Hello Spark+Echo Friends, Long Time…
Nov 03, 2022 • By Rebecca Testrake
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT)
Hello, Spark+Echo Arts friends and family!
It’s been awhile and y’all have been deserving of a long overdue update on the happenings at SEA, so here is a brief recap of what’s been going on behind the scenes since last we left off:
First, in 2020, Founder Jonathon Roberts decided to transition away from his role as Executive Director at Spark+Echo Arts. He and the board agreed that I (Rebecca Testrake) would be a good fit for the role given my history of working for SEA and my enthusiasm for the project. Absolutely honored to be considered, I accepted the position on an Interim basis since I knew that I still had a lot to learn. Jonathon transitioned to the board where he and Peter Sahlstrom, our Board President, served to encourage, mentor, guide, and equip me to do my role. Personally, the past two years have been times of growth and learning (complete with the sometimes bumpy roads that accompany such advances). I know that life since the onset of the pandemic has been challenging for many of us, and I sincerely offer my thanks and gratitude to those of you who have supported Spark+Echo Arts as we adjust to internal leadership changes in addition to external changes in the world.
Second, by the end of 2020, Spark+Echo commissioned 18 projects which illuminated a total of 141 verses (an increase from 2019). In 2021, SEA commissioned 7 projects that illuminated 62 verses. While this is a lower number, this progress is still impressive when considering that the projects that were commissioned were processed by a smaller team of one staff member and one short-term volunteer during an era of Covid chaos. Much of 2022 quietly continued in a similar vein as 2021 until we reached this summer. (This is the part where you imagine uplifting music playing in the background to mark the transition to the next paragraph.)
Despite the upheaval in the world, Spark+Echo Arts supporters have remained faithful in generously supporting our organization. Out of that funding, Spark+Echo Arts was able to continue commissioning artists to make new works of art, and make the Executive Director role a full-time position, AND hire two new staff members. Whitney Keitt (Program Manager) and Matthew Moore (Relationships Manager) have been a huge asset to the team even within the relatively short time that they have been here. The addition of these two to the team brings our number of paid staff to THREE. While the full-time status of my position is contingent upon funding, this is the largest Spark+Echo Arts’ staff team has ever been and it is allowing us to tackle more. Since this summer, the three of us have been hard at work preparing the organization for what we believe is a launch into a new era. Incidentally, if you haven’t already heard about Whitney and Matthew on social media, I encourage you to read their bios on our About Page. Also, if you haven’t seen the social media posts about them, here are their shining faces and some information you won’t find in their bios:
Through the hiring process, I was privileged to interview many incredibly talented, passionate individuals. One of my big dreams is to grow SEA large enough to bring more of those people onboard.
Another important accomplishment that we were able to achieve this year was earning a transparency badge with Candid on their GuideStar listing. This is exciting because we believe in transparency and we want our supporters to have the peace of mind in knowing that we are who we say we are. A fun element about our badge is that whenever you see it, it reflects our current status. Here is where we currently stand:
One final update is that the board met in October and voted to approve me as the formal Executive Director, which is a huge honor. No more “Interim” for me! Words cannot express how thrilling and humbling this is for me. I love what Spark+Echo Arts is about and what this organization does.
As an artist-theologian (or perhaps a theologian-artist?), I love meeting artists and inviting them to explore and respond to the Bible. The results of those creative, honest explorations open up my experience of Scripture in new ways. I could write a series of posts on the things that I love about Spark+Echo (and I just might), but in the meantime, here is a summary list of just a few of those things:
- Offering a space of reconciliation between the divided worlds of Arts and Faith
- Creating safe spaces for artists to wrestle and engage with Scripture with guided support (when needed) from staff and curators
- Inviting artists of all practices, backgrounds, beliefs to “come and see” in a reflection of the message that we see woven throughout the Bible
Thank you, friend. Thank you for reading this update and thank you for your support—in whatever form that may come. I am excited for what the future holds for Spark+Echo and am hopeful that you will accept our invitation to come along.
Peace to you,
PS — Are you interested in partnering with our small-but-mighty crew in tackling this giant project? Here are some ways that you can join us:
- Financial Support. No gift is too small (or too large)! We are currently running a fundraiser through the end of the year to cover our costs for the end of 2022 and take us into 2023. You can learn more about our 3-C’s Campaign at GoFundMe. Alternatively (or additionally), you could join our team of ongoing patrons over at Patreon. To go to either of these locations, simply click the associated links in this paragraph or scan the QR codes directly below.
- Outreach+Advocacy. One thing I’ve heard countless times is: “This is amazing! What you do is so unique! Why have I not heard of Spark+Echo Arts before?!” This is directly where you can come in! As our supporters, the more you tell others about us, the more visible we become. Tell your friends and share your story on social media: Why Spark+Echo Arts?
- Let Us Commission You. Are you a professional artist and interested in making art as part of our project? If so, then email us or fill out the form on our Artist Application page!
- Curating. Our team of volunteer curators, made up of professional artists, are a backbone to the work that we do. It is largely through the support, guidance, and network of these individuals that we are able to work with the array of artists that we commission. Could this be you?
- Formation Group Leaders Needed. Do you have experience leading small groups, mentoring, or facilitating discussions? SEA has a collection of 8-week curriculums designed for small (4-10 person) groups with a focus on the exploration of creativity and Scripture. Partner with us to start up a group in your area!
- Feedback. Do you have ideas? Is there something that you love? Is there something that we could be doing better? Is there a passage you’d especially like to see illuminated? Let us know!
You can most quickly reach us by emailing directly to [email protected]. We are also open to hearing from and engaging with you on our social media channels (Facebook • Twitter • Instagram • LinkedIn).