The Making of Communitas / by Louis Holstein

Communitas came to me in a rush of thoughts on a quiet evening last June. I had recently finished reading "The Art of Curating Worship" by Mark Pierson and I was richly inspired to curate something. I wanted to take to create something new from something that was already created. Like a ton of bricks, God hit me with the question, "Why not curate a show from Ashley's work?" I approached Ashley with the idea and she was excited to see what I would create. The initial title, "The Color of Community" kept circling in my mind. The idea was to create a show that would display my favorite pieces of Ashley's work while also showcasing the communal heart that Mulberry has blessed us with. I thought I could have different walls featuring different color pallets of her work. 

This did not work.

The biggest reason this did not work was that Ashley had formed her photographic voice through one specific color pallet. Her work was not diverse enough to be categorized into different colored sections. The second, a minor reason, was that I felt the title "The Color of Community" was misleading. This would not be a show about race relations, but about the power of the communal spirit. It was right then that "Communitas" came to mind.

I had read about the concept back in college and immediately began to think of the Holy Trinity. What greater example of communal love do we have than that of the Holy Trinity? So I would sperate her work into three categories: The Beholder (God), the Beheld (Jesus), and the Beholden (Holy Spirit). The Beholder would contain images of nature and animals. (Although we are made in God's image, I felt like representing God as Other.) The Beheld would feature images of human-kind only, as this is Christ: human. Lastly, the Beholden would be abstract images of both nature and man, showing what it is to be filled with God as we are when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Beyond the images, I also knew I wanted to have an interactive component. How could I have a show about community and not feature a way for the Community to interact with the art? So I established three stations to go with each wall. The most important thing to me was that in making these stations, I wanted them to be theologically accurate. For example, in the first station, representing God (The Beholder) I felt that I could only have guests take something from it. For we do not add anything to God, it is He who gives to us. See the instruction card below:

From there, I felt that the next station should be about honoring people in some way, as Christ honors us. I knew this station could be more interactive in the sense that I could have guests add to the art. After all, this is the call Christ has given us: to add to His kingdom. See the instruction card below:

Communitas Station 2.jpg

In the last station, I wanted the guests to give, but also take. God gives us gifts, and Christ calls us to serve, but I believe it is through the Holy Spirit that we are able to become aware of the gifts God has given us and be able to apply them in service. So here guests could take the gift they received at station one, and use it (give it back) at station 3. They would also receive a gift to take with them as a token of their experience with Communitas. See the instruction card below:  

Communitas Station 3.jpg

*I'm well aware that anytime we bring the Holy Trinity into metaphor, we move somewhat into heresy. However, I trust that God knows my heart. Ha! This show (as I say in the curator's note below) is truly a gift to the City of Mulberry. When Ashley and I first arrived 5 years ago, we were welcomed in an unprecedented way. I want people to feel the love, and be aware of the power of community as they leave this show. If we work together, we truly can change the world.

Click on the "projects" tab to see the some of the images used in Communitas (the whole show will be available for view online after April 14th) and be sure to come out and see the show how it is intended to be seen LIVE and in person! It's on display at the Mulberry Cultural Center now through April 14th.