Contemplating the ‘blank canvas’

Beginnings can be a tricky thing.

As the 2018/19 TheoArtistry collaborations take form, each of our three student-led partnerships have commenced the task of creating their own innovative research projects. The first step in this process is narrowing down their research topic and the art forms they will utilise to explore creative methodologies in theology.

One of our participants, James, likened the prospect of devising a collaborative research project to the feeling of staring at a blank canvas. The art-maker is confronted by all kinds of possibilities for a brand new work. The space to create is ready and waiting; but without a clear sense of what you hope to achieve, the whole project can seem vague and undefined.

The vast potential signified by the canvas can be both marvellous and daunting. Our participants have an unparalleled opportunity to combine academic research and creative practice to achieve new insights in theology. With so many ideas, perspectives, and art forms available to them, how do our participants decide on just one direction for their project? Where do they begin?

To help our researchers navigate the blank canvas, each TheoArtistry partnership was called upon to compose a ‘Statement of Intent’ – a brief document in which the partnerships articulate their research focus, chosen art form(s), and intended outcomes for the project.

Participants pooled their ideas and agreed upon mutual research goals for their partnership based on group discussions and preliminary research. The creative skills and interests of participants also came to the fore as each partnership decided upon which art forms they would engage with practically during the collaborations.

In this way, the participants were able to contemplate the ‘blank canvas’ — and so achieve the vital first step of the student-led collaborations.

They have designed their research agendas; next, they will explore the process of combining artistic and academic research methods to uncover fresh insights in theology and the arts.

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