Her canorously vivid creativity is infused with stories of faith that give her work a unique edge, a far cry from any stereotypes of Christian art as insipid and clichéd.
Yvonne wasn’t given the best start in art at school. Being taught art in a Roman Catholic school Yvonne was told she wasn’t talented enough to be an artist; they recommended she should just teach art instead! Furthermore, her interest in art as an expression of faith was discouraged as art was seen as a purely secular pursuit; art was “unchristian” and art and faith should not mix, she was told.
After a full conversion experience a minister recommended she join the Anglican Church because of their openness to artists. There Yvonne discovered stained glass windows and their rich cultural heritage of the exploration of faith through art.
Yvonne’s first venture into making her own art started with a two-year college design course. She asked a friend to give her a title for a painting, and her friend’s response was “urban mission”. Initially puzzled by the title another friend pointed her to Isaiah 61:1-3, and her first painting took shape.
Her design project became a spiritual adventure. However, her college disliked it as they said it was “pushing a message”. Christian art is still not accepted in many galleries.
As Yvonne explains, the professional art establishment loves impressionist art but often fails to tell meaningful stories. Artists can charge vast amounts for art that shocks but doesn’t enrich. We’ve all heard a friend or stranger bemoan what the art establishment calls ‘great art’, with the public often estranged from the frivolous fashions of modern art. The colour that faith can add to art can be perceived as more virtuous than extortionate market ‘values’ endowed by the auctions of art fashion. Art that is filled with depth and meaning demands engagement.
Colour copies of her artwork are used in schools to teach RE, and they adorn the walls of theological students’ studies. She has also illustrated various Christian books, gives talks on Christian art, silk painting, vestments and icons. A number of her banners have been featured in books and on TV, including a few recently filmed episodes of ‘The Bill’.
Why not pop into the Circle Café for a coffee and to browse the whole exhibition for yourself?
This is part two of a series of posts on the range of English speaking and writing classes and groups that meet regularly at the Jesus Centre.
English for Speakers of Other Languages is a fifteen week course for those whose first language is not English.
It all started with occasional one-to-one sessions in our small Jesus Centre Pilot Project and has since ballooned to the over-subscribed classes we hold now. This has been largely down to the word-of-mouth recommendations of our students to others in their communities and friendship groups, who are often from similar ethnic backgrounds to themselves.
The Jesus Centre’s ESOL teaching follows a formal routine allowing us to provide fully accredited City & Guilds exams to all students. There are roughly 30 – 50 people that attend our ESOL classes each year with over 250 people estimated to have been through the course since it first started. In the last four years we put 25 students through City & Guilds exams with all but one passing all the units.
Our biggest problem now is how to meet capacity.
It’s amazing to think of the mobility afforded when people start to pick up confidence in speaking the national language. It all helps finding a job, asking questions, shopping, and getting help from agencies. Several students have been very grateful for receiving citizenships, made possible by their grasp of English. Last year an outside tutor who helped us to teach English in the past, a Hindu herself, referred one of her Hindu English students to us as she wanted to become a Christian.
The Jesus Centre has helped other Churches to set up free ESOL classes, who have then gone on to help other Churches in the same way.
Jenny Berisford, one of the ESOL tutors who runs our ‘Talk English’ class shares her experience:
I really enjoy working as a volunteer at the Jesus Centre.
Since we started the’ Talk English’ group I have met many people from other countries and made lots of friends. I’ve also learned some new skills myself. Its great to see the visitors to the group gaining confidence and learning how to speak ‘everyday’ English, such as what to say when going shopping, catching a train, ordering food in a café etc.
There’s quite a family atmosphere among the group and we sometimes cook together or share some food that’s typical of our country or culture. Visitors sometimes also receive prayer and join in weekend events.
We have a lot of fun, and there’s sometimes tears when someone tells their personal story.
ESOL classes meet twice on Thursdays:10:15 – 12:12 and 1:30 – 2:30
Fully accredited City & Guilds qualifications are available
There are two levels, with sixteen people in each group, now led by Bill, Elaine and their helpers
The ESOL course runs for up to two years with twelve week terms to reach pre- O Level grade