Before serving more than two decades as curator of the King Arts Complex, Bettye Stull spent a few years directing a youth-outreach program at Broad Street Presbyterian Church. She was called in after neighborhood kids broke a church window and members considered moving the congregation out of the Near East Side. Instead, a pastor chided, "Are we not our brother's keeper?" and inspired the flock to reinvigorate efforts to reach out to its neighbors.
Before serving more than two decades as curator of the King Arts Complex, Bettye Stull spent a few years directing a youth-outreach program at Broad Street Presbyterian Church.
She was called in after neighborhood kids broke a church window and members considered moving the congregation out of the Near East Side.
Instead, a pastor chided, “Are we not our brother’s keeper?” and inspired the flock to reinvigorate efforts to reach out to its neighbors.
Stull revisited the church this week to help with its latest outreach project — the Eastside Arts Initiative, a collaboration with local artists that opened its first exhibition last night.
The church’s calling card has been its service to the community, but this project is different, said the Rev. Amy Miracle, pastor. “One of the wonderful things about this is that it isn’t service to the neighborhood. This is collaboration with the neighborhood. This is a partnership, and this is the church receiving the gifts of neighborhood.”
The initiative was born last year as the church celebrated its 125th anniversary by looking at the Near East Side and King-Lincoln neighborhoods through the eyes of residents, including artists, Miracle said.
The result is an exhibit of about three dozen pieces from more than 15 artists, none of whom is a member of the church. Stull said the works come from established professionals such as Kojo Kamau, Gail Larned, Queen Brooks and Bruce Robinson, as well as from emerging talents such as mixed-media artist April Sunami.
On display are “a mix of what you’d normally see when you go to a gallery,” including photographs, paintings, fiber art, quilting, clay and mixed media, said Kamau, curator of the exhibit.
Pepper, an artist who uses just her first name, has contributed some clay work. She said being part of the exhibit has helped her turn a negative childhood memory — being shooed away as she crossed the church parking lot in the 1960s — into a positive experience.
“I’m really happy the whole atmosphere of the church has changed,” Pepper said. “It’s a community church more so now than it ever was.
The exhibit runs through Dec. 15. Visitors can view exhibits in Palmer Hall at the church, 760 E. Broad St., whenever the building is open — each weekday from 8:30 a.m. to at least 5 p.m. and on Sunday mornings. Works can be purchased, with 15 percent of proceeds going to support the church’s neighborhood ministries, such as its food pantry, homelessness-prevention efforts and after-school tutoring program.
Tentative plans are for a second exhibit in the spring featuring art by the Creative Women of Color collective, said Donn Vickers, a church member who is helping organize the initiative. The congregation also hopes to help promote galleries in the area and to start an artist-in-residence program to work on projects with local children and neighborhood residents, said Vickers, the former executive director of the Thurber House literary center and museum.
Because the church hosts meetings and offers various services throughout the week, it provides a venue that can reach people who might not otherwise be exposed to art, Miracle said. Her hope is that the initiative reminds the congregation and the neighborhood of the community’s cultural assets.
“The neighborhood surrounding the church has a wonderfully rich history,” she said, “and nobody does a better job of telling the story of who we are than the artists among us.”