Phoenix Arts and Community

20130203-172550.jpgPhoenix hasn’t also been know for the arts but over the past few years the downtown district has done so much to encourage the arts. There is still work to be done, specially in The Zone, which we discovered last time around. However, we meet a community that sites just a few blocks from the desolate streets and offers a constant peaceful and creative presence. We meet Ryan Thurman through our gracious host family, The Skeens and visited his A2J community one afternoon. We were inspired by the communities commitment to their community and to each other. We heard stories of struggles and redemption in the neighborhood. One story included a woman who had been homeless for a time and found her way off of the streets into the A2J community and know offers her gift of hospitality behind the prayer house. We heard about the longing for more families to move into the neighborhood, for a deeper connection with the greater body. We immediately thought of our friends in Oakland at New Hope and our friends, in Omaha at InCommon and began to tell their story. There is something encouraging knowing that there is a global/local community out there. We’ll be thinking about them as we make our way, and encouraging folks to consider hanging with these kinfolk for a while.

We were also able to connect with a number of aspiring and professional visual artists at the Artistree Arts Conference which we offered our Songwriting Workshop, our Swimming Upstream Workshop and a performance. Our kids were able to take advantage of the sketching, journaling and graphic arts workshops offered by other practitioners.  Joel Pritchard spearheaded the event. We met Joel through Steve, with Hope thru Art and are excited to announce that Joel will be doing all of the art and design on our upcoming album. We’ll keep you posted on his work.

While at Artistree we meet John and Elli Milan, world renowned oil painters. And are especially unique in that the Milans create their paintings together. Although John and Elli are both accomplished artists on their own, their collaborations bring out a side of their work that neither could reach by themselves.  The couple says that the Spirit of God inspires their work and allows them to create together and maintain a unified vision.  The end result is aggressive and spontaneous layers of paint which create a bright and playful scenario that is interwoven with hints of narrative.  We were invited out to the Milan farm and studio in Queen Creek, AZ for lunch and had an encouraging visit, learning about their faith journey finding their purpose in creating together. We even saw the beginnings of a painting that was inspired by our album, Ashes to Beauty. We meet two of their four children, who are quite the artists in their own rite. We enjoyed the horses, chickens, dogs and cats. It was energizing to meet a family committed to one another and to creating together.


The Heartland

We spent the last three weeks between Omaha, NE and Iowa. Sort of blew our minds!

The highlights:

1. Connecting with InCommon Community Developement Center and our friends at City Church. The Spiehs family and their posse have cared for us over the last three years and this time we were able to share the load and help them out. Besides sharing in song at a potluck/house concert, Craig was able to help with their neighborhood “listening project,” by crafting this booth for their project.

2. We experienced our first flat tire, on our way into Shenandoah, IA. We were scheduled to perform at a benefit concert and just as we arrived the air in the tire released. We panicked slightly but quickly found if you’re going to have a mishap, small town IA is the place to have it. With in moments, our hosts, Niquee Huff and Deborah Rivers made a few calls to one of the auto mechanics in town. They opened up shop, just happened to have a used spare for us and with in the hour had us all fixed up and back to the festival, only $180 out. That was truly a miracle as all of the shops were closed on a Saturday afternoon and tires run $500. Then to top it all off Niquee gave us an unexpected gift for our performance and with that gift we were able to find relief at a local hotel from the unusually hot spring (as well as a shower. If you’ve read our previous posts you know what a commodity a shower is right now. Ha!) Amazing!


3. Our hosts in Cedar Rapids, IA happened to be my best friends parents. Two years had gone by since our last visit and Heather made her way up from Indianapolis, IN to visit with us at her parents home. We had a blast reconnecting. Heather, along with her mother, taught me to sew. We made curtains and a blanket cover for our home. We went on a treasure hunt to find globes for my new dining room, antique light that I purchased in the Benson District of Omaha. Heather came to see us at a fun little house concert series, Cedar Valley House Concerts in Cedar Falls, IA. As we played to a full house of kinfolk, I had flash backs of sitting in Heather’s living room in Sturgeon Bay, WI a good 8 years ago, playing her some of my very first songs. It was special to have her sitting there and enjoying the fruits of our labor.



4. A friend of my parents hosted a spontaneous barn concert in Mt. Vernon, IA. Our son was in heaven the moment we arrived at the property. There were a dozen kids to play with, a go cart and the barn was in great shape, offering space for rollerblading and ping pong after our concert. They pulled together about fifty kinfolk to have a listen and blessed us on our way, including an offer from local/global neighbor, Don Bowers, who offered to fill our gas tank at his station in Anamosa, IA. on our way out of town. We were floored by the generosity of our fellow Iowan’s and look forward to sharing in community with them all next time around.