Poiema Project at JBU invites students on a creative spiritual journey

“Created by a Creator to create,” is the motto Erin Shaw, assistant professor of Visual Arts at John Brown University, and Tracy Balzer, author, Interim University Chaplain and Director of Christian Formation at JBU, said when describing the new Creative Culture Care course and the Poiema Project at JBU.

Balzer calls the new course to be offered in Fall 2021 “a collaboration of art and spiritual formation” and a recognition of the “contentious world” people live in, including the church, with an emphasis in creating a connection with God and each other. “We were created by a Creator to create, and you don’t have to be an artist to join in on that effort,” she said.

The class will focus on how artistic pieces like poetry, films and acts of hospitality can contribute to the world. Discussions will address how cultural creation can spread God’s work and provide a deeper connection between each other.

Balzer and Shaw acknowledged how “everyone creates” tangible works, like photography, positive attitudes or a worship service, and intangible works, like joy, hope or “unseen” creations.

Shaw quoted Makoto Fujimura, an artist and author, as an inspiration for the course and supplemental hosted events on campus. She also referenced Andy Crouch, author of “Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling,” who defined culture as “what we make of the world” to describe the practical meaning culture has on everybody’s life.

The course is listed as ART 3883-01 and will take place every Wednesday from 2-4:30 p.m. Shaw is the course’s instructor with Balzer set as a guest instructor throughout the 15-week semester. The course will count as an elective for art majors or replace an art core credit or humanities credit for non-art majors. Availability to join the 20 open seats starts on registration day, April 5.

In addition to the new course, Shaw and Balzer also announced the Poiema Project at JBU. The Greek term is found in Ephesians 2:8-10 and translated as “workmanship,” “masterpiece,” or “handwork.” The apostle Paul utilized this term to describe God’s creation or poem as created for goods works in Christ.

Balzer emphasized Fujimura’s remarks that “culture is a garden to be cultivated,” which drives the Poiema Project’s engagement with students about spiritual creation and the practical ways to present it.  Activities and events will pop up throughout campus to invite students and the community to engage with similar topics held in the class.

The first event will run from Saturday, March 27 to Wednesday, March 31. A gallery is posted on by the outside entrance to the Walker Student Center. Stations on the Street, created by artist and speaker, Scott Erickson, is installed on the stairwell for students and community members to see before entering.

Stations on the Street is an art gallery that takes viewers on a visual journey of Jesus’ life during the season of Lent leading up to Holy Week. Participants are asked to walk through this experience to understand the suffering of Jesus and gain a clearer understanding of who he was.

If you are interested in learning more about the Poiema Project, please visit their website at or keep an eye out on Eaglenet ads for events.

If you would like to add the course, schedule a meeting with your advisor to add to your academic planning. Email Erin Shaw at or Tracy Balzer at

Correction: A prior edition of this article had listed the Creative Culture Care course as meeting on Mondays and Wednesdays. The course only meets on Wednesdays from 2-4:30 p.m.

Logo courtesy of The Poiema Project