Participants in the new course The Bahá’í Faith and the Arts, taught by Anne Perry, Marjan Nirou, and Sandra Hutchinson, were enlightened and inspired. The course forums were filled with posts sharing music, poetry, sculpture, painting, and photography. In addition, artwork by notable Bahá’í artists such as Mark Toby was shared; the history of work by Kandinsky, who was working in 1912, was discussed; and the hearts of artists working today were opened and consoled.
In their self-assessments at the end of the course, learners shared plans for using in their communities what they have learned and experienced. Their responses were filled with energy and confirmation.
Helen Dechtiar, Burlington, Vermont: Painter, Teacher, and Pioneer to Brazil and Mexico
Just before I started this course, I was establishing a personal plan for myself that really included artwork in my life. Previously, art was done ONLY when time was left over after completing a list of “necessary” activities whether related to family, wage earning, or Bahá’í-community responsibilities. Of course, that meant that there was almost NEVER a moment for art in my life. I discovered the course at the exact right moment in my life. Also, I had never shown my art to the public, even though I have been gradually building up a portfolio for show. The “return” to art started in 2001 when I began to write poetry. I did a lot of journaling, and later I did the Artist’s Way together with my daughter (also an artist). I studied poetry and began doing watercolors off and on. But I have recently seen that I need to make it a more serious, regular part of my life. And the time has come to share it. How great! I’ll have my first show in November.
Beth Carrier, Des Plaines, Illinois: Art Lover
Although I have often been involved with assisting my Bahá’í community to incorporate the arts in events like reflection gatherings, feast, unit convention, and so on, I believe that the study efforts and conversations stemming from this course have allowed me to open my vision and make it more outward oriented. I will be looking for additional ways to share my artistic endeavors with the wider community and at the same time strive to incorporate means for elevating the thoughts/actions of my audience to such a degree that unity of thought and collective action(s) are stimulated.
Kathleen Farabi, Trinidad and Tobago: Painter
I have experienced a great amount of excitement when reading the passages and the posts of others, though at times I have felt overwhelmed and on the edge of the discussion. Nevertheless, I have truly been inspired by this course and am eager to continue painting with a true sense of purpose. I am also keen to try to organize a performance of some sort with the youth or junior youth. We used to perform dances here to teach the Faith; why can’t we do it again? I have advertised the course to others who wish to take it. I wish it would repeat again sooner. I have really enjoyed myself.
Edward Phillips, Phelps, New York: Executive Director of the Phelps Arts Center
I walked away from this course with the desire to do more with the arts for my community. I do plan to work with the neighborhood children’s classes and also to start an arts fireside that will travel into the wide parts of the cluster. I immediately went to the Cluster reflection meeting and consulted with the Area Teaching Committee and the other agencies present to set up a time to implement the learning from this course. Two things developed, and the timing was perfect because we just started the planning stage of our Intensive Program of Growth. Was that part of the course design?
Archie Abaire, Beaverdam, Virginia: Poet and Writer
The most valuable of the readings was the compilation “The Importance of the Arts.” After seeing it in this course, I discovered that it is also in Ocean [a computer search engine]. I will refer to it many times. One of the things I plan to work on is finding compelling ways of helping Bahá’ís to place a higher priority on using the arts to help develop more of a sense of community. In my cluster we have made some progress on that, but not anywhere near enough.
Diane Mathias, Palm Desert, California: Musician and Healer
My experienced belief that “even though the writings state the importance of the arts, Bahá’ís do not honor this” has greatly changed as a result of this class. I have come to see that honoring the arts (and the artists) is often similar to the society we live in. Among artists, there is a recognition and value. Among those who do not embrace the creative side of life, (Bahá’ís included) the arts are often viewed as not important at all. Understanding this reality has caused a shift in me. “Be the change” (Gandhi) is the call; I am asked to take the arts to the Baha’i community and lovingly teach and encourage. I have heard the call! I am delighted. I can use the writings (pertaining to the Arts) to share with others. In the past, this was difficult in my community. Now I have a firm grasp and with a confidence in the God’s plan, I am ready. I have been teaching the arts for healing/empowerment professionally for over 15 years and now in a nonprofit organization which I founded. I will continue to do these.
Kelly Mogharrabi, Beaumont, California: Arts Coaching
Act freely to pursue and develop my arts as inspiration moves me. Apply elevated standards in my art as would befit the greatness of our Bahá’í revelation. Adopt an overall intention to have my art be of benefit to mankind. Use my art to attract attention to the Bahá’í teachings. Accept my station as an artist. Integrate the artistic element within myself, my community, and anywhere I go. Keep in mind the powerful differences between spiritual vs. materialistic art expression and learn how to stay on the better side. Support other Bahá’í artists. When I read in “The Dilemma of the Artist” that Bahá’í artists are sometimes “slighted, cut out of programs, unacknowledged, disrespected, misunderstood, or damaged by the way they are treated by immature community members and institutions,” I was saddened and vowed never to be one of those oppressing people. Learn to be one of those Bahá’í artists who produce in art the divine spirit that animates their soul.
Here is the link to the compilation “The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Bahá’í Faith”
The Bahá’í Faith and the Arts will be repeated, 03/01/13.