Listen: SPARC organiser Michael Laverty chats to Katrina Roe. Above: SPARC speakers Brian Zahnd, Anna McGahan and Jarrod McKenna. Artworks: Instagram/SPARC.
Working in the creative arts can be an isolating experience. Especially for people of faith, who may have a different set of values to others they work alongside.
That’s why SPARC National Gathering exists. Coming up on August 11 to 13, the annual event in Alexandria, Sydney, is for anyone of faith working in the creative arts and media industries. It’s a chance for creatives to connect with one another, and be equipped and refreshed.
This year’s gathering is titled ‘Breath’, and it aims to give artists a ‘breath’ of inspiration for the year ahead.
Event organiser Michael Laverty, the former head of Tropfest Short Film Festival, told Hope 103.2 that there are many Christians working in the arts who are now influencing popular culture.
“We had a number of Christians who did really well in Tropfest, and what I liked about that is they didn’t label themselves Christians,” he said. “They just did their art. And that’s what I’m about. Art in its pure form, not in a propaganda way.
“There are people who do their art for missions’ sake, and that’s appropriate. But there are other people who do their art and creativity purely for the joy of it, the glory of it. And that’s what we encourage at SPARC. I think there’s a purpose in our art…it’s the artist bringing all their passion into their creativity, and particularly if they’ve got faith, pointing towards God.”
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The headline speaker at this year’s gathering is author, artist, musician, pastor and communicator Brian Zahnd, author of Beauty will Save the World. His key message is about the power of beauty to reach a world in need of God.
“As Christians we’ve got our truth, and our ethics, but perhaps the world doesn’t necessarily accept our truth and our ethics any more,” Michael said. “But where the world outside the Christian community is not interested in our faith, because we have certain truths and ways we behave and ethics, there is something left: beauty. For example, I walk into Notre Dame Cathedral, what do I do? I go silent, I’m captured by the beauty, and I automatically look up. Beauty has the potential to draw us towards God.”
The SPARC gathering will remind creators of the opportunity they have to draw people towards God, and will use the creative arts to help delegates worship God. And on the Sunday, SPARC delegates will meet in a small church at Newtown to be led by Brian Zahnd in a quiet, contemplative ‘Prayer School’.
“I always walk away from SPARC and say, ‘Oh thankyou God, I’ve found my people.”
“Part of it will be an immersive experience into art and beauty,” Michael explained. “Part of it will be informative and transforming. And there’s also breakaway sessions, where we meet with people of various genres, whether film or visual arts or performing arts. We will talk about the real issues of life as a person who is an artist of faith.”
From his own experience as a SPARC delegate, Michael says he expects people to come away feeling topped up and encouraged.
“I always walk away from SPARC and say, ‘Oh thankyou God, I’ve found my people, and I’ve encountered God in a way that I didn’t know I would, and I have a network of friends now’,” he said. “In many ways as artists we live isolated lives, because we’re in our studios or in front of our computers, or behind a camera. And suddenly [through SPARC], I’m networked.”
For more details head to Sparc.org.au.