The tiny ants moving in all directions are tourists, like me, with cell phones angled up to catch the trippy reflections. This is what it looks like on the underbelly of the Cloud Gate, the giant silver “bean” in Chicago.
I set out with my usual prayer, that the Lord would show me something, teach me something. The Millennial Park seemed like the right destination. As I entered it, I passed the wonderful Crown fountain, where 50-foot tall LED panels reveal changing faces. Children, playing in the inch-deep pool delight when the faces spout water – the ones that are ready for it!
Then, at the Cloud Gate, as I join in the reflective fun, I begin to think about art that invites people to interact with it. It’s what I am most attracted to in my own work: blurring the lines between artist and audience. Using art to bring everyone into an aesthetic experience.
As I am leaving, I see a young woman sketching. I hesitate to approach, even walking away for some time. But I feel that inner nudge to connect.
So I approach and start asking her about her art. Then about who she is. Before long, I’m sitting on the steps next to her and we’ve found an amazing common ground.
In response to my questions, Rachel tells me that she’s a Christian artist who has been using art overseas to open up spiritual conversations with people who haven’t heard the gospel. Incredibly, we have mutual friends. She even had a poster of my first children's book on her bedroom door for years. And as she talks about why art in public space matters to her, she underlines what God has been saying to me this afternoon.
“People enter a gallery space dispassionately,” Rachel says. “There’s a kind of white-wall aesthetic -- a distance between the art and the viewer. But people interact with art in a public space more. They talk more. They physically get involved. They get engaged.”
And this invitation to engage is being used to open up conversations all over the world.
It’s hard for me to tell her how happy I am to hear it. I’ve been on a journey toward this all my life. At times the destination seems too remote to reach, but my zig-zag path still keeps drawing me forward. I tell Rachel how much I wish I could be involved with something like that.
She replies, “You just might.”
I can’t wait. I want to be in that picture.
Father, I thank you for this encounter. For Rachel. And for the work that you’re doing all over the world, using art and artists to stimulate interest in your kingdom. Let your invitation of grace come through their work.