Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Trinity Art Conference: The Aftermath

I've been back from Dallas for a couple of days now, and I'm still trying to sort out what I learned from the conference.  There are some practical things I learned about writing, as well as some specific things about the piece I took with me, but I'm still trying to figure out what I really learned.  What lessons about Christianity and the arts will stick with me?  I suppose I'll have to go over the notes I took for that.  Unfortunately, I take lousy notes.

Anyway, my notes may be lousy, but the conference itself was not.  I enjoyed pretty much everything, from the speakers, to the people, to the workshops, to the art show, to the music, etc.  The speakers were all engaging, covering the theme of change and the arts.  Again, I'll consult my notes and post on that later, but in the mean time you can check out the text of Andy Whitman's lecture at his blog (Razing the Bar) in this post.

Who is Andy Whitman, you ask?  Why, Andy is a music aficionado who writes for Paste Magazine, Christianity Today, and  He loves music of nearly every sort, and he gave us a view of change from the critic's perspective, though he hates the term critic.  Andy was one of my favorite people at the conference, not because he spoke so well, but because I had a heckuva time just watching him enjoy the music at the show.  As the band played, Andy sat in his seat wearing a smile and moving to the music.  There was a look of true delight on his face, and he actually whooped a time or two.

What band was it that filled Andy Whitman with rapturous delight, you ask?  Why, Gretel, of course!  Gretel is a three-person band, made up of singer/songwriter/guitar player Reva Williams, bass player Phil DePertuis, and jill of all trades Melissa Myers.  And let me say, Andy was right to be delighted.  I was completely BLOWN AWAY by Gretel this past weekend.  Reva writes great lyrics, and her voice is powerful.  She is angsty and intense, while Melissa's back-up vocals are more gentle . . . angelic, if I may use the term.  Phil's voice is good as well, and he sings the third part in a few songs.  They are musically creative as well, and I will definitely make the effort to see them the next time they're in St. Louis.

The other three speakers were Greg Wolfe, Ann McCutchan, and Bruce Herman.  Winners all.  Hopefully I can write a bit about their lectures later.  I was really excited to get to work with Greg in the writers' workshop, but that didn't happen.  I wasn't able to shoehorn myself in during one of the sessions he attended.  I also tried to strike up a conversation with him, but that proved problematic as well.  No, he wasn't rude, it was just one of those situations where I couldn't come up with anything to say.  All I could do was ask him questions about literature, which exposed my ignorance on the subject.  He was perfectly friendly, but I couldn't get a good conversation going.  Alas, alack, a lump.

The upside to getting in on that last workshop was that we had a smaller group, so Ann McCutchan could spend more time focusing on individuals.  It wasn't a great deal of time, but it was better than it had been in the other workshops.  Ann was a lot of fun and she had plenty of helpful advice.  She writes creative non-fic, but she was perfectly capable of looking over my fiction.  I got the feeling she's read a novel or two.  The people from my workshop decided to give more detailed responses to all the work we brought, and Ann sent out an e-mail today saying that she was going to give a more detailed response as well.  That was exciting to me because for some reason I didn't think she was going to be involved in that.  She's a pro, after all, and a professor.  I figured she would be too busy, but I should have known that she wouldn't just blow us off after the conference.  She was too kind for that sort of thing.

Bruce Herman was the speaker I spent the least time with, though I did get to sit with him and a few others at the end of dinner one day.  I liked him a lot as a person, and I love his paintings.  I can't describe them properly, so just go to his website and check them out.  He's phenomenally talented, and he works hard at his craft.  Again, I can't really remember his lecture, so I'll have to check my terrible notes.

So the conference was well worth the money we paid for it.  Depending on our circumstances next year, I would love to go back.  The speakers will be different (except for maybe Greg Wolfe, as he's been there every year but one), but I know a lot of the same attendees will be, and they were also a part of what made the conference so great.  Friendly, creative people who love the Lord intensely.  How's that for a change?


Anonymous said...

YAAAYYY! You went! When I've gone through evals and conferences I found all became clearer in retrospect. I'll give you a call to talk to you more about it.

Rex Queems (the phony)

Andy Whitman said...

Hi, Josh. It was great to meet you at TAC. I wish we'd had more time to hang out together. For the record, I whoop on almost a daily basis.

Joshua Duncan said...


I guess I'm just not used to whooping. I am Presbyterian, after all.

I'll do my best to get back to TAC next year. Maybe I'll see you there!