"Tell us your story!"

Spain, July 2008
Spain Author: P. Butler

Rosa was nervous. She had asked to be excused from her computer class for a week, while she attended our creative arts workshop. The professor, an artist herself, not only excused Rosa, but promptly suspended class so that everyone could attend! Twenty-odd computer students, of various cultural and religious backgrounds, were about to cross the threshold of her church. Her reputation and relationships were at stake. With doleful eyes and wringing of hands, she pleaded with us (no translation needed), "Don’t blow it!"

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." - Proverbs 4:23

The project was altered books. There was no common language, but with this theme from Proverbs, the art team led locals through 5 days of visually communicating their stories, through line, color, shape, composition and texture-answering the questions: "Where does your story begin? Who else is in your story? What are you celebrating in your story? What is the hardest part of your story? What is the next chapter of your story?"


The goal was to help the field workers break down language and culture barriers between Spaniards and North Africans, Christian and Muslim. Crossing the threshold of an evangelical church was the first step in what was hoped would open long-term dialogue and relationships. Awkward and timid at first, the individuals attending quickly got absorbed in paint, picture and book. As the books took shape, hearts opened, walls came down, and stories emerged. Olympia had left her family in Romania to receive cancer treatment in Spain, and was grieving the distance. Rachel was healing from a miscarriage, Puri and Malika from cancer, Lina from depression. And then there was Juana the poet, and Fatima, who came without hope and left with hope…

Each one on the Artslink team, creating books alongside the workshop participants, shared a story of faith, how God had met him/her in some way. And each day, one of them told their story. The workshop was repeated in a second church the second week.

At the end of 2 weeks, the workshop had generated enough interest in the city to be invited to a local language institute, to exhibit in a local coffee house, and at the local center where they held the second workshop. The team accepted all invitations, scrambling to produce artwork between workshops, arriving at each venue with a body of paintings, sketchpads, photography, and the altered books. Student were invited to bring theirs as well.


At the coffee house exhibition, the last event, Rosa was grinning ear to ear. There was an overflow crowd, filling two rooms of the café (causing the owner to grin ear to ear as well!). On behalf of her entire computer class, she presented the artists with gifts—hand-made flamenco flowers. Rosa invited the team for merienda (afternoon coffee and cake) just before they left, tears in her eyes, wringing our hands now in deep gratitude, thanking the team over and over again for coming.

The team left gifts of artwork with the people they had especially connected with. As they poked around the city for three weeks, looking for frame shops, art supplies and photo shops, they discovered many artists and galleries, and fed the info back to the long term workers who were delighted to gather so much info in so little time.

And, as we’ve heard at the end of each ArtsLink outreach, "You exceeded all our expectations! Please come back!"

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