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Sputnik Hubs Are The Future!

At the beginning of 2016, we completed our WhatIsItToBeHuman? exhibition. It was a real step forward for Sputnik. The work was of a higher quality than anything we’d put on before and, certainly by the end, the events connected to the exhibition were really hitting the mark. But the question was- what would we do next?

This led to lots of soul searching about what Sputnik actually is, and when we’d had enough of gazing at our navels, we looked up and saw a clear path forward. This path was spelt out in two words: Sputnik Hubs.

We figured that we are first and foremost a network of artists and as such doing the odd national art project or gathering is okay, but if these are the only times we collaborate or have face to face contact, we will be fairly ineffective. We need to find ways to gather artists locally and regularly to encourage and challenge each other in excelling in our respective crafts.

We also concluded that one of our key values is our love for and thorough connection to the local church. We are based in a particular network of local churches, Catalyst (part of the Newfrontiers family) and this is not a peripheral connection. We have been given real permission from the leaders of Catalyst to push forward in serving artists in our churches and increasingly helping churches in our family to welcome artists more effectively themselves.

From these two concussions (sometimes auto-corrects are worth leaving in for comedy reasons, whether you can guess the intended word or not, that seems somehow appropriate), the Sputnik Hub was born. A Sputnik Hub is a community of artists linked to a number of local Catalyst churches in a specific area. Each hub exists to connect Christian artists with other artists and to encourage each other to excel in our work. The focus is always on making art outside of the church for a universal audience.

Any Christian artist, of any discipline, can get involved, but the leaders of the hubs (and I guess the majority of each hub) are from Catalyst churches. This church link is the thing that I’ve noticed is our most unique feature as a Christian art network and it is really helpful in two main ways. First, it means that our basic values are kind of set and pretty much understood by everyone coming into the group. Christians come in all shapes and sizes (which can be a very good thing) but to meaningfully connect, there must be an accepted value base, or at best we could end up at cross purposes (which is annoying) and at worst we could just spend all day arguing (which will suck the life and fun out of everything). Secondly, it means that Sputnik can focus on helping Christian artists in their art, without having to take on the burden of everyone’s spiritual growth. Just to clarify, this is not because we think that your spiritual growth is unimportant, quite the contrary- if you’re not growing in your love for Jesus, it’s likely that your work will suffer, certainly in regards to its effect. (Not to mention your most important creative enterprise of crafting a God honouring, people loving life!) Spiritual growth, discipleship, or whatever you want to call it, is vital but while hopefully connecting with other likeminded Christians and finding an outlet for your God given skills and passions will help you grow in your faith, we really have only one piece of advice regarding discipleship: get stuck into your church! Simples.

To be honest, by the time I’d polyfilla-ed the last hole at Centrala after our Birmingham exhibition, the theory was there. The last 10 months then have been spent working out the practice. Birmingham seemed like the natural place to start, so we kicked off our Brum Sputnik hub in March.

The plan was as follows:

  • We would meet once a term for a whole Saturday afternoon in some friends’ home. We aim for between 10 and 20 people each time (we have a pool of about 50 who’ve expressed some interest in being involved)
  • We would personally invite all the Christian creatives we knew who were (or at least were interested in) engaging with people outside the church through their art, who were: a) In Catalyst churches (Churchcentral, Oasis, The Crown, Real Life Church, Redeemer, Raglan Road and Jubilee Church are our locals) or were b) Christian friends any of us knew.
  • We would do four things when we met together: a) Eat food b) Discuss stuff that is particularly relevant to the intersection of our art and faith c) Give opportunity for everyone to share and talk about out own work d) Pray for each other

To achieve 2), and kickstart 3), we thought it would be great to invite in artists from different disciplines each time who are a bit ahead of most of the rest of us and/or have some particularly interesting projects to share. In our three Brum Sputnik Hub meetings so far, we’ve been blown away first by fine artist Ally Gordon, then by graphic designer Luke Tonge and last time by the tag team of Chris Donald and Stewart Garry who talked us through their exceptional Sojourner project.

The idea was that these gatherings could kickstart all sorts of other interesting connections and projects, and lo and behold, that’s exactly what has happened. We’ve done a few little field trips (outings to interesting art events in the locality to help us get to know each other a bit better), but most significantly, on the suggestion of Chris Donald, we’ve just started our first Brum Sputnik Hub art project. It’s on a theme, but most importantly requires people to work collaboratively, preferably with people who are from a different discipline. At February’s hub gathering, we will then showcase the work and see where it goes from there.

So, at this point in time, we have a working model on the ground of how to do church based, creative gatherings that are fun and purposeful. Therefore, it was brilliant to travel down to Bedford last Saturday to kick off our second Sputnik Hub, which Phil and Harri Mardlin are leading. A third one is in the wings too, as well as a possible fourth, which may take a slightly different form (I’ll keep this vague and intriguing for the moment).

Anyway, I thought I’d share this as we’re quite pleased with how this is all shaping up and we’d love to get you involved. If you’d like to connect in with our Brum or Bedford hubs, you’d be more than welcome and the best way to contact me is probably through Facebook or Twitter. If not, keep your eyes peeled for further developments, or if you’re from a Catalyst church and would like to start one of your own hubs in your area, I’d love to hear from you too. (If you’re not from a Catalyst church, but would still like to start one, give me a go. What’s the worst that can happen!)

The other thing you’ll notice is that we’ll start putting up brief reports from our different Hub gatherings to share the wealth with those of you who can’t yet connect in this way. So, in the next two weeks, I’ll fill you in on the last Brum one and the first Bedford one. You have been warned.

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