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  • Helms Jarrell

Writing a grant for Art & Spirituality project

Today, I sat down to write a grant application essay. The grant is to support an artist who is exploring art & spirituality. Here's what I wrote for the essay:

I am an interdisciplinary artist who weaves stories together using mixed media, ceramics, needlework, and jewelry making techniques intermixed with community engagement, place making, and Christian ministry practices. My work exists at the intersection of art, community, justice, and place. The place in which I center my practice is QC Family Tree- a community in West Charlotte, NC where I and other residents seek to be kinfolk rooted in discipleship through practices of creativity, prayer, and welcome. QC Family Tree is a neighborhood based community development organization as well as a spiritual community of hospitality and solidarity. QC Family Tree is cultivating community for the common good by building a little village where abundance is coming to life. It is located in the West Charlotte neighborhood of Enderly Park- a neighborhood that bears the wounds of economic injustice and racial oppression.


For the past 15 years, a shared life and the practices of hospitality, creativity, and prayer are what have kept me rooted and they spark holy imagination. The art I create expresses my deep and genuine love for this place and these people. I find that when I am able to embody what I believe, I am at my best. Sometimes that embodiment takes the form of color, shape, and design aesthetic and other times, that embodiment takes shape in movement, organizing, spiritual disciplines, and relationships.


Art provides me an opportunity to pray inwardly as well as express outwardly. My most recent visual art projects have centered around neighborhood based work including:


The Saints- After Trevon Martin died and then Michael Brown, we heard our youth crying “that could be me.” The language of “thugs” and the negative messaging of black bodies was so very loud. Creating the saints was my way of remessaging, telling the truth this time. The saints are meant to say, “Young people, your lives matter. You matter. Your story matters. You are beautiful. You are loved.”


Beloved- A piece made in conjunction with the West Side Community Listening Project incorporating painting, collage, ceramic tile, and wire. “I have lived in Enderly Park for 12 years. Many of the first neighbors I got to know have had to leave the neighborhood due to an increase in rental costs. I love the people and place I call home- at the corner of Tuckaseegee and Parkway. If I could, I would secure permanent housing for all of our Beloved and I would keep us close to each other so that we can continue to cultivate caring community with one another.”


Creation- [in progress] A set of 8 totems representing different days of creation: void, light/dark, water/sky, plants, sun/moon/stars, sea life, animals, and rest.


Reliquary: Evicted- Drawing awareness to and honoring the many who have been evicted from West side neighborhoods by uplifting evicted items within a sacred altar reliquary. Recording West side evictions locations, mapping neighborhood change, and creating an altar to for grieving loss as well as public education.


How Bright the Path- A collaborative piece sponsored by “Art of Recycling” and Art and Science Council, working with Laurie Smithwick. Collaged stories from the neighborhood layered with monoprints from the streets in Enderly Park. This piece is currently exhibited in the Bette Rae Thomas Recreational Center on Tuckaseegee Rd.


Ordinary Sacred- Exploring the sacred of the ordinary through miniature mixed media wall altars: curtains, garden, dishes, laundry, door.


Stamps of Approval Impactful- Using the Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes in Arts for Change resource, I have created a series of stamps to use to communicate when an artist has made social impact with their work. I have used these stamps in thank you cards as well as in evaluation of workshops.


Illuminary- A series of ceramic luminaries built in the shape of homes, each one housing one of the Neighborhood Saint Icons.


Alexia Salvatierra told me once that “prayer is the way humans relate to God’s spirit. Culture is the way humans relate to God’s soul.” I believe art and culture bearing has the power to transform the individual and collective soul. As Co Creators, made in the image of God, we are called to live into and incarnate God’s love, shalom, and hoped for community. Our embodiment of God’s kin-dom takes shape through song, food, worship, prayer, art, movement, and other creative practices.

Because the population of the QC Family Tree neighborhood is changing rapidly, I find myself artfully exploring grief and loss. I also notice within me a desire to mark, through visual art, the change. I am interested in finding ways to build power and make social change through artistic practice. I am currently working on a rubric by which an artist could determine whether their artwork is building power.

The next work I would like to create is a public installation to uplift the sacred in the ordinary and draw attention to the fact that housing is a human right. I would build altars to: the sink, door, window, bed, etc. If I were chosen for this grant, I would focus on exploring these ideas as well as building additional Illuminaries.



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