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"My Lady", Dona Spencer 2000. ciment fondu with marble chips. 170cm. Photo: Supplied

The art of creating community

Rev Dona Spencer was born in and grew up in Atherton, far north Queensland, where colour, texture and pattern feature strongly in the local tropical/farming landscape. She is the minister at Kenmore Uniting Church, Bremer Presbytery.

Which artwork do you consider to be your most significant?

A piece of work which has come to be of meaning and significance is “My Lady”, a sculpture made in 2000. She has travelled with me through four abodes and many changes in the last almost 20 years, even needing a mend when broken into three pieces by an intense storm in 2004. The removalists last year nicknamed her “Mother Theresa” after the now saint whom I had the privilege of meeting and volunteering with in 1980. She now stands in the garden beside a pond, serenely reflecting on the experiences of life, enhanced by her cracks—an allegorical reminder that we carry in our body the weaknesses that make us usable, and beautiful with age.

How do you use art as a teaching and preaching medium?
Because art and education have featured so strongly in my life, I preach most comfortably alongside visual imagery.

In a missional context, the practice of the visual arts provides a wonderfully safe space in which peoples of diverse beliefs and cultures can share. Flourish Arts Festival, KidzArt, the Visionaries group and other activities provided unique opportunities for community engagement at my first placement at Southport Uniting Church.

Installations can add richness to the sanctuary of a church, adding a visually inspired depth to the experience of worship. At Kenmore Uniting Church this year, the sanctuary design was adapted and built upon weekly (through creative congregational involvement) throughout Lent, culminating in a celebratory expression of resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Are there consistent themes or genres in your art?

The majesty and subtleties of God’s creations, and personal spiritual reflections of a theological nature are regular foci in my art. It has been a lifelong process of discovering with joy that the artistic process is a therapeutic and prophetic tool, but also one of prayer, drawing us into deeper intimacy with our creator God.

Do you have a medium of choice?

My own artwork has always been experimental with a focus on mixed media. The music I choose to accompany my art practice is integral to my creative process. I have enjoyed working in paint, pastel, mixed media, sculpture and mosaic, large and small.

One of my favourite activities has been the facilitation of murals and outdoor sculptures, including collaborative projects, to bring colour and vitality to the local environment, whether it be a school, public space or the church, or even my garden at home!

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