Over the last few years we have come to realise that we are not your average Christian arts organisation, and therefore we wouldn’t be surprised if you have some questions about who we are and what we do. Out of the questions that we often get asked, we’ve tried to answer as many as possible on this page, and we’ve split them up into three sections to help you: Artists, Churches and Patrons.
We connect, profile and fund artists.
Being an artist can be lonely. Being a Christian artist can be even more isolating. What’s more, most artistic endeavours are not solo efforts. Having others around you who understand what you’re doing is essential for providing feedback, encouragement and support.
We provide spaces where Christians who are artists can connect with like minds. Online connectivity is okay and we do a bit of that, but we prefer face to face. The main place this happens is in our Sputnik Hubs.
Work needs an audience, and we want to get artists’ work noticed. This can be through social media or through our blog, but we also produce regular publications that profile both established and emerging artists, from around the network.
We help to fund artistic projects through our Sputnik Patrons scheme.
We work with artists who are practising in any discipline, who are Christians and who are looking to make art for a universal audience (ie. not just for other Christians).
This means artists whose work isn’t ‘evangelistic’ in the way churches might expect. We think art is more than marketing, and we encourage artists to think about their practice much more broadly than simply ‘leading people to Jesus’. Obviously, we support that goal, but we work with artists who value art for its own sake and want to attain a level of excellence within their discipline, while living out Christian discipleship.
In our view – and despite appearances – ‘culture’ and ‘church’ aren’t separate worlds. Churchgoers are part of their local culture, whether they think so or not. Artists who love Jesus, value art, and respect the tradition they work in, can make that culture a less toxic, less stilted, and more spiritually open place, opening doors to the Gospel. It is our guess that at least as many people have come to know Jesus because of JS Bach, Flannery O’Connor and Makoto Fujimura as through Hillsongs United, Frank Peretti or God’s Not Dead.
We want to serve and support any artist who would call themselves a Christian. We don’t expect all the artists we work with to share our exact convictions – in fact, our network is much richer for the diversity within it.
At Sputnik Hubs, any Christians are welcome. In fact, if people from outside the Christian faith want to hang out with a bunch of Christians, exploring how faith and art interact, they’re welcome too.
We also profile and fund artists from a variety of different Christian traditions, church expressions, and different standpoints on matters of theology and ethics. However, if an artist’s body of work pushes a viewpoint that conflicts with our central convictions, it may limit the amount we can publicly promote their work.
We find that these conflicts are very rare, but we want to be open about the fact that we do have convictions of our own. Our supporter churches and our Hub leaders come from a similar stream of Christianity – broadly speaking, the Reformed tradition, which is sometimes called evangelical. Although that term carries a lot of unhelpful baggage, what we hope it means is that we love Jesus, value the Bible, and share the key theological convictions that have been consistently cherished by Christians throughout the ages.
We are not interested in drawing sharp lines or telling artists to play it safe, or toe the party line. Far from it. We simply want to be upfront from the outset about who we are, and why we might be selective in the work we profile. We hope the artists who are involved with Sputnik feel free to be just as forthright, if not more. In other words, if you can make peace with the quirks and mysteries of our own spiritual tradition, then we’re happy to line ourselves up with you.
We also value dialogue and want to learn from alternative viewpoints, so if you have any concerns about how you’d fit in, just get in touch, and let’s have a chat. We imagine that we’ll end up putting your mind at ease.
We hope that being part of Sputnik helps people love Jesus more and follow him more closely, but we don’t do any intensive discipleship work as you might think of it.
Through our meet-ups, and other services we provide, we aim to help artists integrate their faith and art by providing environments that encourage them, support them in different ways and connect them with like minds. That’s basically that.
Our suggestion would be to get stuck into a local church for more active discipleship, and to use Sputnik to practically help you in how you integrate your faith and art practice.
No, as we hope is becoming clear, artists don’t ‘have to’ do or be many things to be involved with Sputnik! We also recognise that this can be a painful issue for many artists who are Christians, and we don’t take that lightly.
However, with that said, we remain big fans of the local church, and genuinely believe in the value of community with those who are different to ourselves. Not everyone in church will ‘get us’, but trying to know (and be known by) people of different ages, careers, cultures and classes is something we need, not only as artists, but as human beings. Most in our society – no matter how self-aware – actually don’t do this, and the church, in all its awkwardness, is quite radical in this regard.
The church actually needs artists too. We’re often pulled towards deconstruction and the mysterious, the corners and questions of faith, and without that vital part of the church body, things tend to stagnate. It might feel like a thankless task sometimes, but the church needs its natural agitators.
Therefore, we’re not pushy about it but we do hope to see artists committed in a meaningful way to a local church or community of faith. We’d go as far as saying that reconciliation between these two parties is one of our main reasons for existing.
There’s no real threshold for this – we want a community that involves artists at different levels of skill and experience, so we can benefit from each other. More than that, we know that ‘success’ isn’t always the best measure of artistry.
For us, it’s more about trajectory than destination. To get the most out of Sputnik, artists don’t need to be the finished article, but need to be serious about their craft and serious about improving, and be willing to make work that goes beyond Christian audiences and church programmes.
I guess, on this one, we just need to be honest about what we can and can’t do. You’d obviously be more than welcome to come to our Hub meetings and engage in the network as much as you’d like, but we will not prioritise art that is created in this direction.
We know this type of creative output has its place. In many cases, art that is designed specifically for Christians or primarily to communicate the gospel has considerable value. However, there are loads of other organisations supporting art of this nature, and if you’d like, we can direct you towards them.
Not at all. Overtly Christian themes continue to permeate the finest artistic practice in all disciplines even from artists who don’t profess a Christian faith. Obviously, this is even more true of the finest Christian artists from Rembrandt to U2, Christina Rossetti to Makoto Fujimura, Sufjan Stevens to Flannery O’Connor. The Bible’s stories and imagery are such a rich source of creative inspiration and are obviously so precious to us as Christians that most Christian artists will surely want to create work about Christian subject matter at some point.
However, we wouldn’t encourage Christian artists to only create work about such subject matter. God made the heavens and the earth and declared it all ‘good’, and though our experience of life is damaged and corrupted by our sin, the basic elements of life all around us are still a wonderful gift from God and are very valid subjects for artistic appreciation.
Therefore, we reject the idea that a poem about the atonement is spiritual, while a painting of a flower is not. That a modernised retelling of a Bible story is spiritual, while a song about bereavement is not. That a dance piece attempting to interpret the Holy Spirit’s work in creation is spiritual and a rap that playfully delights in the eccentricities of language is not.
St Augustine once wrote ‘love God and do what you will’. Our advice to artists would be to ‘love God and make art about whatever you will.’ After all, ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Psalm 24:1)
We are presently exploring more and more ways to do this. We recognise that not many young people would articulate an interest in the arts, but would be very passionate about individual art forms, and we’d love to encourage them wherever we can.
At the moment, we’d simply want to extend a warm invitation to our hub meetings to any young people who’d like to get involved. However, if that seems like a big of a jump, keep watching this space, as we have some really exciting plans brewing that will specifically cater for secondary school aged young people with creative aspirations.
The best way to get involved is to come along to one of our Hubs. We have Hubs meeting up at least once a term in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Falmouth, with potential new hubs brewing in London and along the south coast, starting in early 2020. For details of these meetups, see our Upcoming Events, keep an eye out for our social media updates, or sign up to our mailing list.
In this case, please get in touch and we can see what might work. One possibility is that you could start a Hub in your area. Get in touch and let’s scheme together.
The artists on our Discover pages all have three things in common. They are artists who firstly, set a good example to others regarding their practice, secondly, have a decent online presence and thirdly, are our friends, who are connected to the network.
The relationship is really important, and so we don’t accept applications to be on this page, but we invite artists that we know through our Hubs (or who connect in other ways) to take part. If you’d like us to provide a gateway into your work through the Discover page, our main encouragement would be to get involved in a Hub and see what happens.
It’s as simple as filling in a form, but we allocate grants termly, so it’s best to apply when we’re looking for new projects. We’ll announce this on our mailing list and at our Hub events, and send out a link to the application form at the time. To make sure you’re in the loop, get involved in a Hub or get on the mailing list. If there’s nothing going on near you, drop us a message, as above.
Surprise us. We’re open to any medium and any idea. Typically, though, we provide grants for two different types of projects:
- Firstly, we fund self-generated projects that are already some way towards completion. We usually help with that ‘last leg’; getting books printed, getting artwork done, paying contributors, paying for PR.
- Secondly, we fund Christians who are using their artistic skill to serve their communities in different ways. For example, we have funded Christians who have run a local new writing festival, provided mentorship for young bands in their area, or set up an art therapy project. As Christians we are called to love our neighbour, and serving our artistic communities or using our artistic skills to meet the needs in our communities at large are things we want to support as much as we can.
So there’s a guide, but, honestly, there are no hard and fast rules: you tell us where the funding will be most helpful, and we’ll see if we can help.
(There is more about the criteria for funding on our application form).
However, while our roots are in Catalyst, we are increasingly serving artists and churches from other Christian traditions and denominations as well.
We are very welcoming of Christians from all backgrounds, but all of our trustees, Hub leaders and supporter churches are broadly speaking, from the reformed, evangelical tradition and this educates our core values.
Sputnik exists to provide community, encouragement and funding for artists who are Christians. We also exist to improve the relationship between churches and artists, wherever there may be damage.
Sputnik means ‘fellow traveller’. All of us involved with Sputnik will be at different stages in our craft, different phases of our life and our faith, potentially working in very different industries with markedly different approaches. Nonetheless, there’s a sense that we are heading in the same direction. Our approach is to get alongside other artists, to encourage them forward, and to help them to do the same for each other.
1. Regional Hub meet-ups
We help to organise regional ‘Hubs’ – ie., meetups for artists living in roughly the same area. Hub meetings have typically involved a guest speaker talking about their work, along with discussion, good food, prayer, and space for people to share what they’re working on. As Hubs take on a life of their own, though, we imagine that some might do events differently.
2. Patronage of artistic projects
We also run a patronage scheme. Our Patrons donate a monthly amount, creating a pool of funding that artists can apply to for help with a specific project. We can’t offer huge grants as yet, but the more Patrons get involved, the more we can really make a difference to artists who want to take risks and get something new off the ground. See our manifesto for more on this.
We support artists who are committed followers of Christ, who want to pursue excellence in their work, and who want to create things for a universal audience. It might help to clarify a few things:
a) We really mean universal audience.
The artists we work with love art for art’s sake. They know their field and, whether their audience is big or small, it’s not exclusively a church one. It’s doubtful their work will come across as ‘Christian art’, or evangelistic tools, in the way many are used to.
b) Pursuing excellence is more important than whether it pays.
Some of our artists are full-time professionals, but often even ‘successful’ artists have other roles to help pay the bills. Some have decades under their belt, and others are starting out. We’re not elitist about skill level, but we care whether or not artists are really serious about their work.
c) In faith terms, we operate on trust.
Cross-denominational community is a big part of our ethos. We work with Christ-following artists from any background, denomination or theology, since we all have plenty to learn from each other regardless of whether we dot the same ‘i’s and cross the same ‘t’s. We want folks to be able to ‘disagree well’.
At Hubs, we value the ‘safe space’ where artists can talk about their faith and their work without being doubted or misunderstood. Anyone is welcome, but we are conscious of maintaining a balance in the room where most people ‘get’ one another – eg. are self-defining Christians and active artists.
When it comes to the patronage scheme, the same applies – we would expect applicants to be following Christ in a meaningful, not nominal, way. We would also expect them to be making work that has universal appeal, not just to the Christian bubble.
In rare cases, we might turn down a project for funding based on a strong disagreement with the content. We’re not afraid of work that’s challenging, ambiguous, mysterious, doubting, or provocative, but we will defer to our board of trustees if they feel a work is overtly harmful, problematic or out of line with our core values. In this case, the artist would be welcome to apply with other project ideas instead.
1. Host a Hub!
We are always looking to start new Hubs, and we do this in partnership with at least one church in an area. What this looks like can differ, but mostly, it’s allowing a local Hub to organise and meet in/around your church. It means taking ownership of the Hub and considering Sputnik as part of your ongoing church life.
2. Get Your Artists Involved
There will probably be some artists at your church. Painters; poets; actors who get uncomfortable when asked to lead a church drama. Tell them about Sputnik and encourage them to apply to our Patronage scheme. If their work does get funded, tell your church about it, champion the artist, celebrate what they’re doing.
3. Sponsor Us!
We rely on church support for the general day to day running of Sputnik and we are supported by a number of churches already, from different church networks. You might not think it, but we run on a shoestring budget and lots of support from our home church – so if you value the work, please consider contributing to it. Get in touch with us to find out more details.
As for specifics, we work these out on a case by case basis, and are happy to adapt what we do according to the needs of different areas and churches, so if you’re interested in starting a hub in your area or supporting Sputnik in any way, please get in touch.
You can sign up as a Patron, either as a church or an individual. To do this, you’ll contribute a monthly amount (for individuals, £5 – £30; for churches, from £50 recommended) into our Patrons fund. Artists from the Sputnik network (or outside it) apply to that central fund with a specific project/need. Our board of trustees determines what work we sponsor, mainly based on where we can provide the most assistance.
All the money that you contribute goes towards artistic projects. As thanks, you receive our ‘Anthology’ magazine, profiling Sputnik artists, twice a year, as well as other one-off pieces of artwork (depending on the ‘tier’ of funding you are part of) – all to keep you connected to the work that you’re helping to fund.
If it’s practical, we’ll send you work that the Patrons scheme has supported directly – a book of poetry, a compilation of music, free entry to an event, and so on. From time to time you may receive other work by Sputnik artists that we simply wanted to champion.