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A Rockford church is using art to create connections

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Yvonne Boose
Goddess Warrior The Poet and Milwaukee Hot Club answering audience questions

A Rockford church is using art to help bridge the gap in the community.

Scott Stolberg, the associate pastor at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, said there’s a space within the church called the “bridge,” which he thought would be a great space for art displays. He said it also reminded him of something else.

“Charlotte's Web, which was a place in Rockford a long time ago, that did this kind of thing,” he explained. “They would have different artists come in. Sometimes it was a poet, a lecture, and I thought, ‘what if we had a night that had all those things, music, poetry, art installation?”

Stolberg said after the entertainment is done, the goal is to have the community connect through dialog.

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Yvonne Boose
Associate Pastor Scott Stolberg

“Because we haven't done that all during the pandemic. And how do we get back into a place where we all feel safe expressing whatever it is we feel about,” he said. “And that we can hear each other without violence, without anger, and we're not making demands of each other?”

The name of the space and the Charlotte’s Web experience inspired the church to create “The Bridge: Events That Connect.”

The first one took place Friday evening. The theme was centered around International Artist Day, which is observed each year on Oct. 25.

Lou Larson lives in Roscoe. He and his wife are members of the church and are involved in community outreach. He said communication is the main goal of the night.
“There’re so many different ways to communicate,” he said. “You can communicate with poetry. You can communicate with conversation and question/answer. And then, just entertaining music.”

Yvonne Boose
Milwaukee Hot Club Performing during the Bridge event.

Jazz band Milwaukee Hot Club hit the stage first.

Band member, Guy Fiorentini, said events like these are necessary.

“I feel like we got to build a whole lot of bridges, for our survival as a people as on this planet,” he said. “It feels like our country is just coming apart at the seams. We're facing unprecedented ecological and infrastructure problems.”

Fiorentini said that art can work as an adhesive that strings people together.

Dianna Tyler also known as Goddess Warrior the Poet took part in the event. She said Rockford has a lot of artists.

“And if we could give a platform where they can connect, to say, ‘Hey, I do this, you do that, let's work together. The same way myself and the band just worked together tonight, it was improv, but we came together,” she added.

Yvonne Boose
Goddess Warrior The Poet

Stolberg said that last performance, where the artists came together, was the synergy he was hoping for.

The plan is for this to be a quarterly occasion, but Stolberg is envisioning something monthly down the line. Stolberg said these gatherings aren't intended to convince people to come to church.

"If somebody comes back and goes, 'You know, I'm reminded I should get back with my church.' We think that's a wonderful thing," he said. "Of course, being a pastor, my pastor's heart says absolutely right. But the social justice part of my heart is saying first, how do we create community in a way that is purposeful?"

The next Bridge experience will focus on mental health. It’s scheduled to take place on Jan.13. Participating artists will be compensated.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.