In July 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina, we held the Engage Art Carolinas Kickoff Event at a well-known cultural destination, Spirit Square. The free, indoor/outdoor, family-friendly, 4-hour event featured diverse performers, art types and styles, workshops, demonstrations, artist vendors and interactive activities. They were all designed to inspire and help prepare people to enter the contest. Plus, there were food trucks with award winning cuisine and Italian ice to help keep the summer heat in check. According to the venue, more than 700 people joined us from around the Carolinas and around the country — and we had a blast!

Something from Nothing

Anyone who has ever tried to make something “from scratch” knows how challenging it can be. Even starting with raw ingredients and following a recipe or a garment pattern can be a challenge, but when you make something completely new — a song, a movie, an image — you are pushing boundaries and living on the edge, at least a little bit. For the Engage Art team, that’s been the rule as we’ve worked to bring this contest to life for the past couple of years. For us, the biggest challenge is getting the word out.

Right now, we’re in the middle of the Engage Art Carolinas Contest, a Beta that runs through the end of September 2018 in North and South Carolina in the USA. We’ve spent more than a year constructing and testing materials to build on for the International Contest, scheduled to begin in 2019.

For the International contest, we want to give organizations, ministries and individuals the tools they need to bring this competition to their communities. One of those tools will be a digital “Kickoff Kit.” To create that kit, we needed to put on an Engage Art Kickoff Event first.

Ergo, Engage Art Kickoff, Carolinas!

Engage Art Kickoff | Carolinas

A Time to Dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Nine different acts, all from the Carolinas, graced those stages over the course of four hours, one act performing while the ext set up on the other stage. The performers came from all over the Carolinas: both an international and a classical choir, young jazz musicians, a spoken word poet, a Latin dance team that had the whole audience out of their seats and learning to dance along, an indie rock and electronica group with great vocals, a dancer performing the premiere of a modern dance piece about filling brokenness with gold to mend and celebrate our scars. The most well-known performers were Emmy-nominated Christian rap artists Ambassador and The Tonic from the Cross Movement, and Emmy-winning songwriter and performer KJ Scrivens. In the middle of the performing schedule, Engage Art Director John Wells (The Tonic), gave a quick explanation of the Engage Art Contest.

High-quality outdoor music and food trucks drew in passersby and made for a very entertaining afternoon. The styles were so varied that, if you didn’t like one of the acts, you knew you wouldn’t have to wait too long for a change. Or you could go inside for a while where other adventures awaited.

Lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel (Proverbs 20:15)

There were three free workshops running simultaneously throughout the event. Whoever wanted to could participate in them: (for visual art) a hands-on experience with a collage and acrylic technique, (for music) songwriting, recording and editing with Logic Pro X, (for filmmaking) improv, and storytelling. A workshop on the Spiritual Battle from a Biblical perspective was presented by Dr. David Ingrassia four times during the event. All of these workshops helped potential contestants to up their game in how they think about art, how to create it, and how to make their own art better. The Spiritual Battle workshop, however, really gives contestants an edge, since the theme for contest is art informed by Ephesians 6:10-20, the Spiritual Battle, good vs. evil.

In addition, two artists painted live during the event — one painted in response to KJ Scriven’s set, and another created an acrylic pour painting near the beginning of the event, so it would have a chance to dry by the end.

Demonstration of the Spirit’s Power (I Corinthians 2:4)

One of the more challenging aspects of the contest is to encourage participants to think deeper. Half of the jurying score will be on how well the entry relates the power of the theme from a Christian point of view. [Note: You do not have to be a Christian to enter!] To effectively transmit that theme through art, people need to understand metaphors and symbols and stories.

In the indoor common areas, we tested a series of interactive activities aimed at encouraging people to move forward on their art-thinking journey. A visual art gallery hosted regional art that visitors were encouraged to “curate” — do these artworks portray the theme of the contest? Why or why not? For another activity, visual artworks of professional Christian artists were depicted on the front of a set of cards, with an appropriate Bible verse and artist’s description of the work on the back. There were two sets of the cards so one set could be face up and the other face down. The challenge was to match the backs with the fronts. It was easy to turn one over to see if you were right.

Where two or three are gathered (Matthew 18:20)

Spirit Square estimated that more than 700 people attended our Kickoff Event. More than 100 of them created a visual artwork, and about the same number took a Bible home with them (donated by the American Bible Society). People engaged deeply with art in its various forms, dancing and bopping to the music, learning new skills and refining others. They sought to understand the Spiritual Battle and how it manifests in their lives. They were preparing to make something new. To create. To Engage Art.

You may have missed out on the Engage Art Kickoff Event, but you don’t have to miss out on submitting to the contest. You have until September 30th, 2018 to submit to the Carolinas Contest, and the international contest will launch in 2019. Submit your piece here and be entered to win cash prizes.

If you want to be kept in the loop about this contest, how to engage your community through it, or to see the submitted artwork, please subscribe to our newsletter here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We won’t bombard you with too much information, but we’d love to have you join us in this adventure!

Ep. 5 (Finale): Engage Art Carolinas Live

Lastly, check out the final episode to the Engage Art Contest (Carolinas) Show that was shot during the Kickoff Event.