Three Lessons Learned From the Art Fellows


This past January The Collaborative introduced the Arts Fellows Orlando to the broader community for the first time. This inaugural year has not disappointed and there are three key lessons that I have learned. However, before we explore these, I want to give you a context for this program especially for friends who may not be familiar with this new venture. 


Many artists want to explore where their art and faith intersect, and do so in community, but they struggle to find such spaces to do that where they feel safe.  This may be particularly true for the Christian artists. Arts Fellowship Orlando exists to celebrate, engage, and grow Christ-centered artists to develop their role in God’s greater story of redemption and restoration.

We believe every artist should have the opportunity to grow

creatively and spiritually in a Christ-centered community.

Arts Fellowship Orlando is a unique opportunity for mature Christian creatives in the greater Orlando area to take a six-month exploration into the intersection of art and faith. During the program, artists will grow in community with other artists of various disciplines, as well as gaining clarity about their own calling as an artist in God’s kingdom. In addition, they will be given the resources to cultivate original works with multiple opportunities to present them. Creativity will take place within a supportive community while enriching one’s theology of work and formation in the Lord.


The 2022 Fellowship occurs January through June 2022. In an effort to assist each fellow in the creation of original works during the program, $5,000 will be provided to each participant over the course of the fellowship. In addition, fellows will have access to:

  • Theological training designed with the artist in mind.

  • Weekly 1:1 discipleship appointments.

  • 1:1 personal spiritual direction.

  • Opportunity to work with a renowned mentor in your field.

  • Opportunities to be featured in multiple showcases and programs.

  • Various opportunities to network, collaborate, and grow in camaraderie with other Christian artists.

Artists had to apply and meet certain requirements to be accepted into this program. 


The beautiful is the experimental proof that the incarnation is possible.

Hence all art of the highest order is religious in essence. (That is what people have forgotten today.)

A Gregorian melody is as powerful a witness as the death of a martyr.

—Simone Weil

Simone Weil, a French existentialist and favorite of mine, speaks of beauty, and draws the experience of beauty, not the concept or identification of it, to the incarnation of Christ. This year in The Collaborative’s third fellowship, the Arts Fellows Orlando, my experience of Christ’s beauty has formed me for His glory. These five inaugural artists come from the theater, woodshop, theme parks, writing desk, and sanctuary. The beauty they create demonstrates their faith as a work unto His glory.

As the leader of The Collaborative, I have had a front row seat to this program and it has made an important deposit into my own life as one who loves the arts, but also personally in my spiritual walk. By sharing three lessons learned, the hope is that you will be challenged to engage the arts perhaps in new ways. 


These artists have constant conversations with themselves and God. This is such a great reminder of the passage found in I Thessalonians 5:16-18 that talks about praying without ceasing. We of us have prayer lives that can be improved, myself included. We always want to be pursuing a deeper and more intimate relationship with God. . Building intimacy with the Father through concentrated times of silence, solitude, and reflection allows me to wade into waters with Him that everyday life does not afford. In addition, the constant conversation I offer to God throughout my day reminds me that He is close, and wants that He wants to hear me; me!

The Arts Fellows speak in the same way to God, and my observation is that much of that conversation concerns their art. Fletcher Wilson discusses tonal harmony in his orchestration and if it will draw the worshiper closer to God, or distract. Rebecca Fox offers God her latest metaphor for feedback. This sort of conversation may seem odd to the non-artist, but it teaches me to plead with the Father to enter into more of my daily work. Why would I not do so? 

These artists serve as a wonderful model for all of us to pray without ceasing about our work. The Lord wants to hear from us with regards to our work—the praise, the lament, the worry, and the desires of our heart.


The Fellows hold a deep desire to connect with others through their art. It is not for themselves, but for others. The arts, unlike many artifacts of culture, do an incredible job of promoting community. 

Karen Thigpen, an artist herself and one of three visionaries for the fellowship, shared with me that artists are often starved for a platform to share their art. They do not seek such platforms for their own sense of pride (well, at least most don’t), but rather it is the opportunity to give expression to their passions, interpretations, convictions, and stories. This kind of intersection both shapes and invites conversation, if not a critique. This loneliness with one’s passions never dawned on me as a preacher, one who readily has ample platforms and built-in community to receive what God has given me to share.

Throughout the fellowship we held three Works-In-Progress showcases in people’s homes. Each attendee writes down insights pertaining to the artist’s project, the presentation, the theological connection, and the emotional impact. During the question and answer time with each artist, produced rich insight and discussion because we have been able to hear about their experiences with their project  and shared observations. Voicing this dialogue with these fellows and others has been an unexpected pleasure over these months.


The Fellows embody a commitment to art, and an even deeper commitment to God. Our five fellows share a deep and abiding faith. Certainly, each artist is a seasoned professional. Yet, the depth of their faith and their commitment to the Gospel sealed my joy from this journey. Matt Guiliford, original founder and experienced ministry leader with Cru in the arts, sought a maturity of faith because it would lend itself toward a unity and fellowship among the Art Fellows. This kind of community would feed the artists as much as the theology they read, the spiritual formation, and the project creation. As with all our Fellowships we strive to create a community where commitment to one another will last long past the formal program structure. This year’s Art Fellows share a unique bond, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray  that it will take them through many years to come.

The roots of my faith have been strengthened and I am confident that my fruit will be sweeter as a result of being on this  journey with these five artists.  I knew of Jennifer’s amazing array of talents, but to watch her craft a vision up close inspires me to do more art myself. Fletcher’s heart for worship, and desire to see others carried to the heavens before the Lord through his compositions does the same for my heart. I respect Joshua’s talent as a craftsman. Who knew material and texture, arms and sideboard legs could carry so much meaning? Rebecca’s writing draws me into a newly discovered genre of literature for me, fictional realism. And last, but not least, Lizzy’s dramatic POP and POW that can overwhelm in a living room is just the sort of power it takes to perform on a stage and bring the audience through an adventure of emotions.

These three lessons just scratch the surface as to what art can deposit into our lives. The Collaborative greatly values the arts and are thrilled for this new fellowship that will provide opportunities for all of us to engage in this world. Please take advantage to hear from this year’s class by joining me on Thursday, June 16 at The Dr. Phillips’ Center for And It Was Good: Unconventional Expressions of Faith. We begin at 7 p.m. and our five Arts Fellows Orlando will present the projects they have been creating. There will also be five additional guest artists participating making this an incredible evening of art.

Come, you will be moved as I have. 

Arts Fellowship Orlando, a new fellowship of The Collaborative, will hold its inaugural showcase on the evening of June 16th @ the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Join us for a night of inspiration as you journey through the intersection of art and faith with a diversity of Orlando’s performers & artists including Orlando Poet Laureate Shawn Welcome, Orlando’s premier choreographer Dawn Branch, award-winning filmmaker James Spradlin and Broadway veterans Stephen and Juliette Trafton. 

Learn more and get tickets here.

Dr. Case Thorp serves as the Senior Associate Pastor for Evangelism at the

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, and was the 39th Moderator of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

He also leads The Collaborative: for Cultural & Economic Renewal.


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