Artists in isolation share co-creating with God is ‘time well spent’

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PROVIDENCE — As many remain isolated at home, trying to stay safely secluded amid coronavirus concerns, many with artistic gifts find that this could be an opportunity to create for the community, family and for God.

Local painter Jan Gendron, a parishioner of St. Brendan Church in East Providence, says that since being at home, he has found much more time for his art.

“It takes discipline to actually turn off the news and put the chores aside to pick up my paint brush,” he said. “Like prayer, creativity is a connection to God. To create something beautiful, it must be truthful and that comes from striving towards goodness, which leads back to prayer.”

Gendron is currently working on a painting of “Jesus calming the storm,” which he feels reflects what the local community and world is going through right now.

“The boat symbolizes the Church and the apostles symbolize us. Jesus holds up his arms and calms the storm and says do not fear. This is our opportunity to grow in faith, and this painting is helping me to do that.”

Musical artist Ryan Tremblay, of Middletown, is an international Catholic singer-songwriter, speaker and percussionist. He feels that this time of isolation is a chance for many to grow in daily discipline, gratitude and trust in the Lord.

“The irony is that in isolation we actually have an opportunity to come into greater spiritual communion with God and spend time with our families which is a beautiful gift,” said Tremblay.

“While stresses do arise, to persist in faith amidst the challenges right now is paramount. I think the online world will help us to stay connected, but ultimately, staying connected to God through silence, prayer and scripture will help mold us into the artists and people God is calling us to be.”

Tremblay has been writing, recording, performing live at home for fans via livestream, continuing to work on his craft.

“It's almost a ‘boot camp’ of sorts taking place right in our domestic Church which will ultimately help us to become the saints we are all called to be. I would encourage anyone who is creative to take advantage of social media and begin to market and brand what it is that they do artistically. If you are persistent, over time, family, friends and fans will begin to support what you're doing and that is a beautiful feeling,” Tremblay said.

Ali Towle, of Seattle, Washington, is the owner and artist of Saint Script, an online shop with a foundation in faith. Many of her original watercolor paintings pay homage to the saints with beautiful, grace-filled simplicity.

She noted that during this unchartered time, many may be feeling anxious and alone. Instead of feeling the pressure to be productive, the Lord has prompted her to slow down and figure out new ways to foster community during this time of physical isolation.

“I have been told in the past that watching me paint is a calming and peaceful experience. There’s something about water and pigment blending together that soothes our mind and heart.”

Because of this, Towle has posted a video of herself painting everyday on her Instagram page.

“I hope it takes my followers’ minds off of their worries for a few moments and inspires them to pick up a paint brush and try something new.”

It takes time to learn and explore that creative side, said Towle, but sharing those creative endeavors online can foster a community that many are seeking right now.

“You could even send homemade cards to those you love but cannot be with or make art for your own home.”

Kate Capato, a Philadelphia area artist who specializes in sacred art, previously visited Rhode Island in 2018 when her work was featured at the “Truth, Goodness and Beauty” event at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul. Under the title of Visual Grace, Capato encouraged those longing to create to be mindful of making a peaceful environment.

“The most important thing is that we are spending time together as a family unit, with God. It is also key to set boundaries in order to actually do this as we can get so distracted with social media or endless TV that we end up wasting this gifted time instead or become too anxious to actually create a peaceful environment. While social media isn't bad, it doesn't do a good job at actually meeting our needs, we must step back from it to know what our needs are then take fruitful steps in the right directions to allow God to work and for our creative hearts to start flowing again.”

She added that making art can be a time to meditate on God's life and promises.

“You can do this in many ways. One example is by creating a visual of one of the Stations of the Cross. Maybe sit down and paint it or create a poem about it. By pausing and reflecting on a scripture, the Stations of the Cross, or a mystery of the Rosary we are inviting the Holy Spirit in. Sometimes we think about the perfect response needed or expected of us. In this case we may think of the 'best' way to paint or draw something. While seeking excellence is good, perfection is not the goal. Authentically allow your heart to bloom during this creative time by simply sharing, through art, your heart's honest response to what you pray with.”

By doing these creative projects, Capato explained, the faithful can encounter God in a new way.

“Making time to co-create with our Lord regularly is time well spent.”