Sputnik is a network of artists who identify as Christian, but don’t make ‘Christian art’. All around the UK and beyond, Sputnik artists are making art that enriches us all, making art that is full-blooded and honest and making art that can help heal our divided culture. Sputnik’s Jonny Mellor shares what they’ve been up to over the last few months and the challenges facing the Arts.
Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet).
This was the slogan on a recent advertisement encouraging people to retrain in IT. The image that accompanied it was of a young ballerina tying the ribbons on her ballet shoes. The advert was quickly pulled but the reality it depicts is not so easily ignored. The arts are in a perilous situation in our nation. If events proceed according to the current trajectory, many young dancers will have to leave the arts and retrain completely. Many actors, film makers, painters and musicians as well.
Obviously, working in IT can be a fantastic thing, and the UK does need creative, talented individuals living out their God-given calling in that sector, but the picture is sobering. The arts represent one of the areas of human life that most uniquely expresses our human-ness. No other animal or thing dances or paints or sings in anything but a functional manner. To proactively transition many of our artists to programme machines, therefore, speaks of a future straight out of a dystopian novel.
What makes this perhaps even more troubling is the growing recognition that, at the time when the arts are most threatened, they are potentially most important. If we’re going to imagine a new future post-COVID, we need the masters of imagination, the artists, to help us tell a new story, sing a new song and paint a new picture of what our country should look like going forward.
As the church looks to serve our nation in these difficult times, we need to be aware of the challenges that our culture is facing and to support Christians working in fields, like the arts, that are particularly under pressure. As Jeremiah was commissioned to work for the peace and prosperity of his city and to pray for its welfare (Jeremiah 29:7) so we are called to serve our nation. There are so many ways in which we can fulfil this call and many of them are urgent and obvious. The positive effect that the arts can have on a culture is more difficult to quantify though and so often it is not an area that Christians have proactively thrown themselves into. In fact, we’ve often moved in the opposite direction.
I think that in our times though, we’re all going to need the humanising influence of artists more than ever, and the church can help with that. Imagine the difference it would make if Christians were amongst the loudest culture shaping voices coming out of the pandemic; Christians, creating art that engages with our culture and that is powerfully marinated in the good news of Jesus.
To this end, Sputnik has been hard at work over the last six months to find ways to support Christian artists who are struggling, while trying to motivate and resource them to keep creating. One of the ways that we have done this is through our Emergency Artist Fund. We started this at the beginning of the first lockdown and have been delighted by the response, raising over £6000.
This money has proved very useful and we’ve used a good portion of it already in grants given to individual artists. Unfortunately, though we expect the situation to get worse before it gets better and so we’re continuing this fund at least until the end of the year.
So, if you are an artist and COVID-19 has significantly impacted your wellbeing and ability to create, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to apply for a grant. All you need to do is give us a brief introduction to who you are and what you do (including a link to your work) and how you have been affected by the current situation.
On the other hand, if you’re on the other side of the fence and you would like to give to Jesus-following artists, to help them keep reimagining futures, blessing communities and warming people to the way we see the world, visit our gofundme page, and get involved.