Sputnik Faith and Arts Don’t patronise artists by not patronising artists

Don’t patronise artists by not patronising artists

One of my first questions to artists when we started Sputnik was “how can the church support you more effectively?” The answer was always immediate, instinctive and apologetic, and it was always the same.

Money.

At first, I thought that they were being facetious. I mean, you can’t go around asking for money. From churches at that. How brazen! However soon, it started to sink in.

After all, it’s not that different to what James writes in his letter:

Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

The churches that I connect with have an increasing openness to supporting the arts and artists, but it is often of the ‘God bless you. We appreciate you’ variety, but often stalls at the payment end of things! You could say that this is better than nothing, but in reality, to do the first without the second is demotivating, annoying and quickly appears very insincere. 

I got a small flavour of this a few years ago when I was in talks with a church about putting on an event for artists. Leaders from this church had been very encouraging to me personally and verbally supportive of Sputnik (we love your heart/what you’re doing is valuable and important/keep going) and as far as I saw it, they’d agreed for me to put on an event for the artists in their church and others from surrounding churches too.

I was happy to do all the legwork, do the presentation, etc., and I wasn’t expecting payment. However, I also wasn’t expecting to be told that I’d have to pay for room hire and for the attendees’ lunches too! Not getting paid is one thing, but paying £800 to provide a service is another thing entirely. I politely declined the ‘opportunity’.

It seems that when it comes to church and art, there is certainly a disconnect regarding money. Although this is only one of many reasons churches and artists often miss each other, it is an important one.

Therefore, we don’t want to just talk about art. We don’t even just want to build community for artists or profile their work. We want to fund them. In fact, we don’t even want to stop there. Why keep all the fun to ourselves? We want to sweep Christians (individuals and churches) back up in the joy of arts patronage.

We want to be able to say: this is from the church. The church that has made mistakes in this area. The church that may have taken you for granted before. But the church who is really trying to learn in this area.

For this reason, we started our patrons scheme in 2017, and since then we’ve slowly built up a group of lovely patrons, both individuals and churches, who provide the funds that we can distribute to artists in the form of grants for specific projects. When COVID hit, we rerouted these funds towards our Emergency Artist Fund, but now, we’re swinging our attention back to the patronage scheme. In light of this, we wanted to shine the spotlight back on to arts patronage and put forward the ‘whys’, ‘hows’ and ‘whats’ of supporting artists.

Yes, we are going to be asking you to give money to something. But, it’s not to us. We want to be a funnel to get money to as many Christ following artists as we can. And, with every penny, we want to be able to say: this is from the church. The church that has made mistakes in this area. The church that may have taken you for granted before. But the church who is really trying to learn in this area.

I’m not looking for the evangelical church to wind the clock back to the Middle Ages. If my memory serves me correctly, the church’s benevolence towards the arts in those days had its drawbacks! However, I am hopeful that we can do better than we have done in recent times.

Take, for example, the church I mentioned above. I was pretty fed up from the interactions described above, but with a bit of hindsight, I kind of get it. I probably didn’t communicate all that clearly and made assumptions along the way. More to the point though, that same church have more than made up for that slight misunderstanding in subsequent years and have given us genuine, concrete – and yes, financial – support since, for which I am very grateful.

If we can see past the blunders of the past, I think that this is a real moment for the church to grab hold again of its important role in patronising the arts, and if you’re even a little bit interested in getting involved, stick with us for the next few blog posts and we’ll spell out how that might look.

In the meantime, please feel free to peruse our back catalogue on this subject and hopefully we’ll see you next time. 

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