What Does it Look Like to Be a Church's Artist-in-Residence? An Interview with Scott Erickson

Our churches are enriched when we embrace the arts and creative expressions of worship. One church who is thinking outside the box is Ecclesia in Houston, Texas, who has a friend, Scott Erickson, as an artist-in-residence.

I asked Scott to share what it’s like to be a resident artist and he shared some of the challenges and wonders of the journey:

Word on the street is that you’re an artist in residence at a church. What does that mean exactly?

When I was invited to come and be a part of Ecclesia, Chris Seay, the lead pastor, asked me to come and be their artist. I asked, “wWhat would I do?” He said, “Just come and do what you are doing, but do it with us”. I have the peculiar ability to paint very fast and in front of people. I’ve been developing this skill over the last 6 years and I’ve been able to turn it into a business. I partner with churches, non-profits, musicians, and speakers in creating a unique piece of art that visualizes the themes that are expressed to the audience.

What do you love about your role? What’s the most challenging?

I love that I’ve been given the unique opportunity to really see what it looks like for an artist to be in the midst of a church creating. It used to happen a lot you know. The church was the major patron of the arts hundreds of years ago. Guys like me helped make the places of worship, the destinations of pilgrimages.

Most challenging – no models. I don’t know any artists who have been the artists-in-residence at a church. I have no models to go on. No measure of success. In some ways this is a good thing because all I have is the Lord to ask and pray what he wants. It’s good that it keeps me close and obedient. Difficult because it’s like building an invisible castle.

What’s the biggest misperception people have on a daily basis about what you do?

That I’m just going to paint Christian imagery for Christians in their Christian churches. I’m interested in the larger discussion that’s happening in the world of art—a discussion from lots of perspectives, beliefs, and different subjects. My goal here isn’t to make Christian worship pieces, although that may happen. My goal is to create out of the stories we find ourselves in. Stories of redemption, forgiveness, cheating, murder, hope, love, poverty, suffering, doubt, sex, abuse, care, joy, and pain.

We cheapen the amazingness of the gospel when we are not honest about our human condition. This is the condition that Christ came into and lived among. What does it look like to see Christ in the midst of all these stories presently? That’s what I hope to create—whether it’s pretty or ugly, safe or dangerous, hopeful or hopeless. The best thing I can do as an artist is to be honest.

If another church wanted to start an artist in residence program, what tips would you offer?

What artists need most is three types of space:
1. A space to create—mentally, emotionally, timely
2. A space to work—a studio, room, etc
3. A space to show—gallery, walls, etc

Creating costs a great sacrifice of time, relationships, and finances. If you can help an artist with these things, you will help them in their journey to do what God has asked them to do.

How can we learn more about all you’re doing and see some of your work?

My website is www.thetranspireproject.com.

You can also view my blog at www.createvisualculture.wordpress.com

twitter.com/scottthepainter
facebook.com/scottthepainter

Thanks, Scott for all your insights. You are inspiration to us all and we are grateful for you and the community at Ecclesia for embracing the artistic expression of our God.