The Art of Using Art as Ministry

“Love your neighbor” was the anthem Amy Swacina followed when she moved to the Ruzafa neighborhood in Valencia, Spain five years ago. The area is home to artists, musicians, dancers and, of course, non-Christians.  As a trained dancer, her love for the arts and artists made this area quickly feel like home. Amy and her team's desire was to build a missional community whose members would work and worship together while sharing daily life with their neighbors. For the past five years, this new Communitas church plant has done exactly that.

Their church name is Poiema Colectiva, Poiema which in Greek means “masterpiece.” The word is the root for the Spanish words poem and poetry. In the Biblical context, Poiema means something made by God himself—a fitting name for such a creative area. Poiema Colectiva’s focus is building meaningful relationships with friends and neighbors. Developing rapport with new neighbors can be challenging, so Poiema Colectiva looks for opportunities to serve with the hope that relationships will blossom.

A commitment to service is one of the beautiful characteristics of this missional community. Because the Communitas staff team resides in the area where they live, work and play, the community’s needs are easy to see. While the Ruzafa neighborhood is home to beautiful art, it has also attracted unwelcome graffiti. Shops in Ruzafa have blinds that cover their front doors and windows. The graffiti is expensive to remove, so most shop owners are forced to live with the disheartening vandalism.

Poiema Colectiva decided to offer their time and talents to counteract the grafitti by offering to paint some of the blinds—a creative solution that did more than erase the graffiti. 

“We’ve found that if there is something nice painted on the blinds, vandals tend to leave them alone,” Amy said. 

The church members collaborated with the shop owners on designs compatible for each business. Throughout the design and painting process, the shop owners remained involved. 

“We’ve painted two churches, a restaurant, a cafe, a co-working space for artists, a dentist's office, a bike rental place, and a copy/paper shop,” Amy said. So far, none of the blinds have been vandalized and the church still has relationships with a number of the business owners.

To outsiders, this project may seem insignificant. While a little graffiti might seem to be a small matter, it can foster negative emotions within the affected neighborhood. The missional community that Amy and others have created felt those emotions and were able to offer not just sympathy, but a positive solution. 

Poiema Colectiva is one of over one hundred churches and projects in the Communitas movement. As this community shows, blessing and serving a neighborhood is more than meeting a practical need; it means empathizing with residents and building relationships while finding innovative solutions.

"The neighborhood of Ruzafa values art and beauty and we believe that these values are a reflection of our Creator," Amy said.  "I'm thankful that by painting one shop blind at a time, we are able to live out those values and share Christ's creative beauty with our neighborhood and city."

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