But What Are You Doing?
“Yes, Elijah, but what exactly are you doing in Paris? Your pretty little vignettes about Bastille Day and climbing the tower at Notre Dame are nice and all, but surely you are not there to sight-see and party? Surely, Fuller requires more academic rigor than that of their Intercultural Studies students.”
You are correct, my fictional, convenient question asking friend. I am doing more than people watching, and today, two weeks into my Parisian sojourn, I would like to describe exactly what I am up to.
Every student in the Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies program at Fuller Seminary is required to complete a cross-cultural practicum of some sort. This must be done in a culture foreign to your own, and it must be for either six weeks full time or twenty weeks part time. I was able to figure out how to spend six weeks in Paris because I’m awesome. Not really. I was able to figure out how to spend six weeks in Paris because the circumstances came together in a way that I can only describe as Divinely orchestrated.
“Great, E. You’re doing a ‘practicum,’ but what does that entail? You have yet to answer my burning question!”
Calm down. I’m getting there. Goodness, you are an impatient little leading question asking character, aren’t you?
A practicum involves a number of things. First, I had to find a site and an advisor. I found La Fonderie and Francisco and Stephanie Ramos. Francisco and Stephanie are a husband and wife missionary team stationed here in Paris with the Evangelical Covenant Church. They actually lived here for quite a while before they were officially stationed here. Francisco is originally from Portugal, though he has lived in many places including as a bartender in London and attending seminary in Chicago and studying under Rob Johnston, whom I work with in Reel Spirituality at Fuller. (I didn’t know Rob and Francisco knew each other until months into my practicum planning. It really is a small world.) Francisco is a painter, and his key duty with La Fonderie is running their gallery space, La Pave d’Orsey. Francisco is extremely personable, a little scattered, an absolute delight to work for and with, and a wonderful occasional tour guide around Paris.
Stephanie is from Minnesota and was working in Paris when she and Francisco met and married. I’m not sure exactly what Stephanie does in her job, but I know she works in La Defense, the big business, sky-scrapered part of Paris, so I assume it is something where she has to wear dress clothes, go to meetings, and be very professional and organized. I have no trouble seeing Stephanie thrive in such an environment. She is the picture of purposefulness, and I’m sure that without her attention to things over the past few months, my practicum would never have come together. She and Francisco make an excellent team.
“Portugal… Minnesota… blah, blah, blah. None of that is ‘doing’!”
Hush, you. If you could see my eyes, you’d see them glaring menacingly at you. I’m getting there.
My “job” while I am here is to be available to do whatever Francisco needs me to do. So far, I have mopped floors and washed dishes, opened and closed a building for a church renting the property for a few weeks, created and ran a PowerPoint presentation for a conference on microfinance in Ethiopia, and posted fliers all around Paris for an upcoming acting workshop La Pave is hosting. I am scheduled to help an artist with his computer tomorrow as well as to travel to another part of France to help the Ethiopian group with their website. As you can see, I am a bit of a catch-all, and I have become the resident IT guy, because none of these artists seem to know how to use a computer.
When I am not doing those random things, I am either wandering around Paris, writing, reading, or interviewing the members of La Fonderie’s leadership team. Each of these things is integral to my academic work for my practicum.
Working with my faculty advisor, the wonderful Dr. Kurt Fredrickson, I was able to create an academic program tailored to my practicum site and interests. My focus is how artists involved in ministry integrate their art-making with their ministry. My conviction is that creativity, in artistry and ministry alike, requires space and discipline, two things which are hard to come by when one is actively involved in ministry.
My goal is to begin to understand a bit of the Parisian culture particularly with regard to work and lifestyle, ergo, my copious wandering and observing of the city. Also, I want to explore how the artists involved with La Fonderie manage their lives, so I’m interviewing as many of them as I can. Finally, I myself am trying to integrate art-making and ministry by writing creatively for at least one hour every day. Those exercises are this blog.
I’m also reading a number of books related to this subject, and in the end, I will write a report on what I experience and learn.
“Can I speak again?”
“Thank you. I see now. You found a way to turn people watching and hanging out and writing into a practicum. You’re good.”
Thank you, I think. In any case, I am grateful to be here doing what I’m doing. This all came together wonderfully, and I owe huge thanks to Stephanie and Francisco, Kurt, Mary, Kim at the ECC, my friend Simon, Jerome and Katrin (whom you will hear more about later), my parents, and everyone else who prays for me regularly. I’m mostly amazed I’m here. God is pretty great.
Gene Kelly Was Here
These blog posts were all written in the summer of 2011. They chronicle my time in Paris completing an internship as part of my studies at Fuller Seminary. I worked at an art gallery run by missionary-artists ministering to other Parisian artists and got to know the missionary-artists working there.
I am including them here for you to read because I think they work well together as a series. I wrote them as a kind of narrative collage about what it means to be a practicing artist whose first commitment is to Christ and who seeks to share the love of Christ with other artists.