Opening Doors and Building Bridges
In Cebu, Philippines, the team started with a community workshop with missions leaders, artists and pastors. They discussed why art is important in missions and how local leaders can make intentional connections with Cebu artists. Then they explored. They focused on arts in the Filipino culture, visiting art galleries and researching painting, music, martial arts, and more.
As they did their research, God provided key connections.
At a tattoo studio, they met a local tattoo artist who was a believer. Tattoos are frowned upon amongst believers, but the tattoo artist shared his testimony and talked about how he has a unique opportunity because he has plenty of time to talk with people as he creates their tattoos.
They found a coffee shop, owned by a pastor, where young Cebu artists meet and share their work. The team regularly spent time there getting to know the artists.
They met a professor of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, Cebu. The university has a reputation for professionalism, and the professor resonated with the idea of encouraging artists to engage with local arts. This was another key partner!
The research had opened doors to a variety of people and arts. It also revealed two struggles: they discovered Filipinos are very creative yet struggle to believe this. And when they asked them about local art forms, like textiles, the young artists did not know the history.
So, the team decided to have an art exhibition to connect these communities together. It was an opportunity to strengthen the identity of young artists, share the gospel to non-believers in a way meaningful to them, and show honor between the church and secular artists who would not normally cross paths.
They invited them to collaborate around the theme: “Pagbinayloayi” which means the trading of ideas. It celebrated the beauty of Cebuano culture by showcasing both traditional and modern art forms. Artists were given a list of indigenous Cebuano art forms and then were asked to transform one of those into something new using a medium that represents them.
Art exhibitions take a lot of time to put together, but the team only had three weeks. It seemed impossible. However, God opened another door when the professor offered a beautiful gallery at the university for free. He also introduced them to a fantastic dance team. So, there was a stunning performance on the opening night, which showcased Filipino dance and music. The church leaders brought beautifully decorated and delicious food—a Filipino specialty and work of art in its own right.
After participating in the workshop and exhibition with the Incarnate team, a mission leader said the experience was eye-opening. Now seeing the variety of local forms, he thinks about art differently and is inspired to use more in his ministry.
For the Incarnate team, they experienced how doors opened when they intentionally sought local art forms and artists. It brought together diverse people for a collaboration that was impactful to all and built a bridge for relationship.