– by Tracy Howe Wispelwey –
After a decade of touring I began to seriously re-imagine my work as a performing songwriter and the director of a small nonprofit that has become the umbrella for international artistic collaboration and faith-based activism. In the last several years my husband, Seth, and I, along with a small board of directors, felt the need to balance the abundant international collaboration with local transformation where we live in the United States.
We began dreaming of being a learning community as well as resourcing artists and establishing an artist residency. The residency program, we hope, will allow international artists to work in the US for a time and facilitate a cultural and creative exchange that might also flow into a greater network of communities doing transformational and creative work (like MSA).
Last month we completely re-launched the nonprofit, establishing ourselves as Restoration Village Arts. The re-launch included the new name, a new website and new social media platforms. Through it all we also hoped to communicate a refined and focused vision:
We facilitate international collaboration and community in and with artists for the sake of human flourishing and transformative peacemaking.
As Christine Sine witnessed the re-launch, she asked me an interesting question about how faith influenced the design of Restoration Village Arts. There is the website design – a customized Wordpress template meant to give quick portals to different aspects of the work while maintaining a natural aesthetic. The painting excerpts of birds and buildings found throughout the site carried over from our previous websites and are from a larger piece by Betony Coons. The photography is mostly pictures that friends have posted on instagram.
I wanted to incorporate a literal communal perspective of restoration, community and music. We also have a new logo designed by Padá that was inspired by the shapes and topography of urban centers combined with a bold, hopeful color found in Latin American textiles. All of these things are working together to communicate transformative possibility, community, and beauty – Restoration Village Arts.
RVA falls into a category of nonprofits like MSA, Culture Is Not Optional, Bifrost Arts and others that have a very clear and powerful vision that is realized in diverse ways. So the work of Restoration Village Arts depends on the current collaborators.
I have spent the last several years working closely with the Latin American Theological Fellowship (FTL). A small group of internationally based artists and I established and launched a network called Arte Y Misión Integral (art and integral mission). Through the network and the support of the FTL, we facilitated the liturgy and art at the Fifth International Congress of the FTL last summer in Costa Rica.
We also released an edition of the Journal of Latin American Theology focused on art, liturgy and integral mission in Latin America. We hope to find the resources to plan another international gathering soon, but in the meantime there are regional collaborations happening and I will also be joining two artists from the network, Santiago Benavides of Colombia and Carlinhos Veiga of Brazil, on a two week tour in Brazil.
Amidst all of these wonderful relationships through Arte Y Misión Integral, I have desired to create a deeper cultural exchange as well, believing that it is ultimately relationship that will push us toward justice. In regards to collaboration and friendship between people in North, Central and South America, there are many borders and injustices that must be dealt with.
Here in the US we are in the midst of an immigration crisis and the violence along the US-Mexico border continues while we struggle with racism and exploitation of undocumented workers. There are the historical and colonial legacies of North America and Latin America and the present socio-economic and neocolonial realities that complicate our relationships.
I know that creativity is a force of transformation and in my highest imagination I believe music can be a means to building relationship and overcoming some of these borders and injustices. But I believe strongly that the flow of creativity, relationship and resources must move South to North as well as North to South to overcome some of our colonial legacy and neocolonial economics.
For that reason RVA is starting to facilitate artist residencies in the US. The hope is that artists from under-resourced communities might be supported and be able to accomplish some of their professional goals through the resources and support RVA is seeking to build, but also that we might learn from one another. The vision is that after a residency, the artist and I might tour and visit transformative communities sharing life, stories and music with one another that I hope contributes to flourishing and peacemaking. Mustard Seed Associates will definitely be on our list to visit!
Tracy Howe Wispelwey is a singer/songwriter/composer and the Executive Director of Restoration Village Arts. Tracy has been contracted to serve as the director of art and liturgy for several global ecumenical events working with the Boston Theological Institute, the Latin American Theological Fellowship and the Micah Network among others. She has produced and co-produced many albums including Songs For a Revolution of Hope and Hold On To Love, a world fusion project that has been used by Sojourners, Occupy Boston, the Latin American Theological Fellowship, Micah Network, and Christian Peacemaker Teams. Tracy studied religion and music composition at Colorado College and recently completed a Masters of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. She currently resides in Massachusetts with her husband and daughter.