Friday, August 28, 2009

Untrained Art & Faith

Martha and I just returned from a great get-away to the town of Cambria, California. One of the features of the town was a number of art galleries. Going to an art gallery with Martha is going food shopping with Emeril Lugassi...it's intense. One of the features that caught Martha's attention was how many artists marketed themselves as "untrained" as if that were a distinctive advantage over training. Now I must admit that Martha teaches printmaking at Westmont College, so she is a bit biased towards training and its value.
But I've noticed over the years that there are a number of areas that seem to pride themselves in not having formal training but doing it intuitively: art, music, writing, and pastoral leadership. Maybe there is a healthy reaction against the restrictions, lack of creativity and vitality, the old-boy network, the interest in perpetuating the status quo that yields things like tenure professors and ordained clergy and unionized teachers. I'm reading Chuck Smith's powerful biography of the "Calvary Chapel" movement out here in California. It tells the stories of their leaders; most of who come out of powerful conversions and no seminary training.
The alternative to formal training seems to be the informal networks and gatherings of mentors, retreats, seminars where practitioners share best practices and new discoveries. So we have seen the emergence of the quasi-seminaries of the Willow Creek Association, the Saddleback network, and the National Pastors' Conferences.
Question: does training spoil intuitive creativity? Does learning Greek and Hebrew take away the passion for saving the lost? Does learning color theory and principles of design curtail vitality?
I guess there are some areas where we still value training: surgeons, pilots, electricians, accountants. What does it say?


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