Dear Friends and Family,
I am writing to you from Charlottesville Virginia, where I have been apprenticing with a landscape oil painter for the year. During this time I have learned so much both about painting and studio life in general, as well as how this specific painter captures light and color in breathtaking ways. I have also realized that — for me personally — working in a studio is too solitary to pursue long-term. This insight has led me to what I am about to tell you…
Two weeks ago I attended an event called The Art Institute which is a 5 day seminar for artists and people looking to use art in their field of work. The Art Institute is a yearly conference put on by Build a Bridge. Build a Bridge is a nonprofit that seeks to use art to bring hope and healing to entire communities. At the Art Institute I was able to meet many neat people from all over the country and world who share similar thoughts about using art to reach the people who need it most. I attended classes where I heard many people speak about their professions and how they have used art to change people’s lives by helping them understand themselves personally in a deeper way, for example, through art, music, or dance therapy.
During the week I arranged to have breakfast with Dr. Nathan Corbitt, one of the founders of Build a Bridge. I asked him 2 questions that have been on my mind as I consider what the next step is for this fall. I was so happy when he gave me very straight forward, “yes”/ “no” answers. My first question was: “Should I get a Masters Degree?” He said “yes” and explained that nowadays getting a Bachelors Degree is not necessarily enough education to qualify for many jobs. My second question was, “Should I go ahead with plans for a Master’s Degree, perhaps in art therapy or social work?” Dr. Corbitt gave me an emphatic “no,” advising me that I should delay more education until I am sure of the direction I want to head. Until I know for sure, he suggested seeking out experiences in various jobs, using skills that I could envision myself doing in order to know what the best degree would be.
At the end of our conversation Dr. Corbit mentioned that a friend of his, who is the Director of the Center for Transforming Missions in Nairobi, Kenya, is in need of a volunteer who can do art-related work in Nairobi. Although this opportunity was presented to me suddenly and unexpectedly only two weeks ago, I have now decided to take the position and go to Nairobi for 6 months!! I am feeling increasingly secure in the decision and excited about the opportunities I will have to use the skills I have been developing over the last few years. My position will involve 30-40 hours a week and will include:
-promoting, developing and enhancing the work of local artists by hosting and planning art events to connect artists with each other
-identifying and developing a theme for this year’s art camp in the Mathare slum
-organizing regular artist meeting
-teaching weekly art classes to children in the Mathare slum.
-developing a web based communication tool for sharing what is happening with CTM in the art scene around the poor communities in Nairobi.
-identifying and marketing products that can be sold online in order to raise money for the ministries of CTM
All of these parts of my job are linked to things I have wondered if I would want to do for a longer period of time, including living overseas. By taking this position I will be offering my services and skills to other people while also gaining insight into what things I am skilled and called to do. I am conversational in Swahili and have already had experience living in Eastern Africa, so I am actually really looking forward to returning to some things that will be familiar to me. Also it is neat how I have already been learning of more people who are doing various things in Nairobi and so I have been able to dialogue with people over there before I go.
I plan to stay in Charlottesville and work until the end of July. After this I will go home to collect my things and see friends and family before leaving in September. I wanted to tell you all this because it has come up pretty quickly and yet I have a strong feeling of security and am relaxed in this decision. I am looking forward to keeping in contact during my time overseas to letting you know what is going on in more detail.
Here is a BuildaBridge Website and the Website for CTM in case you are interested: