Awe and wonder

'tree' candlesticks silhouetted against a window, blue sky, with fossil-like flora on glass panes

Reflecting the creator: Awe and Wonder, part of Fringe Arts Bath. Window photography: Sophie Sherwood. Tree candlesticks: Bev Milward

Artist and art teacher Sarah Carney curated an exhibition as part of Fringe Arts Bath‘s festival in June 2023, inviting people to experience ‘awe and wonder’ and reflect on the God who creates. It was three years in the making from vision to reality in a tiny, beautiful church just outside Bath.

Sarah Carney in Foxcote church
Vision into reality: Sarah Carney, who gained the CMS Certificate in Pioneer Mission, in the exhibition venue at St James the Less Chapel, Foxcote

I studied for the CMS Certificate in Pioneer Mission back in 2020 as part of the first cohort of students [in Bath and Wells diocese]. The course allowed God to work in me and remind me of my creativity that through life’s circumstances had been supressed.

I found that each module gave me the opportunity to express my ‘outcome’ through an artistic expression. This time revived in me this lost life-giving passion to create.

As the course was coming to an end, I had a picture of an art exhibition in which I saw people having stimulating conversations around God’s Spirit and the possibility of something more that gives that feeling of awe and wonder.

It was alive and rich and I felt that this was a way God wanted to use me, in the curation of making this vision a reality.

For several years and through many channels this was considered to no avail, but always the vision was kept alive.

In Ephesians 3 we read God can do anything – far more than you could ever imagine or request in your wildest dreams!

Artist Jessica Palmer puts the finishing touches to her wreath

So it was, by surprise, a number of years after the original vision that the exhibition was able to come into being. In God’s time and as God planned, far greater than I could have imagined.

By complete coincidence I viewed a site online which asked, ‘Do you have an idea to curate an art exhibition: apply here.’ Well I did and this was through the Fringe Arts Bath festival which takes place annually. It felt like gold to receive this opportunity that was far beyond my expectation as far as who the exhibition would reach and the support I would get.

The call out for artists spread far and wide with submissions coming in from Germany, Australia and Italy as well as local artists too. It was exciting to see the response.

It was an important part of the vision to have a range of work that showed amateur and professionals’ work alongside one another. Local to us is the Swallow charity which supports adults with learning needs. The group have an art club and they were invited to submit their work. A few local church members also felt brave enough to submit their work too.

paintings hung in corner of church
Artwork by members of Swallow charity’s art group for people with learning disabilities

It was so wonderful to be able to encourage people’s creativity and celebrate their work. In the end there were 140 submissions and I was then in the privileged position to select 26 artists from as wide a range of disciplines as possible.

Once the artists were selected I started to build relationships through visiting artists in their studios. As time went on I created an Instagram page which showcased the artists who would be shown in the exhibition.

Through email communication with the artists I collaborated and supported them in the vision. There was always an openness, trust and joy surrounding the exhibition.

When it came to the installation of the artworks it really was truly rewarding, as each artist brought their precious beautifully crafted work and placed it in the church. Each piece just looked perfect and the vision was complete.

The exhibition was very well received with 242 people visiting and having the opportunity to slow down and experience something different in a spiritual space.

ceramic leaves in glass specimen jars
Ceramic art by Sarah May-Rogers

Find out more about the CMS Certificate.

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