It was the perfect opportunity.
I was getting my degree in Music from Carnegie Mellon, but I desperately missed making art. The church I grew up in needed a new Music Director but wanted to start an art program. The pastor was brilliant enough to realize we could both get everything we wanted, and I became the Director of Music and Art.
In my seven years on staff at First Congregational Church of Memphis I created more than 20 huge works of installation art.
I created paintings 25 feet wide and 30 feet tall for the stage. I sewed fabric together, bought my painting supplies at Home Depot and laid tarps on the floor of the Fellowship Hall. My roommate in college had majored in Theater Set Design and taught me how to scale up to such massive sizes.
Learning the craft.
I spent months working with a church volunteer who was a chemist for work and artist for fun. We experimented with myriad dying techniques, and I ended up dying miles of fabric for my second installation.
We acquired a cherry-picker machine to access the 60-foot high ceiling, and installed a mechanical wench system to lift and lower the massive stage paintings. I learned how to get comfortable with heights.
Volunteer involvement was the most important element to making the art happen. Each installation was like a barn raising, with a massive sense of connection and accomplishment when the work was completed.