Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Enjoy this detailed interview with Anthony Patterson and Jennifer Garrett, the microchurch leaders for Melanation: As You Art. Hear what they're doing to connect with their community.
What's the name of your microchurch and what is it about?
AP: Melanation: As You Art. A movement dedicated to serving, empowering and building community with artists of color in St. Petersburg.
JG: Yeah, what AP said. We exist as an outreach that serves and supports melanated artists in our city.
Tell me about the people you serve.
AP: They’re aspiring professionals, hobbyists, people using art to grieve and more.
JG: The people we serve are young, extremely talented Black and Brown folk who live for their art. Some are business owners, so it’s been cool to support their work. Some are local to St. Pete, some have moved away, but we try to stay connected.
What are the major challenges your ministry is facing right now?
AP: Art is typically seen and performed. So it’s tough for a lot of people to cope. Especially people who made a living playing their music or holding events.
JG: Yeah, I think our major challenge has been being unable to gather in general. I think over the past year that we’ve been together, I’ve seen how our meetups have offered a space of community and honest friendship. Many artists we meet may struggle with anxiety and depression so human interaction is important to their growth and peace.
What (if anything) is your microchurch doing currently?
AP: We’re trying to stay in touch by providing a platform for people to showcase their art. So far we hosted a 4 hour long Instagram Live session.
JG: Well, we’ve been trying to connect with folks individually, calling, texting, sharing other online art events, I’m personally planning to do a few one-on-one video art dates with some of the artists this month so we’ll see how that goes. But like AP mentioned, we did this really dope Instagram Live Art show and we got to feature at 5 different artists including ourselves. I’m excited to start planning the next one this month.
What is one thing that you tried that worked, and what is one thing that you tried that didn’t work?
AP: I think taking initiative and being bold has worked well so far. On a more vulnerable and transparent note, trying to do nothing absolutely did not work. I can get in my head trying to think for everyone. That typically leads to doing nothing because it’s so overwhelming.
JG: I think reaching out and checking in with folks has worked so far, even though it’s a bit of a slow process; people take time to get back to you, conversations might be cut short. But overall I agree with AP. I think when we tried to “give people space” at first, it felt like our movement was growing more distant, and at that time I heard from more artists how lonely they had been feeling. So taking a while to respond at first was something that didn’t work so well.
How have people responded to things your ministry is currently doing? How have the people that you’re serving seen God work?
AP: Honestly I have no idea what God’s doing right now but it feels like a spark. Something that keeps the light on in a dark time. Even five minutes of light feels very valuable right now.
JG: Yeah, I would agree with AP. I don’t know that this 4 hour Art Live event and these one-on-one check ins are necessarily the cure to their stress and isolation. But I think they definitely help! A few artists I reached out to really enjoyed seeing and hearing the live art performances and if felt like just what they needed in the moment. It encouraged a few of our artists to be more open to share their art with others, some even want to be on the next Art Live event!
What is one thing you are hopeful for your ministry coming out of quarantine?
AP: We had a lot of momentum going into March. It’s fairly obvious how much the arts were missed. I hope we’ll take less things for granted. It feels silly to say but you really have to pursue what’s on your heart today because tomorrow, how you envision it, is not promised.
JG: Yes, this is very true. We had just launched our in-person Caramel Cafe Meet-ups and we were getting ready to launch an Art Fundraiser for Puerto Rico and partner with a local gallery when all this happened. My hope is that we pick up with a new momentum, that’s different than before but has grown into a somehow deeper bond with these artists. I feel like performing together and checking in on each other gives us that opportunity.
How are you doing as a leader?
AP: I’m in a constant struggle of being legitimately proud of what we are doing and feeling like there’s so much more to do. Though a gracious call, the call of Jesus is to be excellent in love. It’s a tough task.
JG: Honestly, I’m doing all right. I think I’ve accepted the fact that things won’t look perfect right now, and I can’t gather with my Melanation friends to discuss art and pop-culture. But I’m learning to rest right now and lean into my art is my connection with Jesus. It’s been kind of freeing actually.
What is one thing you are hopeful for you personally during quarantine?
AP: It’s really the same no matter what’s going on in the world, my biggest challenge and hope is to be kinder to myself. For a long time I used the mask of arrogance to hide behind self-loathing. In my case, caring for myself allows me to care for others better.
JG: Hopefully, I can personally get back the time I miss with my family. I feel that during our Saturday yard days when my son and I can tend to our garden and care for all our new plants. I feel like Jesus is teaching me a new art form through gardening and i’ve been reflecting a lot on his care for me through that.
Is there something Jesus is putting on your heart to prepare for when quarantine lifts?
AP: A wave of grief has washed over us all during this time. We are going to need extra time to deal and heal with that. It’s going to be a time where I need to be quick to listen and slow to anger.
JG: I think the reminder that busying ourselves again with “Ministry Tasks” won’t work. Just like it hasn’t for this time in quarantine. However the new changes happen, I just know we’ll have to be creative, and flexible in serving our people best.
The St. Pete Underground is a faith-based non-profit missional movement that empowers local missionaries to live out their God-given dreams. To learn more about the St. Pete Underground and Melanation check out their microchurch page here.