A Montreal-based artists collective finds community online during the pandemic

Words by Lisa Hanash

In May 2021 a group of my artist and non-artist friends from church and elsewhere began gathering routinely online. During this season of online connection, we created art together and held different events, workshops and even a couple of concerts on Zoom and Facebook for fun.

The roots of this initiative go back to 2012, when a group of creatives from Jubilee Montreal Church started “Art Night” get-togethers to create art, music, writing, or any other form of creative expression.

Years later it evolved as different people joined in. The first workshops and public events began in 2017, and the group rebranded itself as a collective called Re:create. It is meant to bring people together to collaborate in exploring new ideas, perspectives, and the beauty of the creative process.

During Covid we hosted a four-part series on Zoom based on the inspiration of a book entitled The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. While the book recounts the unique spiritual quest to discover our creative identities, our series focused on creativity and the arts and how they relate to faith, freedom, social justice, and the creative journeys of the artists leading the workshops.

In these reflective workshops, including one I hosted, I found solace and confidence through the process of sharing and hearing the stories of others. There were moments of deep reflection and also simple laughter.

Sharing creative work puts the creator in a vulnerable space. Yet I’ve seen that when we create, we get a glimpse of God’s heart. 

Insecurities or feeling like an imposter can get in the way of creating. This gathering has fostered empathy and encouraging discussions, inspiring our next endeavours. In order to keep this type of motivation going, members are encouraged to post on our community’s social platform. They share personal projects, music that inspired them, or a funny post about the struggle or victory of the artist.

We have an opportunity to partner with God, one another, and our creativity to connect to the heart of God for others.

While the integration of these truths requires sensitivity and urgency, we also recognize that God has gifted us to serve the Body of Christ and to use our creativity to love and serve others in our local and global community.

Connections are like seeds for building relationships. To tend to them means they need to be watered regularly, growing the depth of connection. Using arts and creativity in our approach for connection is one of the main reasons our art collective wants to continue to work together. And it does take work to keep going, including the challenge of using the internet to make our small group function and the challenge of sharing the gospel more openly as the group grows and changes.

Photo credit: Azaria Yon Li

We look forward to spending more time around dinner tables, sharing meals at the park, taking bike rides around the city or sitting down for a cup of bubble tea, which are some of our members’ favourite non-art activities. When winter rolls around, you may find a few of us at a local spot with art supplies and instruments.

Over the years I have gained a stronger sense of my role as an artist thanks to the constant presence of people who are willing to commit to their craft and cultivate community. The visionary and artistic part of me would rather do art alone, but I’ve learned to find peace and strength in seeing others process the artistic journey together. Seeing how this community has helped me grow, I don’t think doing it alone was ever meant to be.