The Arts: Opening the Doors of Nations
By Colin Harbinson
Most of us have experienced life-defining moments. One such moment came for me following the fall of the Soviet empire. A few short weeks after the world watched Boris Yeltsin defy the communists as he stood on a tank in Moscow’s Red Square, I was asked to take over the former headquarters of the Communist Party in St. Petersburg as part of an image makeover for a building that for 70 years had been a symbol of oppression.
I was in St. Petersburg to accept an invitation to organize the first East-West arts festival. As I waited outside this beautiful palace, government representatives broke off the seals that had been placed on the doors to prevent the evicted communists from reentering. I was escorted to the office of the former Marxist leader. It would be my office for the duration of the festival. As the seals on the palace doors were broken, God’s Spirit impressed upon me that he was going to open the doors of nations that were closed to the truth, and that he was going to do it through the arts and the imagination.
A few months later, 375 participants from 32 countries interacted with over 300 Russian artists. At a time when people were struggling to find food, thousands hungry for beauty and hope attended the diverse festival events throughout the city. In the former communist palace, Russians encountered the Sacred Fire visual arts exhibition and heard arias from Handel’s Messiah publicly performed for the first time in seven decades.
Artists are experiencing new respect and prominence as a result of historic cultural shifts that are shaping our world. Believers have begun to rediscover the imagination in life and faith. We are now entering a new era in which the arts can increasingly embody God’s offer of transformation, hope, and healing to the nations.
This renaissance is still in its infancy for much of the church, however. Many Christians engaged in the arts still experience personal and vocational isolation—a sense of disconnection from each other and from God’s redemptive purposes in the world. They live with discouragement, struggle with resources, and often question the value of their creative abilities. We must move beyond the disappointment, pain, and cynicism of the past and embrace authentic and supportive community rather than self-pity and isolation.
We will find renewed hope and inspiration as we discover the rich mosaic of what God is doing through the lives and work of other artists around the world. The StoneWorks mission is to form artists to reform culture: to mentor and encourage the next generation of artists to use their creative gifts with excellence to the glory of God.
StoneWorks functions as a catalyst to facilitate global partnerships and shared resources, in the belief that what we could never accomplish on our own becomes possible when we work together. While transformation is God’s work, we can profoundly influence the communities in which God places us—whether local or global—as we faithfully pursue our callings as artists. Let’s partner together and watch God open the doors of nations through the arts and the imagination.