Friday 1 April 2022

Art, Hope, and Healing

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

—2 Corinthians 5:17

Over the past decade, a small, hopeful thing has been happening in Toronto. Local artists have been busy transforming small pieces of civic infrastructure, specifically those gunmetal grey utility boxes, into wonderfully playful and insightful works of art. I am delighted whenever I discover a new one, as this buzzing city becomes incrementally more livable each time an artist I don’t know communicates something to me about the way she sees and experiences the familiar places and spaces we both call home.

Yet public art is not always sweetness and light. Last year, in our Interdisciplinary Seminar, we had the good fortune to discuss former ICS Senior Member Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin’s book Art, Conflict, and Remembering: The Murals of the Bogside Artists. In this catalogue, Dengerink Chaplin chronicles the story behind the creation of twelve large murals of “commemorative public art” in the city of Derry, which tell a candid yet ultimately healing story about the time of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. As Dengerink Chaplin explains, “the murals…provide a safe space and talking point to deal with the past. They facilitate the kind of open-ended conversations that are essential for the proper processing of complex and confused traumatic memories” (Art, Conflict, and Remembering, 17). In Derry, artistic work that courageously portrays a community’s wounds simultaneously provides the occasion to examine, address, and even heal those wounds.

Easter is a good time I think to reflect on the role human artistic creation can play in helping us work through and even heal trauma. For the connection we perceive between art and healing is no accident, but rather reflects the fact that God is both our creator and redeemer, a maker and a healer, an artist and a physician—simultaneously. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, quoted above, Jesus Messiah’s sacrificial act of redemption is itself a new creation. If we are in Christ, then we are a new creation as well—called to create anew, to imagine God’s kingdom of shalom where justice and peace embrace, to exemplify for each other what that kingdom looks like, and to do all we can to make it a reality today.

Shalom, my friends! May the peace of Christ be with you and with our world.

Ron Kuipers