, or individual sculptures; and whether it will be temporary or more permanent.

Step 3: Make art:

A (semi-permanent) mural can engage more community members, deepen the impact of group discussions, and strengthen the art’s transformative power. For an original painting or mural for your own building – or, (with permission) another structure (??) – invite a local artist or team to collect input, create a template and invite intergenerational participation in painting the mural. Find mural how-to’s here.

For temporary artwork, find shareable coloring pages through Illustrated Ministry or A Sanctified Art to fit your theme. Invite everyone to color a section and display the finished pages/poster in a church window.

For a single multi-media outdoor sculpture, invite community members to bring a found object that symbolizes your theme. Invite local artists to build the found objects into a sculpture. You might also create a sculpture walk, displaying individual or small groups of found objects. In both instances, include a laminated or online guide acknowledging participants and/or sharing a story about each piece to illuminate viewing.

When to do all this? Inauguration Day (Jan. 20) might be a compelling time to start: kick the whole thing off with prayers for our nation and communities, and jump into conversations about division and reconciliation as a hopeful sign of moving toward healing with a new administration. Or, let Ash Wednesday confession be the starting point. Or, Transfiguration Sunday (which happens to land on Valentine’s Day this year), could be a great time to talk about transformative reconciliation and, yes, love.

Art as reconciliation and community-building!!