Curating Beats Creating
I’m sorry for words that follow. They may hurt. I’m not even sure I like what I’m about to say. But I’m saying it:
Sometimes art does more harm to the Church than good.
What’s the difference between a vandalized wall and a wall in an art gallery? Both contain painted pieces. Both contain true skill. Both contain commentaries on society and culture.
The difference is the curator. The curator decides what beauty belongs in the exhibition and what beauty clutters the space. He decides what will bring a flow to the works he presents. A good curator rejects great pieces of art because they don’t have a purpose in the exhibition.
The curator can turn a wall of graffiti into something beautiful.
Unfortunately, many of our churches have turned into vandalized walls. We use amazing resources like Creation Swap and Photoshop tutorials to create, create, and create. Then we plaster our walls and bulletins with our art. Unfortunately, our congregation sees a wall full of graffiti. Each piece of “art” is screaming for attention and our congregation wants to look away. It becomes an eye sore and the message doesn’t get across.
It’s true. I see the occasional cuss word or middle finger in the midst of graffiti. Your congregation may see your point or get the message occasionally. But graffiti is a poor place to make your point. A massive pile of “art” is a poor place to make your point.
The Church has too many creators. The Church needs curators. There’s nothing wrong with Creation Swap and Photoshop tutorials. Some of the best churches rely heavily on them. But if you are using those tools without a curator’s eye, you are vandalizing your church. You must add context to your content.
Are you vandalizing your church?
What does curating look like for a church creative?
1. Decide what actually needs to be said.
I’ve been handed far too many bulletin announcements that don’t need to be made: “We gave 500 bottles of water to folks at a bus stop last week. Join us in two months to do it again!”
A few years ago I would have been excited about the work. I would have hopped on my favorite stock photo site, grabbed an image, slapped some fancy text on it and printed 500 inserts for this week’s bulletin.
Why does the congregation need to read about something they missed? And they won’t remember to attend the event 2 months from now. It was graffiti. I was adding a middle finger to the wall (if you will). It was a fine announcement but it wasn’t the right time for it.
Learn to curate your announcements. Convert your bulletin from a vandalized wall to a curated exhibit – telling the most important stories.
2. Decide when to create and when to refine.
Another massive temptation for creative people is to create when it’s unnecessary. How many times have I changed my church’s brand because I got bored? How many different crazy iterations of my church’s logo have I used in different pieces. I’ve gone from post-modern to South Beach chic to ultra hipster more times than I can count.
Sometimes curating means putting our artistic ADHD to the side and sticking to a theme. A powerful brand comes from consistency – not from bored artists entertaining themselves.
Do you need to design something from scratch? Or do you need to refine your work and keep your church’s brand consistent?
The ability to refine is as important as the ability to create.
3. Create smarter, not harder.
The curator realizes the resources at his disposal. You don’t see an art curator painting each piece himself. There simply isn’t enough time for that and the exhibition would suffer because of that.
Thus is the state of many churches. Our creatives are overtasked and the Sunday morning story suffers because of that.
A typical church has a worship leader responsible for every creative piece the church creates. He leads worship, designs the website, oversees the tech ministry, and prints the bulletins. How can you expect a regular person to make that happen with excellence?
This is where those sites like Creation Swap come in. When used with a curator’s eye, these sites can help a single person become an artistic powerhouse. When you can decide critically what needs to be created or what needs to be borrowed and refined (legally) you can get more done.
But don’t stop there!
You have artistic resources that you don’t even realize. Invest some time in meeting your congregation. Discover their talents and ask for help. As you reduce the graffiti on your church’s wall, you free up time to discover the resources around you.
And the folks in your congregation do want to help. You just need to ask and give them the support they need to make it happen. Too many church creatives are told in books and conferences to build a powerful team. But so many church creatives barely have time to get their own stuff done – much less to invest time in others!
Reduce the graffiti. Drop a few paint cans and share the work with other artists. Give yourself some room to step back and curate the creativity at your church.
The early Internet was like an exploding library – spreading bits of information all over the floor for us to wade through. It was chaos.
Search engines grew out of a need to organize that information and make it possible to find what you were looking for. Each search engine rose to prominence as it was able to more accurately organize and sort the internet.
Curators are search engines.
Too many churches are like the Internet in the early days. Their visuals are all over the place. They have 200 communication pieces lying around for people to figure out what’s happening. They have no way to keep track of new worship music so they default to the same 30 they’ve always done. Their creative endeavors are so scattered that no one really remembers what happened from week to week.
Curators organize the mess. Then they present it in a way that flows. It makes sense. People know what’s being said. They know where to find stuff.
Church becomes an enjoyable trip to an art gallery. A story is told. Church stops being a wall of graffiti – an eyesore.
How can you curate?
We are all communicators.
Skillful curators are not born over night. The art of curating is something that must be wrestled with and developed. Curators must curate their craft. You will need to curate your craft. What separates the great from the mediocre is the ability to add context to your creativity – to curate.
Sometimes, art does more harm to the Church than good – when we neglect the curating process. Curate your creativity.