“Back then, when Crea first started in 2012, we saw that creative students were unable to find their fit in churches.” Crea is the outreach and discipleship arm of Cru Singapore for campus creatives.
“They were asking real questions about their faith that we, as a Church, didn’t seem to know how to answer. All churches wanted–it seemed–was for creatives to simply design flyers, make promo videos or join the worship ministry.”
“Art and faith can intersect. Christian artists can create good art for God’s purposes.”
In 2018, Mylene visited an old Christian couple who are part of a secular artist colony in Zanesville, Ohio. Mike Seilers is a painter who’s also a follower of Christ. Out of their own pockets, he and his wife Kathy, restore abandoned houses in downtown city together with other locals, making dead spaces liveable–and commercially viable–again.
Up until today, they have saved eight houses reviving downtown Zanesville, bringing in other notable artists in the process. As a result, the whole city became vibrant again.
“I saw how Mike and Kathy take their Christian restorative values seriously, even caring for little plants by the roadside.”
The Seilers also help host an artist residency programme for budding Christian artists who want to experience what life is like in Zanesville’s artist colony.
“There’s lots of dialogue, creating and reflection that takes place together as a community.People were openly airing their mindsets and perspectives. I saw how the residency became an avenue to seek God together and was also a safe space to ask very difficult questions.
“I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I can do something similar in Singapore.’” She started praying about it.
When Mylene came back, she started conceptualising The Artists’ Residency with her key student volunteers. The missing piece of the puzzle was an ideal location for a group of artists to stay together for a period of two weeks in land-scarce Singapore.
The answer came in the form of a terrace house in Chip Bee Gardens. Upon learning its rental price, Mylene felt that perhaps her dream could not be realised. However, one day, a church mate heard about this project and immediately offered to sponsor the rental fees fully.
Jaw-dropped, Mylene and her key volunteers rushed to get the place ready for their very first Artists’ Residency. From 9-22 July 2018, six creatives, including Mylene, a mixed medium artist herself, gathered for a time of solitude, reflection, dialogue and creation.
Artists across various disciplines spent time with the six ladies, talking about their art and faith. These sessions were hands-on and interactive, aimed at enriching the hearts and minds of the participants, clarifying the restorative potential of art in the hands of artists who truly follow Jesus.
One of the participants, Jane Ang said, “During this Residency, we had snippets of time to do our own art.
“I spent quite a lot of time in this space that I’ve found near the house. One observation that really intrigued me was how the little stream there still flowed and the leaves still fell–with or without me being there. I felt so honoured simply to be present to witness this sight. I thought this really reflects the way God works as an artist and creator. He creates out of delight. It doesn’t really matter to Him if anyone sees His creation. He still does it anyway.
“This deeply impacted me in the way I want to work as an artist. At the end of the day, it’s not about getting human approval or getting my work out to be seen, but simply creating out of a place of enjoyment with God.”
With the successful run of The Artists’ Residency Programme, Mylene is taking things one step at a time. But she’s also set her sight on bigger things.
In a half-serious tone, she said, “Well, if someone were to offer a space for Christian artists to regularly come together, create, dialogue and reflect, it’ll be another dream come true.
“Who knows right? God might really make it happen,” Mylene laughed, with a twinkle in her eye.
As she breathed her last, Mandy’s mother told her, “Don’t cry for me.” So Mandy did just that. Growing up, Mandy was taught that “It’s a weakness to show emotions; we should thank God in every circumstance.” As she battled to suppress her grief, things took a toll on her.
We are now seeing more mid-career people join as full-time staff. This shift creates a wider pool of experience and perspectives among the staff family, which is helpful in propelling our work toward new, fresh directions to be more effective in changing times.
While our name was changed in 2013 to Cru Singapore, reaching the next generation remains a key focus of our work. What has changed though, is that our target audience has grown beyond campus.
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