Last week we made a quick video statement for the facebook group as a guide for our future discussions. This is the video:
Catholic Creatives was birthed out of a conversation that started with three entrepreneurs talking over coffee about how crazy it was to meet someone else who shared the same foundations as we did. The three of us had one foot in the ministry world and one foot in the world of media marketing, and a lot of the time felt like outsiders in both. Outside of that, we had a hard time expressing exactly what it was that we believed that was different. Sometimes at an organizations beginning, it's hard to express what its foundations really are at their core, it's all fire and curiosity. Once you start to talk about it and wrestle with it in the day to day, the message begins to emerge. These are ours and they have emerged from all of our conversations with each other since December.
1. Value Art
(Enough to pay for it)
"Art in the Church fundamentally exists for evangelization" - Pope Francis
The Church right now tends to see everything in a mindset of scarcity. We want everything as cheaply and as quickly as possible. We have volunteers do our t-shirts, we pay our daughter $100 to build the website, we have the parish secretary manage the bulletin. This needs to stop. The world's first impressions of the Church are informed primarily by our art. Just as a non believer might enter the Sistine Chapel, inhale awe, and leave with a new impression of God's grandeur, so too should our architecture, bulletins, t-shirts, logos, websites, videos, music and all of our outward facing mediums incarnate Christ. The Sistine Chapel, however, was not done by a volunteer, and it was not turned around "real quick." It took the greatest artist of his time 4 years to paint day and night.
We need to move from a scarcity mindset to realizing the VALUE of art. If we are ok with being an elitist club for the cultural Catholic, if we are ok with empty churches and cold pews, if we are ok with being thought of by the rest of the world as a joke, by all means, keep having volunteers take care of your media and buying your stations of the cross out of a catalog.
To make meaningful, excellent work, that has the power to transform a community it takes time and it takes skill that has been honed for years of daily practice. Artists must be PAID for their effort in order to develop these skillsets. They do not come from occasional practice on the weekends. How much do secular organizations pay their media teams? Start to invest in art like they invest in art and you will see impact at that scale. The message of the Gospel is WORTH IT.
2. Art Reflects the Soul
(It's not tricking people into liking stuff)
In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service." - Steve Jobs
It costs less to slap some paint on top of rotting wood than it takes to buy new beautiful wood and stain it. One is a band-aide, the other is authentic. Good art is always authentic, expressing the inner soul from the inside out. Bad art is lying. Don't ask us to lie, and don't pile in good art with lying. There is a triumphalist attitude in the Catholic Community that says "we are above what those stupid protestants do with all their graphics and lights and smoke, we have the liturgy."
But isn't the liturgy art? Is it not spiritual, intellectual realities embodied in the physical realm? Is it not poetry?
Jesus harshest words were for the religious: "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them" (Mat 23:4). When we tell a teen "Don't have sex before you're married," but don't show that kid the beauty of a chaste life, we are heaping burdens on the shoulders of others without lifting a finger to help them.
Our triumphant pride needs to be hoisted onto the cross and slain. We are NOT above communications best practices, we are not above production, we are not above beauty. These are the outer layers of our soul as a Church and we must make each and every layer an icon from our Church buildings to our bulletins.
3. Respect the Pro's
(Learn from the people who are doing it)
"I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom." Job 32:7
The Church in her attempts to reach the lost with media tends to fall prey to two pitfalls in this area.
1.) Putting Resources into Tech Fads instead People
Just as an example, a Parish in it's attempt to update it's communications platform might have heard that parish apps are all the rage and paid a company to develop one, all the while having no one on staff that understands what apps are for and how they are used in the wider public. Professionals who understand communications and marketing are the most valuable resource the Church can have. The only way to tell the difference between a tech fad and the real thing is to have such a person on the team that knows what to look for.
2. Not Trusting
The Church often tends to go to creatives with a plan already in place, asking for that creative to execute on an existing plan, instead of allowing the creative to influence the plan itself.
For instance, a parish might structure a communications job without consulting ether an IT professional or a Creative Professional, and include IT & Communications in one job description. They might come to a creative for a rebrand with the fonts and color palate already selected. A parish might have an idea for a video that they ask a film maker to shoot for them. All of these situations come from that underlying assumption that art is the veneer. If the Church wants to be beautiful again, attractive again, lovely again, she needs to trust the professional with the process of planning itself, not just the execution.
Moral of the story for those of us who are looking to usher in the New Evangelization in media: Find someone you can really trust, and let them tell YOU how to go about a given project.
It is wisdom to listen to those who've spent years in the field and know their craft. It is time for the Church to start to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to best practices, not just in the Catholic world, but across the board.