Building Community Through Art

In November 2022, Circles of Faith UCC, located in northwestern Minnesota in the heart of the White Earth Reservation, launched an initiative to showcase artists from the area. Over the last year and a half, the church has shared the work of the late wildlife artist Gene Lysaker whose subject matter connects with White Earth and contemporary artist Kent Estey of Naytahwaush, a member of the White Earth Nation of Ojibwe. In addition, a weekly “Tuesdays Full of Grace” music jam welcomes acoustic musicians and painters who gather to share their talents.

“I want people to see and experience the work of the amazing artists in our community,” says Rev. Anna Larson, who has been at Circles of Faith since 2014. “While we often think of art being a solitary act, artists need community.”

Larson serves on the Region 2 Arts Council with Estey, who has provided counsel for the church’s program. In addition, church pianist Brenda Tilton is constantly on the lookout for community members whose creative work deserves the spotlight, says Larson.

Circles of Faith places high value on its relationships with Native people. On April 2, the church will hold a reception for two Indigenous artists from the area: Jayme Littlewolf, a 12-year-old piano prodigy, of Naytahwaush, White Earth, and photographer Jesi Smith, founder of Eleven Eleven Studio Eclectics, life-long Waubun resident, and member of the White Earth Nation. Littlewolf will give a piano concert at 6 pm on the church’s baby grand piano, one of the few in the region, after which Jesi Smith will talk about her work. The event is free and open to the public. Smith’s photography will be on exhibit through April.

“An artists’ reception is one way our White Earth communities can honor and appreciate these local talents,” says Larson. “Artists magnify and point us toward the beauty in the world. They are right here where we live, helping us to appreciate the good life. Chi miigwech mino bimaadiziwin!”

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023