Downtown Presbyterian Children’s Summer Arts Program
If popular caricature is at all correct and church is the place where young people are
taken to learn to hate and fear their own bodies, Downtown Presbyterian Church is going
against the grain. Led by children’s education director, Sarah Dark and with the help of
area artists J. Todd Greene, Richard Feaster, David Carlson, Mandy Rogers-Horton, and
DPC’s own Beth Gilmore, Jake Larson, and Aaron Doenges, the children of the church
are working to transform the downstairs chapel into an installation of the human body.
The show’s title? Consuming Catastrophe: The Comedy of the Heart; A Play in Ate
Guided by the conviction that a child’s relationship with God is healthily
underway long before adults start arming them with readymade answers, Dark
customarily begins their Sunday morning classes together with a story, followed by
questions. Take Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed, for instance. “The smallest of all
seeds becomes a tree so great that many birds can make their home in it,” Dark explains.”
I asked the children, ‘How is the kingdom of heaven like a mustard seed?’” What did they
come up with?
It is growing.
It is a home for us.
It is something small that is becoming great.
“I wondered aloud how the seed knew what to grow into.”
It is very powerful.
It is what it was made for.
“I asked where the children find this kind of power.”
In the trees around us.
In the seasons changing.
In our bodies.
It was the phrase, “In our bodies” that connected Todd Greene’s vision of a
human body machine with this year’s Summer Art’s Program director Dave Carlson’s
hope for a kinetic installation. Dark explains: “After spending a few weeks on what
art might be for and how specific artists create art that is interactive and moving, it
was time to put all of our ideas together.” Reporting back to the children, she had an
announcement: “Kids, we’re going to turn the chapel into a human body that you can
walk through. Oh, and you are the mustard seeds.”
It’s Dark’s hope that the children’s creation will serve as a visual aid, for young
and old alike, in better discerning God’s redeeming work not as something that happens
in spite of our bodies but within and among them and for better imagining the breadth
and outlandish scope of God’s love. She envisions the installation as “an interactive
space that will take us deeper into the poetry of this weirdly elusive but ever-expanding
kingdom...Participants will cross the threshold of the mouth and enter a bioactive
landscape, journeying through the esophagus of darkness, beneath the soul of the
stomach, into the forest of intestines, accompanied by the music of the heart, exiting
into the quiet of a blossoming tree so inclusive that life lives forever in it.” Ideally, this
culminating event of DPC’s summer arts program will somehow, in Dark’s phrase, “put
skin and bones on the mystery of the kingdom of God.”
The show opens on September 4th in DPC’s chapel at 6:00. Food and drink will be
available as a part of the Artluck’s 1st Saturday Art Crawl.