DIGNITY + HOPE + BEAUTY
At the end of 2017 I began to receive some clarity from the Lord regarding the ministry aspect of my arts calling and assignment. I have discovered the primary way I have been created to refresh (give a "cup of cold water") to those that are hurting ("the least of these") is in the form of beauty through the arts.
This clarity of calling has launched the Dignity + Hope + Beauty division of Stoeffler Art Studio which seeks to recognized the essential role that beauty plays in bringing dignity, hope and beauty to the human soul through the arts; specifically to the homeless, hospitalized, imprisoned, abandoned and abused.
As I was trying to give language and find examples to express the important role of beauty through the arts provides, I came across two sources.
THE BEAUTY OF COLOR AND NATURE The first example I came across was a video by the organization Invisible People. In an interview with a homeless woman named Manda, they asked how she survives while living under a bridge. She shares:
“I have to keep reminding myself that for as many negatives there are, there must be that many positives. And so I keep looking at the positives and I keep trying to remember there are beautiful colors and that I’m saving my life and that’s what matters….I’m going to make a difference in the world. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are a person and not an object, you are worthy of getting through this. But then you realize with all the work and struggle you haven't gotten anywhere. Then you realize, you have say ‘it’s a beautiful day, it’s a wonderful life, there’s a pretty leaf and you find beauty again.’ ”
As I was watching the video and listening to her story, I was so struck by the fact that she didn't focus on how she was going to survive, practically speaking, with food and shelter. I'm sure all of that is on her mind and heart too, yet she was very focused on how her soul could find hope. How imperative hope is to the human soul to survive! And what were some ways she found hope? Through the thought of beautiful colors and the sight of a pretty leaf.
THE BEAUTY OF MUSIC A second place I found an example to express the importance of beauty to the human soul was found in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption. This movie is about a man wrongly accused of murder and is sentenced to prison. During one particular scene, the main character (played by Tim Robbins) is given the opportunity to play opera music over the loud speaker for all the inmates to hear. While the music is playing, you hear the thoughts of another inmate (played by Morgan Freeman) about how the music effected him:
"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't wanna know. Some things are best left unsaid.
I like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you those voices soared. Higher and farther than anyone in a grave place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away. And for the briefest of moments every last man at Shawshank felt free."
What a powerful way to express the effect the simply beauty of music can have on the human soul in the midst of a prison experience. Enabling the soul freedom to soar even though the body is locked up. This is no small thing.
TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE The power of beauty to spark and rekindle hope in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations is what has moved me to use me gifts and calling to make a difference. It is my desire to partner with individuals and organizations which are already reaching out with practical help and care to the hurting to also offer hope, beauty and inspiration through the arts.
ARTS CARDS PROJECT One way I am to give my "cup of cold water" to refresh those that are hurting is through the Arts Cards Project. These cards include my artwork and poetry with a note that reads:
"I hope the simple beauty of art and poetry will nourish your soul and refresh your spirit."
Thankfully, I have some friends who work with the homeless, hospital and hospice patients. And theyre able to give away my arts cards to the people with whom they're in contact.
WHY BEAUTY? Why does beauty have the power to effect us so much? Where does beauty come from? And what exactly is beauty?
I believe the reason why beauty is so powerful is because beauty, at its source, comes from God. Not only does God create beautiful things but He IS Beauty. Sometimes we can experience a feeling or sense of eternity through beauty too. And eternity, which is outside of earthly time and space, possess no pain, suffering or limitations. So if then through beauty, our spirits are lifted or our hearts pierced with a pang for something indescribable or other-worldly, it is in because beauty has allowed us to brush up against the fringes of eternity, even if for a moment. This is why beauty can be so powerful: it deposits the transcendent atmosphere of eternity into our experience as mortal, finite beings.
And as an artist, I feel it is my job to partner with God to convey beauty through the arts by releasing hope and inspiration into the human experience. However, the arts actually are mere bread-crumbs of beauty; not beauty itself. My prayer is that any bread-crumbs of beauty discovered through my art would leave a trail for others to travel leading to the source and person of Beauty Himself; and that is Jesus Christ.
YOUR INVOLVEMENT If you feel a connection to this project, here are ways to get involved:
2. If you or your organization would like to give away arts cards to the hurting people in your care, please contact me and we can work together.