Art provides place to encounter God, EL2010 speaker says

January 15, 2010

In the Torah, Bezalel was charged with making the tabernacle, a portable dwelling place for the divine presence. Art—whether that be music, theater, poetry, painting or simply living one’s life in a creative, open-minded way—serves as a contemporary tabernacle, explains Sara Nesson, who will be leading a workshop on creativity and spirituality at PSR’s 2010 Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference later this month. “When an artist is willing to embrace mystery, art can serve as a place to encounter God,” Nesson says.

That idea of art as a spiritual space has a special relevance for those who don’t attend religious services but still feel a desire to connect with something bigger than themselves. “When people create art, live with expression, or enter a special space in which they’re creative, it’s like making a tiny sanctuary where they find God,” Nesson says. “And for people who do go to church or synagogue or temple, they can use their creativity to reinvent religious traditions so the traditions don’t become stale or empty. We have a responsibility to utilize our imaginations and keep the spirit alive in our lives and traditions.”

That theme of art as a spiritual space will infuse Nesson’s workshop, “Standing in the Shadow of God: The Sacred Path of the Artist” (January 26, 1:15-2:45 pm). Attendees can also expect hands-on creative exercises to demonstrate the ideas Nesson will discuss.

People who don’t identify as artists also have a place in the workshop, Nesson says. “Some of us create art pieces, and others don’t, but as long as there’s a willingness to connect with God or spirit or whatever you call it, our lives become a creative expression,” she says. “On some level all of us are artists crafting our lives.”

A varied selection of 20 workshops featuring leaders in theology, ministry, and education are offered through PSR’s annual Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference. Workshops are open to the general public, those in all walks of social change and ministry, and clergy. Registration for the Leadership Conference workshops is $125. (There is no need to register to attend the lectures only, which are open to the public at no charge.)