Art partners will celebrate eight weeks of connection during a public art gala from 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, in Superior.
The display at United Presbyterian Church will include mocktails by Spirit Room, hors d’oevres by Jamrock and art created by members of United Presbyterian and Bethel Lutheran churches and residents of Harbor House Crisis Shelters, a ministry of Faith United Methodist Church. The gallery night event, a fundraiser for Harbor House, is open to the community.
The groups have been exchanging postcards and artwork since early June, diving into creative pieces ranging from blackout poetry to mandalas together, yet separately. For Harbor House residents, it’s a new spin on a process they began this spring with art therapy students at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
“I think it was very beneficial for our women at Harbor House, and I think it’s great for the community too,” Executive Director Chelsea Branley said. "I think it’s great that we have that connection and are able to maybe, maybe it’ll create some sort of, maybe not a friendship, but some sort of support for some of these women in the future, too.”
The two churches recently partnered for a joint Easter service and were seeking another project to do together when Jones read about the UWS-Harbor House art exchange online. It seemed like it was meant to be, she said.
“I think churches are really good at, just, like throwing money at things and we have become not really great at forming relationships,” Jones said. “ And so that was really the goal of it was just forming these connections and these partnerships … and to really say we all have so many gifts we can offer each other, and we’re in partnership here.”
She and two of her parishioners at Bethel Lutheran were involved.
“I think they loved seeing the art and having that passed back and forth,” Jones said, as well as the long-distance friendships that were formed.
Foote’s wife, Laura, was one of six participants from United Presbyterian.
“(What) Laura actually craved the most was Jamie’s postcards to her, connecting in that way and seeing themes come through in the artwork,” Foote said.
During this new exchange, Branley said, the Harbor House residents really focused on the art. Some even took it home to spend extra time on the pieces.
“Seeing that connection between what they’re writing and what’s coming out in the art was just really remarkable,” Foote said.
The exchange made an impact on both congregations.
“Because of this, we’ve actually changed,” Foote said. “Over the past month and a half, we have started incorporating more poetry and acting into our liturgy.”
They’ve also been using visual representations and art pieces to meditate upon.
“It’s been super well-received and people are like, ‘Whoa, we’re really looking at this in a new, different way.’ I think it really opened the door for our worship to change,” Foote said.
At Bethel Lutheran, a Wednesday fellowship group recently spent a night focused on art, coloring and drawing with music in the background.
“Kind of like coloring our prayers, almost,” Jones said. “I hadn’t really thought about why; I just kind of randomly chose that. But I guess now to be able to see how this project is influencing both of our churches."
Branley said she was glad to find another group to partner with.
“All of our women, except for myself and maybe one other are in recovery and have felt kind of alone, I think too, through it,” Branley said, and the exchange helped them form positive, supportive connections.
Now, they're sharing their work with the community. Everyone is invited to the Saturday Presbytery of Northern Watersevent.
The participants, who met for the first time in person at a Friday cookout, were excited, but nervous, about dressing up for the art gallery event. In addition to food and drinks, there will be a silent auction of some of their art pieces and information on hand about Harbor House, which provides emergency shelter, transitional living services and permanent supportive housing to homeless women and families.
The project was funded with a $5,000 grant from the Presbytery of Northern Waters, which is based in Superior. Any remaining grant funds, as well as the $15-per-person admission from the gala, will go to Harbor House. The goal was initially to have a big gathering to help the nonprofit organization.
"Now it's really turned into, like, how can more people know about the work that Harbor House is doing, and how can more people know about this art program that they're doing, and how can more people get involved with this organization," Jones said.
She and Foote said their congregations would be interested in another art exchange with Harbor House in the future, but not right away. New art pen pals are being sought.
"We're still looking for other agencies or community partners to continue this on," Branley said.
Tickets for the event can be purchased at the door or at https://bit.ly/2VE2pXQ. Contact Harbor House Crisis Shelters at 715-394-9608, ext. 5; email email@example.com; or message Harbor House on its Facebook page at facebook.com/harborhousecrisisshelters.