Creative Planning for this Spring’s Conferences

Lyn Kelsey
South Bend, Indiana

The Arts find their truest expression when shared. It’s when the intent of the artist touches the heart, mind, soul of another, that a God-given gift finds fruition. But creativity often requires dedicated time for inspiration to unfold. As Bahá’ís around the region begin preparation for the upcoming conferences, (described in the September 15, 2020 message from the Universal House of Justice), the time to develop individual creative expression, group projects and coordinated efforts with friends of the faith starts now.

Early consideration of the artistic and creative components to be incorporated into the programme would allow for some of the preparations for these to be made well in advance.

The Universal House of Justice, September 15 2020

For Bahá’ís, a brainstorm is an act of creativity in and of itself — a time of sharing, generating excitement, and true joy. Recently at a deepening with a group of Friends, a number of great ideas were shared. We were inspired by this list from the Regional Council’s “Q&A about the Conferences”.

Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS): Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing: Artistic works mark historic occasion

Artistic and creative expressions might include: visual arts such as photography, drawing, painting, and murals; musical expressions that include collective singing, drumming, improvisation and composing, etc.; dramatic presentations—plays, skits, poetry, and spoken word; sculpture, wood-carving, ceramics, and pottery; fabric arts such as weaving, quilting, beadwork, knitting and crochet, tie-dye and batique; and other folk arts that reflect the diverse populations of local communities. (See the “Arts” section of the Q&A page.)

Indigenous art incorporating the Bahá’í Ring Symbol. BWNS: Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing: Artistic works mark historic occasion

With respect to artistic contributions, these should be a natural welling-up from the grassroots in response to the purpose of the conferences, rather than professional performances—however well-meant—that in the end entertain or at best make participants passive recipients. It may be useful at this juncture to devise a way to become aware of existing artistic endeavors as well as emerging ones that can be encouraged over the coming months, so that the conferences may benefit from them. — From a recent consultation between the National Spiritual Assembly and Regional Bahá’í Councils

It’s important to remember that we are being asked to include both Bahá’ís and Friends of the Faith in our conferences. And that children and youth activities are a central component. Here are just a few additional ideas you may want to use, adapt or springboard from, during your planning phase.

Indigenous beadwork from Canada inspired by “the flowers of one garden”.
  • A community art show with works based on inspiration from the Bahá’í writings — perhaps held at the conference, then later moved to a public library, neighborhood center or city/county facility.
  • Bring words and culture together. Include prayers in various languages. Is there someone in your community who chants? How about chanting lessons? Share your new skill during devotional times at the conferences, and to enrich community life afterwards.
  • Ask singers and musicians in your community to perform, write new pieces, individually, or as part of a collaborative effort.
  • Do you have an animated storyteller in your community? Consider the benefits of story time for children and junior youth, as well as adults.
  • Ask individuals skilled in the healing arts to develop art therapy projects for Friends in neighborhoods where trauma is present.
  • Develop devotionals for virtual presentation, or in-person at the conferences.
  • Develop dramatic presentations for the conference, then ask your parks department for permission to offer culturally inspired skits and plays for the public.
  • Bring together gardeners during the conference to reflect on the selfless actions of Abdul’-Bahá. Vacant lots in city neighborhoods can sometimes be used during the summer as a community garden that helps to combat food insecurity. Surplus from personal gardens can be offered at a “giving table”. Planning, spring tilling, planting, tending and harvesting together is a great community strengthening activity, and an act of service.
  • Approach building owners and park department supervisors now to ask about walls where a mural might be painted. Invite local artists to design it with a message of unity, and bring together friends and neighbors to help them to paint it.
  • Engage the “Spoken Word”. Hold an outdoor, or porch coffee house/poetry reading with selections from the Writings, and original works. Ask bakers to make cakes and cookies to serve to guests.
  • Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) often accept washable, hand knitted or crochet hats for premature babies.
  • Work together with other seamstresses to make quilts, with quotes from the Writings embroidered around the edge, for nursing home residents, or an elder in your neighborhood.
  • Begin developing a photo journal with inspiration from the Writings to share at the conferences.
  • Create drum circles and invite participants to engage in fireside style practice sessions. Invite drummers to perform at the conference.

Consider submitting the ideas you develop with others in the region. Email your ideas to the Regional Council..

A group of children in Australia created these origami pieces after reading a story about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He sells an expensive coat that He had received in order to buy more coats for those in need. BWNS: Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing: Artistic works mark historic occasion
In Switzerland, participants of Bahá’í community-building activities drew on their diverse cultural backgrounds to create this quilt featuring metaphors inspired by the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The quilt was gifted to their local community center. Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS): Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing: Artistic works mark historic occasion