Gather, create and learn

Frontlines: Center for the Arts is gateway to Jesus

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The Center for the Fine Arts offered 30 opportunities for students of all ages in the fall of 2019. Photo: Copper Hills Church

A sophomore boy juggling baseball and voice lessons, a first-time pregnant mom learning calligraphy, a squirrelly boy who wonders if dance might be fun, a shy girl who loves to draw, a Lego-loving boy, a free-spirited college student, a retiree undergoing cancer treatment.

These are the people who walk through our doors each week, and this is Copper Hills Center for the Arts. We’re a community gathering spot, a place to create and a space to learn. But first and foremost, we’re a place where people feel welcomed and loved by amazing teaching artists who love Jesus more than their craft.

When we launched in fall of 2019, we had no idea our Big Dream would be interrupted by a worldwide pandemic. We had high hopes and were pushing toward them. And then it happened: we had to re-imagine, pivot and adapt with only five months of data to help guide our plans. Like all organizations, we had a mix of successes and failures.

Our infancy proved to be an advantage; we didn’t have a precedent and certainly didn’t have traditions. So, we just went for it. We failed fast and moved on. Or we found a successful tactic and stuck with it. By July 2020, we were able to safely offer a few in-person camps and began to transition our private music lessons back to being in-person. Many chose to remain online (and some still do). By November we felt an upswing and, much to our surprise, by February 2021 our Dance Studio was back to pre-COVID-19 participation and our Private Music Lesson Studio had nearly doubled.

Through COVID-19, our “how”’ became, and is still, an experiment. But our “why” became even more clear: people crave community, peace and love. And often they don’t realize that Christ is the ultimate source. Our conviction to use the arts for this purpose grew. Dance as a gateway to faith? Yep. Voice lessons as a path to peace? For sure. Robotics and rocketry to affirm creative problem-solving as a God-given gift? Musical theater to help kids find their lane?  Creative writing and calligraphy to gain community and collaboration?  Illustrating and cartooning to build imagination and to see God as the ultimate creator? Yes, to it all. It’s great art with a greater purpose.

We see relationships growing and God-moments emerging when we take notice and take interest. Like Katie who recognized the stressed-out look in one of her high school voice students. She asked a simple, “How’s it going?” and listened to the crazy week of deadlines the girl was navigating. Katie asked if she could pray for her. The girl responded with an exuberant “Yes!” Katie prayed for the girl, for the schoolwork stresses and for a clear

reminder that the girl’s value is not found in what she accomplishes but rather in who she is as a unique and beautiful person. Peace was gained through intentional interaction, in a random Tuesday voice lesson.

We see trust building when we take risks within the space of shared interest. Josh led his young dancers through a “repeat after me” exercise at the beginning of dance class. He encouraged them not to be afraid of looking silly, of trying new things or of falling down (literally and figuratively). They experienced the impact of shifting focus away from self—self-doubt, self-consciousness, self-pride—and toward freedom. They could feel it. In that exercise, trust grew. We’re eager to see what happens next.

Some say what we do is super cool, incredibly risky and highly unusual. Maybe they’re right—but what we know for sure is that we get to use our God-given gifts to spread God’s love. It’s a wild ride watching this intentional intersection of art and faith.

Cathy Beachy
Cathy Beachy is the director of Copper Hills Center for the Arts, a ministry of Copper Hills Church, a USMB congregation in Peoria, Arizona, that utilizes the arts to connect with and serve their neighborhood. Beachy is a graduate of Tabor College and received her master’s degree in Music Education-Choral Conducting from Arizona State University. She was the director of music and worship at First MB Church in Wichita, Kansas. Over the past 20 years she has served in a variety of leadership roles at Copper Hills Church. She and her husband Brian have two sons.

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