Artist Rusty Lynn carefully dabs at orange and blue paint, layering the colors with slips of paper at the Lab at Convergence, an Alexandria initiative that mixes faith and art. A painter and collage maker who also dabbles in sculpture, the North Fairlington resident was looking for a studio and found Convergence in 2008.
“It’s a rare, rare, very rare combination of church and arts center,” Lynn told Patch. “The people here are very interested in all aspects of the creative process, encouraging painters, sculpters, musicians, writers, dancers, and lots of different opportunities for learning and growing are offered here.”
Five artists currently work out of the Convergence Artists’ Center, the Lab. Lynn is currently preparing for an upcoming show entitled “Creation, Destruction, Creation.”
Convergence, located at 1801 N. Quaker Lane, calls itself a “creative community of faith.” Lisa Smith, pastor of the Church at Convergence and executive director for the arts initiative, called Convergence a “place of resourcing artists and creatives to kind of be whole, healthy people and to own their sense of calling and belief that they can do it."
“We’re really here to facilitate and resource artists to be who they were created to be,” Smith said. “That’s the bottom line. And as a church, we’re a church for people who are looking for something more maybe than they’ve gotten in other church settings, where they’re allowed to be more involved, more questioning, more creative. So we’re asking people to embrace creativity as part of their faith.”
The church is Baptist in affilation and attracts people from diverse backgrounds. Formerly, the chapel was Fair-Park Baptist Church, which was founded in the 1940s but eventually saw its membership decline. That’s where Convergence stepped in.
“The idea was to create this space that was for people like me and others that I had started to meet who were artists as well as kind of looking for space to explore their faith,” said Smith, who has a background in theater. “But on the other hand, really believing that the arts are important, and it’s really necessary for the church to re-engage that and, I think, very powerful for churches to advocate for the arts.”
The church meets for church services, which range in style, at the chapel at 5 pm. Sunday. Recently, the congregation participated in a Tiazé-style service based on a French version of silence, simple singing and prayer. The congregation is small — about 40 people — but word of mouth is spreading.
The church also provides classes, including the Artist’s Way, which focuses on overcoming obstacles to creating art; a recent class called Crazed to Confidence, to help right-brained people get organized; Improvisation Tools and Techniques, which helps build confidence for artists; Mindful Meditation; and a writer’s group. Artists at Convergence include writers, painters, dancers, singers, musicians and actors.
Dan Norsworthy, coordinator of a convergence program called Lab All Ages, said his main focus is working with teens and young adults, catering to the DIY, or do-it-yourself community.
“I do it because I believe in this community, and I believe in the DIY ethics that people have, and I believe that if you keep working together, then this is going to be this really magnificent thing, and it’s already becoming that,” he said.
The current show on display at Convergence is entitled, “Letters, Words, Stories,” artist’s books and mixed media by Sushmita Mazumdar. It runs through Jan. 1.