the Arts Project

The Arts Project on the pier with a view of Manhattan.

5 | in new york city


5 | an art Exhibit

Art exhibit cards distributed to invite New Yorkers to the show.

God is the God of the 5 senses”—in other words, God communicates His truth in a variety of ways to appeal to people through their human senses. For the exhibit this year, we were inspired by the book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism. In his book, George Hunter explained that the Celtic Christian missionaries utilized all 5 senses to express the truth of the gospel. What better way to get art students involved in sharing the gospel than through the idea of appealing to all 5 senses!

—in other words, God communicates His truth in a variety of ways to appeal to people through their human senses. For the exhibit this year, we were inspired by the book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism. In his book, George Hunter explained that the Celtic Christian missionaries utilized all 5 senses to express the truth of the gospel. What better way to get art students involved in sharing the gospel than through the idea of appealing to all 5 senses!

When Sarah and I saw the finished artwork by the 19 college students—each student collaborated on multiple pieces for a total of 11 works—we knew it was a strong show. We knew the art would create a space for people to get into deeper conversations about life and their worldviews.

Anthony Hou discusses his artwork

Anthony disscusses his piece, entitled Never the End. The main idea of this work is that even amongst the splendors and riches that the earth has to offer, we all long for something greater.

During both days of the exhibit, one of the student artists, Anthony Hou, hovered around the piece he helped create. Every time someone would approach he would extend his hand in greeting (mind you, Anthony is an extreme introvert) and talk to them about the work—a bright orange wire sculpture of a humanoid figure in the act of standing up. The piece is an attempt to communicate that there is something more to this world than what we simply see, smell, taste, hear, and feel. The orange wire man’s act of getting up shows a desire to go after that unseen thing— something all human beings experience at one point or another.

Of course, we know where the unseen thing leads—the humble Carpenter from Nazareth. This is what we love about the arts, it creates a space for people to think and talk about the deeper things of life.

Thanks for helping us create this space—space for God to work, space for the transforming knowledge of Jesus to be offered!

Words from the students…

“I had great conversations with other Christian artists who are wrestling with similar questions, and theology content helped expand my vocabulary for communicating the gospel.”
— Daniel Du
student from University of Texas at Austin
“I felt that coming away from the project I have a better idea about how to integrate my art and my faith and how I can be effective in spreading the gospel through my art. These three weeks—though short—got the wheels turning in my head about how to bring these new concepts back to my campus and integrate them into my life.”
— Chailey Young
student from University of Nebraska—Lincoln


“I feel like most of what I learned is going to be important for being back on campus and in my arts community there—which is awesome, because that was something I was definitely struggling with last year. Now I have more direction and more of a grasp on how to be a light in such a secular environment. God will continue teaching the rest; this was a good first step for sure!”

— Meg Becker
student from Appalachian State University

“During our theology and Bible study time, the Holy Spirit revealed more about God to me and the topics we discussed enabled me to think about God in ways I had not before. Collaborating with others and being involved in a few parts of the art show really helped me see how art and faith can be integrated, and how others have done that even outside of this trip.” 
student from University of California, Berkeley


Daniel is painting a collaborative piece, Imminence—a diptych in oils that focuses on the sense of touch and the feeling of being comforted and nurtured. It explores the relation between physical birth and spiritual birth.

Finished work below.

Chailey is working on a collaborative piece, Insides—an anatomically correct heart constructed of wire, fabric, leather & yarn. This piece represents the internal processing of our emotions. By placing your hands on either side, you can feel the heart beat. You can also hear a heartbeat & bits of conversation by placing your ear against it.

Finished work below—in action!

Meg is collaborating on an Triptych assemblage piece called, Fragments. It is made up of portraits representing three individuals from Long Island City, and their answers to the questions: “What would God smell like?” and “Which taste do you associate with the spiritual or with God?

Finished triptych below—being explained by Anaelle Enders, one of the staff kids who was with us on project.

Em danced in a video called, Surrender—a story of 5 individuals struggling to make sense of their world. After realizing their inability to find enlightenment on their own, they recognize that peace is only found through surrendering to Jesus, with the help of the community around them.

Below, video is being viewed during the exhibit.

Kirk teaching theology and the arts.


View of the 5 exhibit from above.

Students in front of their installation piece.


View of triptych entitled Deceiving Senses.

God is faithful


e arrived in New York City without a place to live for the last two weeks of summer project. About a week after our arrival—in the midst of a rather frantic search—God provided through an unexpected source; our friends, Clint and Bright Owens. They graciously invited us to stay with them at no charge—reducing our overall costs for the summer. Thanks Clint and Bright!

In addition to the difficulties in securing housing, we still have not secured the full amount to pay our summer expenses. What this means for the immediate is that we won’t be able to reimburse some of our summer expenses until the rest of that amount­—approximately $3,000—is raised. But God is faithful—as he demonstrated with our housing—so we continue to pray for His provision. Thank you to all who contributed toward our summer expenses! Please continue to pray that the final amount would come in before the end of the year.



A Day in the Life mural

A Day in the Life—mural for Hands & Hearts School in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

hands & hearts


Four freshly painted silhouettes of children dance and play across the side of the old, converted synagogue that is home to the Hands and Hearts school in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

“Most murals in the area memorialize those who have passed away,” said Anthony Hou, 19, a student who participated in the project. “This is a new way to celebrate the living—not only the children of Hands and Hearts, but the whole neighborhood.”

A team of college students from across the country traveled to New York City this summer to learn about faith and art and to get involved in the community. As part of their Summer Project the students partnered with Hands and Hearts to paint a mural on their building in order to raise awareness of the school and give something to the community.

“I have never collaborated with other Christian artists before, so this has been really special,” said Christine Longoria, 21.

“It was a blessing for us to be able to create this piece of art together with Hands and Hearts,” echoed Cherylin Pauly, 20. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity.”

Sarah Kennedy Irwin, one of the Summer Project Directors, collaborated with fellow staff on the project—Norah Springer and Mark Pate—to come up with the theme of “growth” for the mural. The teachers at Hands and Hearts and the building owner were completely on board. The students handed out fliers in the neighborhood, inviting anyone interested to come participate. The project offered activities for children of all ages including a little kids canvas with the theme “How I Want to Grow,” face-painting, and more.

Over the course of three days, the mural was painted and installed. The result is four panels representing a time of day—morning, afternoon, evening, and night—with the predominant features, a tree and the silhouette of a child, appearing larger on each panel. The silhouettes are based on photographs of Hands and Hearts students.

“We wanted to get the kids involved both visually and physically in creating the mural,” Sarah said.  “So Norah and Mark came to the school one day and took pictures of them jumping, skipping, and running. At the unveiling the kids were saying, ‘Look, there you are! There I am!’—all excited to see themselves and their friends on the mural. It was really special for all of us.”

According to Sarah and the students, the unveiling ceremony was a highlight of the project. Teachers, children, parents, college students, interns, and other members of the community gathered outside the school. After a collective countdown, the covering dropped to reveal the finished product of their work together.

“The children loved counting down and seeing the covering drop,” Sarah recounted with a smile. “Everyone cheered and clapped.”

Each college student brought his or her own story to the project as well. Specializing in art forms such as sculpting, painting, ceramics and filmmaking, they traveled here to learn more about what it means to meld their faith and creativity together for the greater good.

Painting a mural for a Bible camp a few years ago is what inspired Chailey Young, 21, to be an art major in the first place. However, her favorite part of the Brownsville project was painting faces. “I got to connect with so many people,” she said of the children who allowed her to create art on their cheeks. “Hands and Hearts is showing such love to the community, and this whole project was an extension of what they’re doing every day.”

“To see the children participating in this big community project was wonderful,” said Here’s Life intern Norah Springer, 22, who witnessed their growth first-hand as an art teacher at Hands and Hearts for the past six months.

She talked about how some of the children were reluctant to do any art projects at first. One student would even cry every day because she didn’t want to participate. Norah shared how she understood a little bit of the student’s fear and hesitation because of her own struggles in school. “One day a teacher told me that I was smart. That changed things for me,” she said.

Gradually the student in Norah’s class started practicing the art projects until she grew to enjoy them and wanted to join in with everyone else. She also helped paint the mural.

The kids at this school are being challenged, and they’re growing because of it,” Norah said. “We wanted the mural to reflect what’s happening inside the walls.”

“I hope the mural reinforces what the children are learning about how special they are and to dream big,” Christine said. “There are so many failing school systems, but Hands and Hearts is different. The students are being loved, encouraged, and taught that they have value. I hope the kids see that they are worth it.”

The college students ventured back to their campuses around the country, and Hands and Hearts let out for the summer. But the four silhouettes remain on the side of the old brick building. For some children it was their first big art project. For some students it was their first time working with Christian artists. For anyone who happens to pass by, it is an inspiration to grow, to foster life inside the living.

As for the dozens of hands and hearts that created a piece of art together, Anthony said, “I think we’re all hoping for the same thing.”


Sarah and Kirk




Mural Documentary


click here to see the mural created during the project & a short video showing the process






 Summer Project Photos

click on one of the images below to view photos from the Tribeca Arts Summer Project 2012

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