Creativity is intelligence having fun. Albert Einstein

Building a Portfolio of People

Building a Portfolio of People

by Marianne Lettieri

At the beginning of a new year artists tend to reflect on how they have progressed and what may be next in their art practice. Many of us plan to finish or abandon works in progress, excitedly prepare for new aesthetic investigations or just commit to cleaning up the mess in the studio. What should be near the top of everyone’s list is cultivating a portfolio of people to accompany them on their art journeys.

For investors a portfolio represents a group of assets reflecting the strategic goals of the trader who owns it. A student portfolio is a body of work used for assessing progress. An art portfolio is a collection of an artist’s best work intended to showcase skill and interests. In this vein, and at the beginning of this new year, we should take time to review the portfolio of people who have contributed to our professional and spiritual progress. We may find reasons to expand and diversify our network of relationships.

Besides hard work in the studio, networking may be the single most important skill for a sustainable art practice. Through community we tap into advice and knowledge, hear about opportunities, gain visibility, and form friendships with people who care about our art making. Relationships fuel the creative process and ultimately drive the art world. Without connections, even the best work won’t get noticed. For those who aspire to bring salt and light to the world through art informed by faith, joining together at every step of the process from inspiration to acquisition can be especially important.

Community and collaboration, however, are not necessarily the magic keys for unlocking creativity. In contrast, the personality traits of shyness and unsociability are positively associated with creativity according to a recent study published in the Elsevier journal, ScienceDirect[1]. Furthermore, scientists researching the question of “what makes a life well-lived” concluded after surveying 15,000 respondents that more intelligent people are happier when they socialize less frequently with friends.[2]

Well, those are fascinating research conclusions. Contemporary society has readily accepted the notion that creativity requires community. Pastors, human resource managers and educators have said that a life well-lived involves socializing. Now it seems the old myth might be true – the “singular genius who works alone” is much more likely to be creative than people who interact with others. Science tells us that solitude and independent work inspire original thoughts and collaboration stifles creativity.

So how, as artists, do we reconcile these seemingly conflicting views? Perhaps the divide is between the artist’s internal creative process and the external influences that either nurture or hold back the art’s viability. A useful analogy might be the germination of a seed compared to its cultivation, harvesting and marketing that ultimately puts food on the table. Being an artist is a lonely occupation. It has to be in order to get to the place where creativity happens, bringing forth something good and true. But periodically we must come out of our solitude to embrace the world, find encouragement and try to get our art noticed by an audience. Without a community our best work may stay inside us or tucked away in the studio. Peer groups and circles of influence not only make our work better, but also help us succeed in our art practices.

Thriving artists understand the power of networks. The more connections, the greater the possibility of knowing someone who knows someone who can provide just what is needed at the right time. The network thrives when we give back to the community as much as we take, being generous with our time and experiences.

Throughout history there are examples of artists creating dynamic communities that empowered one another to explore new directions through feedback and collaboration. The Inklings, a literary group that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, critiqued each other’s works-in-progress and challenged one another to do better. A group of misfit painters in 19th-century France, called the Impressionists, shared research into the physics of color to launch a new art movement.

Many artists of faith consider themselves outsiders, never quite fitting in anywhere. It is a wonderful thing to find people with whom we can talk about the faith component of our work, share constructive criticism and validate our vocational callings. For me it is like discovering family walking the same road. In community artists help those who need it, affirm and challenge each other to stay on track, and contribute collectively to the cultural conversation about art and faith. These relationships may not last forever because people move, passions change, life goes on. The connections, however, help us along a leg of the journey and sometimes they grow into lasting friendships.

The brilliance of a Christian art community is that all are invited to participate, sharing their skills and passions to bring an incarnational presence to culture. Reaching out to engage with others encourages us to keep creating. We draw from and give energy to each other regardless of where we are in the art hierarchy because we ascribe to a common calling and vision.

Connecting to a diverse community of creatives who also identify as Christians has never been easier. Today there is a rich assortment of opportunities to meet likeminded artists including internet-based resources, membership organizations, conferences, church-sponsored ministries, residencies, workshops and artist retreat centers. Here are a few websites that provide listings of organizations and events where artists can meet and network:,, and

Christians in the Visual Arts, a 40-year old membership organization based in the United States, brings together artists, collectors, critics, curators, scholars, and church leaders to explore the profound relationship between art and faith. Through my association with this group and networking with its members I have received art commissions, reviews, exhibitions, and invitations to publish, lecture, and teach. Perhaps the most rewarding benefit to me has been the privilege to mentor young women artists – Jesus followers who aspire to be cultural leaders.

Not everyone is interested in joining an organization and some of us do not have time or money to travel to conferences. Thankfully networking is free. Enterprising individuals often form their own local networks, gathering on a regular basis to talk about the intersection of art and faith, support their local art scene and discuss their work. All it takes is one or two people to get something started. Beware that when other artists who long to find their “tribe” hear about your little group, attendance might explode. In 2005 I asked a few artists of faith if they would like to meet monthly in our studios. Ten years later the group included 150 people from around the San Francisco Bay area, assembling to enjoy lectures, collaborations and fellowship.

Awesome professional networks like stunning art portfolios do not just happen. They are carefully curated and consistently updated. Relationships with those who share our passion and determination help us move forward professionally and spiritually. In this sense, who you know matters.


1. Marianne Lettieri: Connections and Intersections (detail). Interactive art project, 2014. 
2. Marianne Lettieri: The People, 2006.

Marianne Lettieri is a visual artist, whose mixed media constructions investigate individual and cultural values associated with everyday objects and discarded materials. She is especially interested in the process by which relics of the past illuminate and inform contemporary social and political contexts. She presents commonplace artifacts in new configurations, reinforcing the interconnectedness of people and communities through time and the shared human desire to remember. Recent solo exhibitions include Marianne Lettieri: Reflections at San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design; Strings Attached at Monterey Peninsula College; House/Work at Peninsula Museum of Art (Burlingame, CA); Evidence of Life at Doug Adams Gallery|Badè Museum and Changing Context at Azusa Pacific University. Her artworks are in the collections of San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, Oracle Corporation, and City of Palo Alto. She has an M.F.A. in Spatial Arts from San Jose State University and B.F.A. in Drawing and Printmaking from University of Florida. 


15 February 2020 / Imagination at Play

by Marianne Lettieri

To deny ourselves time to laugh, be with family and friends, and fuel our passions, we get caught in what Cameron calls the “treadmill of virtuous production.”


07 December 2019 / ArtWay Newsletter 2019

An update by our editor-in-chief 
the ArtWay List of Books 2019


16 November 2019 / Scottish Miracles and Parables Exhibition

Alan Wilson: "Can there be a renewal of Christian tradition in Scottish art, where ambitious artists create from a heartfelt faith, committed to their Lord and saviour as well as their craft?"


23 September 2019 / Dal Schindell Tribute

While Dal’s ads and sense of humour became the stuff of legends, it was his influence on the arts at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada that may be his biggest legacy. 


04 September 2019 / The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'


31 July 2019 / The Legend of the Artist

by Beat Rink

The image of the 'divine' artist becomes so dominant that artists take their orientation from it and lead their lives accordingly.


02 July 2019 / Quotes by Tim Keller

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29 May 2019 / Art Stations of the Cross: Reflections

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In its engagement with both Biblical and contemporary forms of suffering, the exhibition addressed complex topical issues without losing a sense of hope out of sight.


03 May 2019 / Marianne Lettieri: Relics Reborn

Items that show the patina of time and reveal the wear and tear of human interaction are carriers of personal and collective history. 


27 April 2019 / Franciscan and Dominican Arts of Devotion

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This manner of prayer stirs up devotion, the soul stirring the body, and the body stirring the soul.


13 March 2019 / Makoto Fujimura and the Culture Care Movement

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01 December 2018 / ArtWay Newsletter December 2018

ArtWay has Special Plans for 2019!

After London, Washington D.C. and New York the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is now the anticipated location for a prominent art exhibition with the title Art Stations of the Cross.


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Book Review by Jonathan Evens

The significance and spirituality of the work is made clear in ways which counteract the stereotype of mass production of a static style.


13 September 2018 / A Visit to the Studio of Georges Rouault

by Jim Alimena

Everything we saw and learned reinforced my picture of a great man of faith and a great artist. 


09 August 2018 / With Opened Eyes: Representational Art

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How do we respond to the ‘lost innocence’ of representational art? 


13 July 2018 / True Spirituality in the Arts

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Living in Christ should lead us away from living with a segregated view of life, having a sacred-secular split. 


17 May 2018 / Beholding Christ in African American Art

Book review by Victoria Emily Jones

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23 April 2018 / Short Introduction to Hans Rookmaaker

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04 April 2018 / International Art Residency in India

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15 March 2018 / The Stations of the Cross at Blackburn Cathedral

by Penny Warden  

Perhaps the central challenge for the artist in imaging the body of Christ is the problem of representing the dual natures of the doctrine of the incarnation.


23 February 2018 / Between the Shadow and the Light

By Rachel Hostetter Smith

In June 2013 a group of twenty North American and African artists from six African countries met for two weeks of intensive engagement with South Africa.


30 January 2018 / Sacred Geometry in Christian Art

by Sophie Hacker

This blog unravels aspects of sacred geometry and how it has inspired art and architecture for millennia. 


01 January 2018 / Jonathan Evens writes about Central Saint Martins

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06 December 2017 / ArtWay Newsletter December, 2017

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14 November 2017 / The Moral Imagination: Art and Peacebuilding

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24 October 2017 / Bruce Herman: Ut pictura poesis?

For the last couple hundred of years the arts have largely been in "experimentation mode"—moving away from the humble business of craft and service toward ideas, issues, and theory.


04 October 2017 / David Jeffrey: Art and Understanding Scripture

The purpose of In the Beauty of Holiness: Art and the Bible in Western Culture is to help deepen the reader’s understanding of the magnificence of the Bible as a source for European art.


08 September 2017 / David Taylor: The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'


23 August 2017 / ​Reconstructed by Anikó Ouweneel

A much talked-about exposition in the NoordBrabants Museum in The Netherlands showed works by modern and contemporary Dutch artists inspired by traditional Catholic statues of Christ and the saints. 


04 July 2017 / Pilgrimage to Venice – The Venice Biennale 2017

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24 June 2017 / Collecting as a Calling

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02 June 2017 / I Believe in Contemporary Art

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04 April 2017 / Stations of the Cross - Washington, DC 2017

by Aaron Rosen

We realized that the Stations needed to speak to the acute anxiety facing so many minorities in today’s America and beyond. 


07 March 2017 / Socially Engaged Art

A discussion starter by Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin

Growing dissatisfaction with an out-of-touch, elite and market driven art world has led artists to turn to socially engaged art. 


01 February 2017 / Theodore Prescott: Inside Sagrada Familia

The columns resemble the trunks of trees. Gaudi conceived of the whole interior as a forest, where the nave ceiling would invoke the image of an arboreal canopy.


03 January 2017 / Steve Scott tells about his trips to Bali

In the Balinese shadow play the puppet master pulls from a repertoire of traditional tales and retells them with an emphasis on contemporary moral and spiritual lessons. 


09 December 2016 / Newsletter ArtWay December 2016

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01 November 2016 / LAbri for Beginners

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30 September 2016 / Book Review by Jonathan Evens

Jonathan Koestlé-Cate, Art and the Church: A Fractious Embrace - Ecclesiastical Encounters with Contemporary Art, Routledge, 2016.


01 September 2016 / Review: Modern art and the life of a culture

The authors say they want to help the Christian community recognize the issues raised in modern art and to do so in ways that are charitable and irenic. But I did not find them so. Their representation of Rookmaaker seems uncharitable and at times even misleading. 


29 July 2016 / Victoria Emily Jones on Disciplining our Eyes

There’s nothing inherently wrong with images—creating or consuming. In fact, we need them. But we also need to beware of the propensity they have to plant themselves firmly in our minds. 


30 June 2016 / Aniko Ouweneel on What is Christian Art?

Pekka Hannula challenges the spectator to search for the source of the breath we breathe, the source of what makes life worth living, the source of our longing for the victory of redemptive harmony.


09 June 2016 / Theodore Prescott: The Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is a visual encyclopedia of Christian narrative and Catholic doctrine as Gaudi sought to embody the faith through images, symbols, and expressive forms.


19 May 2016 / Edward Knippers: Do Clothes make the Man?

Since the body is the one common denominator for all of humankind, why do we fear to uncover it? Why is public nudity a shock or even a personal affront?


27 April 2016 / Alexandra Harper: Culture Care

Culture Care is an invitation to create space within the local church to invest our talents, time and tithes in works that lean into the Kingdom of God as creative agents of shalom. 


06 April 2016 / Jonathan Evens on Contemporary Commissions

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12 March 2016 / Betty Spackman: Creativity and Depression

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24 February 2016 / Jim Watkins: Augustine and the Senses

Augustine is not saying that sensual pleasure is bad, but that it is a mixed good. As his Confessions so clearly show, Augustine is painfully aware of how easily he can take something good and turn it into something bad. 


11 February 2016 / H.R. Rookmaaker: Does Art Need Justification?

Art is not a religion, nor an activity relegated to a chosen few, nor a mere worldly, superfluous affair. None of these views of art does justice to the creativity with which God has endowed man.


26 January 2016 / Ned Bustard: The Bible is Not Safe

Revealed is intended to provoke surprise, even shock. It shows that the Bible is a book about ordinary people, who are not only spiritual beings, but also greedy, needy, hateful, hopeful, selfish, and sexual.


14 January 2016 / Painting by Nanias Maira from Papua New Guinea

In 2011 Wycliffe missionary Peter Brook commissioned artist Nanias Maira, who belongs to the Kwoma people group of northwestern Papua New Guinea, to paint Bible stories in the traditional style for which he is locally known.