Helping Neighborhoods Rise
Helping Neighborhoods Rise

Mad St. Gallery has evolved into more than just an exhibit space.  Since January, the gallery has become just one part of a larger vision of the arts through the commonGood efforts at Madison Street Church.

Mad St. Arts is born!

Mad St. Arts comprises three things:  a place, a program, and a people  -  Mad St. Gallery, Mad St. Studio (offering art classes), and the Mad St. Arts Collaborative.

The Mad St. Arts Collaborative works at the intersection of good art and good works.  We are a group of 20 artists from a wide spectrum of disciplines; visual artists, writers, musicians & songwriters, theater artists, and dancers.   Collectively we hold 15 Bachelor of Arts degrees and 9 advanced degrees.  Along with 11 educators, there are 2 with teaching credentials, 1 elementary school teacher, 1 middle school teacher, 2 high school teachers and 6 college/university professors, plus 2 social workers and 3 gallery curators.  Among us there are represented 8 professional arts organizations, 6 CDs, more than a dozen murals painted, nearly 150 art exhibitions, 200 stage & film productions, and over 100 books published.

We do community-based arts projects with the people of under resourced places.  Once we are invited into a neighborhood, we collaborate with each other, with the residents, and with organizations of that neighborhood as well as its city.  Through personal engagement, advocacy and arts education, we work to reflect the cultural richness, beauty and dignity of these particular people and their place.  We come to tell their stories.

Our current project is called Dia de las Artes.  It is a one-day arts celebration in Casa Blanca, one of the most under resourced neighborhoods in Riverside, CA.  This one day event in August 2014 is evidence of the relationships developing in Casa Blanca between the artists of Mad St. Arts and the residents of the neighborhood over a nine month period.  The art has sprung from those friendships.  It is a momentary glimpse, a snapshot, of what we hope will be a long-term relationship with the people there.

Efforts in community development are, at heart, a pursuit of the Kingdom of God.  If their aim is to activate the inherent richness and power of a community, then the arts can play a natural role.  By their very nature, the arts tap into the deepest parts of ourselves.  We find power in making things, whether a poem, song, dance, painting, sculpture or theatrical performance.  In the creative act, we give shape and form to the things that reveal our hearts, minds and wills to others, participating in the most intimate and dignifying of exchanges.  Among the outgrowths of artistic production are increasing levels of closeness, beauty and civic pride, which in turn, create social, environmental, and economic benefits; all of which contribute to the greater health of a neighborhood.

When Jesus was looking for a way to describe the Kingdom of God, one image he used was yeast.  “It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”  Community development is like that.  In order for yeast to leaven bread, it must be active.  Community-based art seeks to activate what is creative, productive, personal and true within the lives of neighbors.  As one neighbor does it, others join until the entire neighborhood benefits.  As a result, like a beautiful loaf of bread, a neighborhood rises together.

Photos courtesy of Drew Ward

With an MA degree in English (emphasizing Environmental Literature), Drew Ward teaches in the Creation Care Study Program. Husband to ArtStuff Director Nancy Ward and instructor at APU and Chaffey College, Drew writes and speaks internationally about the earth and Biblical imagination.

Posted by Debbie Wright