Artists Paint Bosnian Cities Many Colors

Bosnia, Summer 2005
By Rebeccca Barnhart *
Central Europe Area Communications

Fourteen artists, most from the United States and one lone Brit, invaded Bosnia-Herzegovina for three weeks in July to share the love of God through various forms of creative arts. The group was part of OM ArtsLink, a creative ministry started in 2004 as a way to get artists involved in mission service. (The Bosnia trip was the fourth ArtsLink outreach in one year and the third held in 2005. Previous trips included Czech Republic, Hungary>, and Ukraine.)

In Bosnia, artists ministered in Sarajevo and Bihac where OM has teams, and did various projects as diverse as the two cities. On a community center wall in Bihac, artists painted four panels depicting life there – a downtown café; the bridge over the Una River; the city’s clock tower; and houses/neighborhood life. Dragica, the manager of the community center, said the artists had made a good impression on us and set a good example for us." She was thrilled with the paintings and said that they will be a constant reminder for the community of the artists’ visit to Bihac.

It means so much to us and for those that come to the community center because many come from poor homes and when they come here, they can see this beauty," Dragica said. She added that she also appreciated the artists’ interaction with the gypsy children and teenagers that came, despite the language barrier, because it helped the Bosnians to speak English. Some of the teenagers even helped paint some of the scenes.

Across town, another set of artists were painting Disney characters in a room on the children’s ward of the local hospital – Mickey Mouse with a stethoscope; Donald Duck on crutches; Minnie Mouse as a nurse; Snow White teaching the Bosnian alphabet..

The Disney room is used as a play room, TV room and for other children’s programs. Parents said that the room was gloomy before the Arts team arrived, but now it’s fun for the children. The children are scared to come to the hospital, but this room makes it easier for them," said Senada, one of the head nurses on the ward. There’s a warmth now in the room."

Senada added that the nurses and hospital staff are so pleased that they’ve asked OM to bring another team back to paint the rest of the hallways and the reception area, where the children have their first contact with the doctor. We hope OM will be able to come back and finish the project," Senada said.

Public Displays in Sarajevo

In Sarajevo, the artists’ work was more public – painting a mural on a busy city street corner and painting an aquarium scene in the middle of several tall apartment buildings for its’ residents to enjoy. Not only did the artists draw attention from the locals – including residents of the apartments who lavished the team with gifts, many of them personal items from their apartments – but also from the local media. On the last day of ministry, while finishing a mural, the team was interviewed by the local newspaper. During the interview the journalist stated, What you are doing here is very good, it is nice. People don’t see this every day." One Bosnian man said the artists’ work was the beginning of a new Sarajevo."

The artists were also a huge blessing to Sharon Bolister (UK), an OMer working in Sarajevo since March 2005. Sharon, who majored in art but has never used her gifts for ministry, said the team’s visit not only helped her to make contacts with Bosnians, but it also provided definition for her ministry in the future. I was so pumped to meet so many people on the streets, and to see how I can use arts ministry while serving here in Sarajevo," said Sharon.

In Bihac, a town with strong Muslim ties, the artists couldn’t have Christian references or symbols in their paintings. But, in both the community center and hospital, they painted the following note, in Bosnian, as a reminder of why they came: ‘We drew these pictures as a gift from the Evangelical Church in Bihac,’ ArtsLink Summer Team, July 2005."

* Katie Powell and Ryan Nix also contributed to this story.

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