Last week we caught up with Keir Shreeves on the back of his booklet ‘Art for Mission’s Sake’. However, Keir is only half of team Shreeves. Jessamy Shreeves is an artist and the founder of Christian arts festival ‘Thou Art’, and today, it’s over to her.
Hi Jessamy, who are you and what do you do?
I’m someone who is having a messy but fun go at following Jesus. At this stage of my life, I’m also doing a lot of following toddlers (I have a busy three-year-old who I’m always chasing, mostly with my 4-month-old baby dangling in one arm). I studied History of Art and English Lit at Edinburgh University but always got a bit of cash in from painting (mostly portraits). Via art school, a digital start up and trying my hand as a headhunter, I then found my way towards fundraising, which I now do for a number of charities as a consultant. I still paint though – a few commissions, but mostly for pleasure- or because I get itchy fingers if I don’t!
How do you and Keir work together in your artistic pursuits?
Our mutual interest in creativity and faith is one of the things that drew us together. We first went on a date after getting to know each other when I was organising an exhibition in the church where Keir was working. He came over and said “I’d love to take you out for lunch” and I turned to the whole hanging team and said: “Everyone, Keir is very kindly taking us out for lunch!”
Broadly speaking Keir’s the thinker and I’m the doer. Keir’s got a perfectionist streak whereas I just tend to go for things and hope that optimism and a few late nights mean I’ll pull them off!
When we first met we realised we both have bi-polar bookshelves. Stuff like The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher, Buckminster Fuller books & Scottish Colourist catalogues on one side and the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Phillip Yancey on the other. Until recently there hasn’t been much to plug the gap- but now the tide is turning and it feels like the arts are coming back into playing their part in announcing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tell us about ‘Thou Art’. What is it? How did it come about? How is it different from other exhibitions/festivals?
Thou Art is part exhibition, part gig, part festival- a general celebration of creativity and its source.
Beauty has always helped me connect with God. When I was at university I found other people who felt the same, so we ended up doing a few exhibitions of the art we’d made and inviting our friends who weren’t into God stuff to see.
Thou Art was a natural extension of this- putting our art into God’s epic art work (a stunning, wild garden) so you might find a Nick Fiddian-Green huge bronze head of Christ amidst the bluebells, bump into an insightful portrait peeping round a tree, spot a bike-powered cinema in a bush or hear some fresh new music as you enjoy a local cider.
“The tide is turning – the arts are coming back into playing their part in announcing the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
There seem to be loads of festival type things for Christians and obviously lots which are in no way Christian, but there doesn’t seem to be a space to just ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’- to hang out with people who are trying to love like Jesus did, to experience art work that points to God, to be in a place that is beautiful but comfortable, normal but prayed in, and open oneself up a bit.
How do you hope that the world will be a little different through ‘Thou Art’?
I guess just a little more colourful, creative and open. At the last Thou Art, an atheist friend of mine was moved to tears looking at a sculpture down by the lake. I don’t know what was going on for him but I hope it was a helpful release of emotions and engagement with his feelings at the very least.
For those who aren’t into God stuff, I hope it’s a chance to encounter something of God’s love, beauty & truth- whether that’s through the people, the artwork, the music or the garden itself. And for those who already know and love Jesus, I hope that the arts help them find new depths, get beyond the rational and into a new place of freedom, acceptance and joy.
How can artists get involved with ‘Thou Art’?
Have a look at www.thou-art.org and if you are interested please do make contact, telling me what you and your work are about and pinging a few images and the curating team and I would love to have you involved I’m sure!