An expression of yourself

New arts outreach center hopes to give a voice to many

EVART – Dan Goddard has seen where art, faith and therapy meet.

A potter since the age of 12, Goddard has witnessed what the power of the arts has for people whose voices have been been quieted by trauma, mental or physical handicap as well as tragedy.

After more than 10 years of successful arts groups throughout Louisiana, Texas and Minnesota, Goddard, who recently became the pastor at the South Evart Free Methodist Church, has brought with him an ambition to share his love of pottery as an outlet for not only members of the church but the entire surrounding community.

This love of art is why Goddard, and his wife, Beth, a best-selling Christian author, wanted to start an art outreach center at their new home in Evart.

“Art does something for everyone,” he said, before the first night of the pottery class. “It reaches inside us, it empowers us.”

The idea, while new to many areas, is something Goddard has seen firsthand help under-served populations in areas who have experienced some form of trauma, including war veterans, at-risk youth and survivors of domestic violence or sexual abuse.

“As a pastor at a small country church in the middle of the bayou in Louisiana, it was an idea that I wanted to try,” he said. “There was an aging population, closed off from a lot of the outside. They didn’t want to change, they had their own language, and it was to a younger generation that didn’t want to go to church. Breaking down that barrier of language, it was important to use arts as a language.”

Goddard, who attended the prestigious Archie Bray Foundation, public, nonprofit, educational institution offering residencies and specialized workshops to ceramic artists from around the world, before finding his calling as a pastor, said the change started slower in the smaller communities, but soon they were using arts as a language.

“It’s a therapeutic outlet for many people,” Goddard said. “It doesn’t matter who they are or what hardship they’ve faced or if they’re at-risk, if you focus on the health of every person the community benefits.

“I guess you would say that I’m not what anyone would call a traditional-minded pastor.”

Goddard is quick to point out the art provides a therapeutic environment for those taking part, saying he’s watched those with cognitive impairments and mental health issues find a voice through their art in state-sponsored therapy sessions at the outreach ran by the City of Austin and the church he was serving as pastor.

“In other states, like Texas, there is state funding for programs like this,” he explained. “So, we steer clear from the term therapy, but it’s clearly a therapeutic experience for some people who wouldn’t normally have a voice.”

Goddard said his own observations of how art has helped others, include people finding an audience for their work who normally wouldn’t be followed.

“As an artist, they have their own signature pieces that have a following. You know a piece was done by them,” he said.

Goddard said the bigger cities have been quite receptive of the idea of an outreach center.

“Where there are dealers and museums and shows, when you’re around a high density of artists, it can actually become quite competitive among the artists,” he said.

While Goddard has no ambition to returning to a time where production was a major part of his life, the pastor said right now, the best way he can give back to the community is through teaching others about pottery.

“Production can actually be very lucrative,” he said. “I’m more focused on teaching others now.”

Goddard began the pottery session by explaining the basics of pottery to the participants, from the tools they will be using as well as how to throw the clay.

“That might not be the most exciting part, learning about all the little things, but whenever you’re teaching them about something new, you focus on safety first,” he said. “Then, you let them get a hands-on experience with the clay and pottery and let them create something of their very own.”

Goddard’s class, comprised of mostly church members, is open to anyone who would like to learn about pottery or themselves, he said.

“I hope they get a passion of the arts, and it doesn’t have to be about pottery, as that’s just one outlet for them,” he said, adding that he’d like to expand it to include more. “We started a worship jam and hope to develop a studio for their pieces.”

The two-and-a-half pottery sessions are being held at the parsonage right now. There is a small cost for the tools necessary for pottery and the clay. However, Goddard said in actual classes, the costs would be so much more.

“I don’t focus on that,” he said. “It’s about the experience. It’s about art.”