Praying Art with Edra Soto

One of the reasons we wanted to start the day at The Momentary was to see Edra Soto’s installation. On her walks around her Chicago neighborhood, Edra noticed a plethora of empty liquor bottles scattered literally with abandon. She began to gather the bottles, clean them, and create art with them.

She was leading a class in the afternoon for families at Crystal Bridges, and I wanted to experience her art before participating.

The day before, my friend and I had gathered in one of Crystal Bridges’ studios and painted with water color pencils. We were invited to draw a self portrait to post in their gallery.

I learned in college that children discover when they are about ten years old that their art doesn’t look like what they are seeing, and unless encouraged, most stop creating art. Adults often tell me that they aren’t artistic; they aren’t creative. This is the fruit, I believe, of the story we make up in our head when we are still children.

If we are created in the image of God our creator then, to me, it seems we are born to be artists. We are born to create. For too many of us adults, creating is as risky as dancing.

At Crystal Bridges, all who gather have frequent invitations to create. There is an art room always open, and each day offers some special opportunity for guests.

We couldn’t have had a warmer welcome as we entered the studio on Sunday afternoon to create. We were greeted at the door, and then Edra herself came to us treating us as valued guests and gave us instructions for our artwork project.

The museum had repurposed bottles from the museum restaurant, and we were given crafting clay to shape and then attach to the bottle to make our own sculpture.

I watched as Edra warmly spoke to each person that entered. She encouraged and celebrated all of our participation. The room was filled with every flavor of person.

A man with Down’s syndrome shouted a guttural hello each time the door opened. A dark complexioned baby in a stroller echolaliaed each of the man’s welcoming sounds. A group of people who appeared to be of very limited financial means and perhaps intellect came in and began to create.

There was the father who stayed on his cell phone the entire time. Grandparents with grandchildren. A few parents who watched as their children sculpted. People who created one sculpture together.

All were welcome.

As we finished, Edra carefully took each of our sculptures and photographed them as if they were precious art. I suspect to her they were.

The mission of Crystal Bridges with its always free admission, plopped in the midst of small town Ozarks, is to make art available to everyone. No exceptions.

This is God’s people gathered. It was church for me on the first Sunday afternoon in Lent.

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