Happiness is the theme of the inaugural Ashrei exhibition currently running at Woollahra Seventh-day Adventist Church.
A year and a half ago, Pastor Daniel Przybylko was looking for ways that Woollahra Seventh-day Adventist Church (NSW) could connect with their community. He decided to start a painting group as he enjoyed painting himself and knew a professional artist, Christina Rogers, who would be willing to give lessons.
Using the Meetup platform, he created a group for people interested in taking painting lessons. For $A30, people could attend a Sunday painting class and enjoy a vegetarian lunch afterwards. To his surprise, at least 20 people from the community came to the first class.
"I'd encourage every church to have a think about what their community needs or is interested in. Then do it."
The classes continued each month with anywhere from 6 to 15 students attending each session. Daniel decided that the next step should be to have an exhibition that the students could display their artwork in and that the community could come in and enjoy. He then chose to add the incentive of a $1500 cash prize that he advertised as “the Ashrei Art Prize”.
While reading a book about the Psalms, Daniel had come across the word Ashrei and learned that it was a Hebrew word meaning “happy” or “blessed”. He thought it would be a good theme for the exhibition and encouraged entrants to create art that would uplift people and motivate them to live happier lives. He then distributed postcards advertising the exhibition to cafes, art schools and local galleries.
The Ashrei exhibition was launched on September 16. Almost 40 artworks were displayed in the main exhibition including paintings, photographs and sculptures. There was also a separate room in which people could view copies of paintings featured in Hope Channel series Masterstroke and screens where they could watch the short films that accompanied the Masterstroke artworks.
“That room is a highlight for me,” says Daniel. “It added a spiritual dimension to the event.”
Artists still have the opportunity to win the People’s Choice prize through votes submitted at the exhibition during the week (it will be open this Monday to Thursday from 5pm to 8:30pm).
Following the end of the exhibition, people are invited to join Woollahra church in doing the Live More Project, a ten-week wellness initiative created by the South Pacific Division. More than 20 people have already registered.
“Around 150 people attended the launch and most of them were from the community,” says Daniel.
“The reaction I’ve had from church members is that it was an amazing event. For me, personally, it was lots of hard work. But yes, I’d do it again. We live in a community that is interested in art—it makes sense to do it here.”
He’s grateful to his church members for getting behind the exhibition.
“It wouldn’t have happened without their support,” he says. “I’d encourage every church to have a think about what their community needs or is interested in. Then do it.”