My family moves a lot. We’re young professionals with a few too many advanced degrees, which means constantly relocating for the next program or job offer. Indeed, this summer, as my wife and I wrap up our tenth year sharing a home, we’re also moving to our seventh address together. In that time, we’ve covered three states and over 1,000 miles, and every time we move, the volume of certain items is particularly notable. Usually it’s the dozens of boxes of books that stand out, but this year I can’t help but notice just how many art supplies we have.
Looking around our half-packed apartment, you’ll find paper craft materials, yarn, beads, paints, and more recently, a variety of fine fibers used to make lace overflow from bins. It’s only natural, then, that when I decided I wanted to offer a summer prayer program for my congregation, I opted for art activities – with a little extra inspiration from TikTok.
Process Over Product
If you have a young child, you may not realize it, but your home is probably full of process art. Preschool programs love this approach, which emphasizes the act of making art and experimenting with different tools or materials, over the results. All those projects that involve rolling marbles through paint or blowing food coloring-tinged bubbles at a sheet of paper? Those are just a few examples of process art.
My background isn’t in art or education, so while I had obviously seen and participated in art activities like these over the years, I didn’t know much about the underlying concept or even have language for it. No, most of what I know about process art I learned from Andrea Nelson, a playful and energetic artist on TikTok. She also paints really cute animals – and while I will never say no to cute animals, I was consistently struck by how some of these process art activities could help us focus on prayer. Both, I thought, were fundamentally about the act of engagement, not the outcome. And process art could occupy the body, opening the heart and mind to deeper reflection.
Creating In Community
If you spend a little time with Andrea Nelson’s TikTok or hanging out on Pinterest, you’ll encounter an enormous number of process art activities. In creating a plan for my own community’s summer, I honed in on just three: neurographic art, Praying in Color, and the creation of collage-based Visio Divina cards.
In my summer program, neurographic art and Praying in Color work together as two approaches to the same practice – a sort of meditative coloring that allows us to spend time attending to the subject of our prayers while using our bodies. In fact, I chose to begin with neurographic art the first week so that the adults, who tend to be so much more anxious about setting that first mark on the page, could use it to create sections for Praying in Color if needed.
Later this summer, we’ll be using collage materials to make a collective Visio Divina deck, inspired by Molly Donihe’s Sacred Seams deck, which I bought at the Wild Goose Festival last year. Collage art, I expect, will be more familiar to the adults gathered than these earlier activities, but using collages to point us toward prayer is altogether different. In this exercise, I’ll also be pointing us toward SoulCollage. When you begin exploring how art practices can settle our bodies into prayer, new resources seem to emerge from all directions.
Prayer is a religious practice, certainly, but it is also creative and nourishing and the act of engaging in it is often the more important part of the whole. We might even say that it is an act of co-creating with God. All we can do is offer up our art, the work of our hands. What God will create with our prayers, only our lives will tell.