1. Get Stuck into Church
When going to Uni, it can be scary joining a new church. New people are intimidating, and sometimes, a familiar place like church can bring the homesickness rushing back. But I found committing early on to a church community an essential step in settling into a new community. As a creative student, class ‘crits’ and comparison with others can make you feel sad and discouraged, but I found going to a good church a helpful place to be grounded outside the creative bubble. At church, you mix with adults, elderly, children, students from other courses, and sometimes even students from other unis. Unlike people on your course, people are always surprised and excited to hear that you study a creative course, and are often very interested in discussing what you've been working on that week. In my first few weeks of uni, I was asked by a church member every week - "so Beth, what did you draw this week?", this was such a helpful incentive to do my work. I would recommend you try out a couple of churches straight away, and aim to settle at a church by your third or fourth week of Uni. You’ll be thankful when those tough crits come later.
2. Work with your Coursemates
As a Christian in the art world it can be tempting to barricade yourself inside a small Christian Union bubble, sometimes hesitantly reaching out a hand to give an events week flyer to those on the ‘outside’. However, I found that the best thing for me was to actually leave this bubble, and commit to friendships with my course mates. For my course, this meant working in my studio rather than my room, and arranging frequent drawing sessions and book shop trips with my studio buddies. These trips actually ended up being less helpful for work than they were for friendship-building - I remember saying to my friend ‘shall we just not pretend to work and just chat?’. For your course, this might mean studying in a cafe together, or jamming in your friend’s room, or helping each other with your film shots - whatever your course is, try to involve your friends. Not only is this helpful for friendships, but it’s also essential for the gospel. Jesus calls us to be active in the world, building relationships with those who might be quite different from us. When people wonder if Christians hate them for who they are, they’ll see your care for them and have evidence to the contrary. So get in that studio, plug in a kettle, and get chatting!
3. Join the CU
My next tip may seem obvious to those reading this, but join the Christian Union! Although what I said about the unhelpful Christian Union bubble is true, I do find the Christian Union very refreshing. Being in the art world can be tough, and people in church sometimes just don’t get it, but being part of a good Christian Union can be very uplifting, not to mention extremely helpful for your non-Christian friendships too! Uni is a great time for Christians and non-Christians to think about big questions about life, and Christian Union is the best place to do that. Try speaking to your committee about how the Christian Union can serve creative students (especially if you are in a Uni with a lot of creatives!!), and invite your course mates to come along your meetings. We want CU to be an open place of conversation, where all spectrums of beliefs are welcome - there are no Christian cliques in the kingdom of God!
4. Work in God's Creation
As creative students, we have the unique opportunity of spending time really delving into the world around us - coming face to face with God’s creation. As creative students we are able to (and often even told to), take time to enjoy the natural and created world around us, stare at it, replicate it, and record it. In my first year of Uni, I was often told to be drawing outside for up to ten hours a week. Being able to just sit and stare at a willow tree proved to me more than anything else could, that there is a Creator God, and He loves us. It often seems easiest to simply use secondary research and photos for our artwork, but I would really recommend getting outside, taking in the world around you, and bringing that into your artwork.
5. Connect your Faith to your Course
My last tip is to delve deep into both your course and your faith, not as two separate things but as one under God’s rule. I find that interacting with questions around art and faith, not only intellectually stimulating, but also creatively inspiring. Knowing that our identity is in God, and He, as a Creator, loves to see us create, can really help with questions about our identity, and difficult criticisms we might be given. I have realised that all art in itself is valuable, and the world is always better with more art in it, no matter how successful artists become in the world’s eyes. So go to the studio, go to church, go to CU, get outside and make art because God loves it!