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Transforming Community through Art & Spirituality


Transforming Community through Art & Spirituality

Gerard Ferron

Have you ever wondered what it means to be in ‘Community’? The word community gets bandied around a lot. Sociologists swoon over it, but when I use it I’m quite sure it merely receives a warm and fuzzy response from most people. However, I believe it is a most powerful reviving influence for our time. It has been a big part of my journey and the journey in our neighbourhood of Clyde North

I recently told a story of a time long ago, of my life growing up in India in a community with Anglo-European values. How we would resign our varied interests to the suggestion of going on a picnic. There were no small standards to keep; it had to be the best of everything and done with style. Firstly, we had to have a bus, that way we could converse and sing on our way to the picnic grounds. Then there was the importance of food. Some may have brought sandwiches; my mum, bless her heart delighted in making three layered club sandwiches, such a treat. But our Anglo-Indian community demanded the real thing - Spicy Curry! A happy remedy to treat any ailment life could pitch at us. It had to be eaten warm under a clear sky of 24 degrees Celsius, usually on a blanket in a garden surround. Home cooked food was the etiquette, each meal created from age-old recipes passed down from generations of tasty epicurean achievement.  Even the thought of the delightful sensations makes my mouth water. Then there had to be the chairs, and drinks and not to mention sweets. Walks, conversations, joking and even a game of mixed field cricket made for the order of events, and everyone involved took turns to bat a tennis ball.  All of which was a tonne of fun!

Wouldn’t you agree there was a catharsis of some kind present though maybe you couldn’t put your finger on it? It was real, genuine and good for the spirit and soul. It was real because the gathering invoked free expression, away from the binding mundane activity of work life.  There was a joy in feeling welcome, to participate and be released to be ‘you’ with a group of friends and neighbours who shared your values. I don’t apologise for my idealism, of what life could be like because I believe some values are worth holding onto, especially for the wellbeing they foster in humanity.  I think Community is about being liberated from oppressive tension and social isolation, the bondage of self-doubt of fear and insignificance, and ignorance of our real worth as people created for one another.

History has shown me, how my deep-seated values of accepting isolation, disempowerment and fearfulness can lead to despair. Somehow, though we are technologically advanced, answers for the human longing for acceptance are not always present. The spiritual conversations we need to have that exist within our deepest desires are not being released, tested and raised to the level of awareness and importance they deserve to be.

Hence my vision has been a life long journey of rediscovering ‘who I am’ and what it means to have a meaningful life in Community. Something in my spirit eagerly wants this kind of influence to be released. I found expression cannot be imposed by authority structures but released with spontaneity.  That we need to have spiritual conversations, the type given to participating in a diverse and inclusive group that releases individuals to experience safety, dignity, affirmation and inner freedom to live out their dreams. I rationalised that Art would achieve a public expression of this nature. That expressing Art could carry meaning and purpose for people and release a natural latent spiritual conversation well within everyone’s access.

Art & Spirituality is an idea inspired by friends and colleagues when I was completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Art, specialising in Community Development. I had not for over thirty years expressed myself through Art. Instead, I had been lost and sunken deep into the bowels of science and technology only to feel an innate numbness that comes from its servitude. I have lived from a false identity that left me somewhat insecure.  This was a symptom of what it is like to live under oppression from a busy life, bondage to work with its far reaching expectations for greater efficiency and effectiveness, and dependant on an institutionalised society void of spiritual conversations.  It can all leave one feeling fearful and insignificant.  That’s not the case now; my faith has strengthened my identity, boldness and significance. My journey has led me to a greater emotional freedom that I can release freely to others who, like me, hope to build a better world in their local community. I’m no Van Gogh but benefit through personal hobbies of Art and Music. I lead a community group who among other activities, apply the use of Narrative and Art to engage the participation of our Clyde North Residents [and friends] to address the issue of social isolation by having spiritual conversations to create an impetus for personal and community transformation.  

My intention was that Art & Spirituality would create an atmosphere that empowers community relationships and tackle the barriers of social isolation.  Hence our work is to raise the value of community volunteers, disciples who serve. Together with members of our community, our work is to empower the spiritual value of people. I am lead by my conviction in Jesus, the fulfilment of the Father’s Heart of God, who came to give freedom, create communities that release a sense of belonging, for each person to discover their unique purpose and hope for the future.

We call ourselves ‘The Friends of Clyde North’ a Community Group and we are proud friends of Neighbourhood Collective. We are a group of unfunded volunteers, Christian and non-Christian people fused together who are ‘passionate’ about people and raising their worth in Clyde North. We want to defend our community, from the adverse effects of social isolation that comes with fast growing communities, as we have.