Pacifica and the Arts
Taste and see that the Lord is good… -Psalm 34:8
Why do we care about the arts so much at Pacifica? For the same reason G.K. Chesterton said: “Art is the signature of man.” Art is a distinctly human endeavor: of all God’s creatures, only humans express artistic creativity. Only humans, from the disordered raw materials around them, try to create beauty.
“In the beginning God created…” We know, from the Bible’s opening words, that our God is creative. He made the heavens and the earth, and all its creatures. We also know that only mankind was made in His image, and that he said to join Him in being creative. Made in the image of a creative God, we have been designed to be creative too. The arts provide a platform for us to express our God-fashioned creativity. And they also provide a platform to become more fully the people God created us to be.
Why is this? Because we are both spirit and body—we have an eternal soul. Thus, it is not possible to know all things from books. Abstract and critical thinking have their place; but so too do experience, encounter, and the senses. God created a world not to just for our study, but for our enjoyment. He took on a physical body not as an intellectual exercise, but to meet, touch, love, and heal real people. We thus know—and feel—that our senses matter in the human endeavor. He wants not just our whole mind, but also our heart and soul.
We want students not merely to think well—we also want them to live well. That means they must be taught and they must experience beauty. It is for good reason Paul exhorted the faithful to look at, abide in, beautiful things: “Finally, brethren … whatever is lovely … dwell on these things.” What we experience, what we taste and see, shapes who we are. The Psalmist exhorts not just our knowledge of the Lord, but our experience of Him. So our students must not merely read about beauty, but must dwell on it in order to be so themselves.
At Pacifica, we believe beauty is thus essential for human life. As John Muir observed: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” We also believe we must equip our students to not just make art, but to make good art. When the Christian author Madeleine L’Engle was asked about “Christian art,” she replied: “Art is art, painting is painting; music is music; a story is story. If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.” We owe it not merely to our community and culture to make beautiful works, but to our Master Creator too. And to make great things, things of true beauty, students must be taught well and surrounded by those who care deeply about creating beauty.
We believe students who dwell on beauty while joining in creation will be more whole, more human, more of who they are truly supposed to be. Living as they were made to be will produce joy. And joyful people share their joy by producing more beauty, more art. Again, from G.K. Chesterton on the arts: “Men do not produce art in order to become joyful. They are joyful, and therefore produce art. Men do not dance in order to be happy. They dance because they are happy. Art is not the mother, but the child of beauty.”
We’ve designed the entire Pacifica educational experience with joy in mind. At Pacifica, the arts thus flow directly from who we are, and who we long for our students to be: joyful, creative, beautiful young people.
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