Hard to believe, but a week ago we'd be approaching the last night of Vacation Bible School. Before we get too much further away, let me look back to remember what we did in the Arts and Crafts room and think about the larger implications for us as artists and encouragers of artists:
Monday: we made creatures out of Styrofoam cups, paper tubes, pipe cleaners, and decorations.
Tuesday: we made masks, puppets, and then went back to making creatures.
Wednesday: we decorated T-shirts with fabric markers.
Thursday: we had kits to make a wall decoration with foam hands with Bible verses. This didn't take long enough, so it was back to making creatures.
Friday: I gave every child a bag that had Legos, some jewel embellishments, a feather, pom poms, googly eyes, and 2 pipe cleaners. I thought they'd make creatures, but most of them built structures. Many of them went into a Zen-like trance as they stacked one Lego on top of another and ignored the rest of the bag. It was Friday, so I was grateful for the calm inspired by the Zen-like trance.
As always, I look back and wonder if we really accomplished anything at all. Most nights, I was fairly sure the kids had fun, and we had a creative time together. I was happy that they wanted to take a variety of every day items (cups, plates, bags) and make something new. I was happy that everyone seemed accepting of all the art.
So what is making me feel a bit mopey? Part of it is feeling that the kids would have enjoyed working with Legos night after night. One of the adult helpers said, "Well, it's what they know and what they're used to. You give them Legos, and they know what to do."
I'm both glad that I left them until the end, so I didn't have to listen to everyone beg to play with Legos night after night, and they could have the chance to play with something new. But I'm sad that my last memory is one of Legos. I'm also sad that Thursday and Friday saw fierce storms swirl in, so our attendance was lower.
I'll get over that sadness, of course. In fact, I'm mostly over it now. It was a great week, full of creative play. I'm hopeful that the children will carry that spirit with them.
It's the larger question I have as an artist, an administrator, a church person: how do we encourage that spirit? How do we revive it? How do we keep it from being crushed?
A poet, a scholar, an administrator, a wanna-be mystic--always wrestling with the temptation to run away to join an intentional community--but would it be contemplative? social justice oriented? creative? in the mountains? in the inner city?--may as well stay planted and wrestle with these tensions and contradictions here, at the edge of America.