Jessie Nilo • Boise, Idaho
Dave Blakeslee • Salida, Colorado
Dave is a master potter who teaches on relational beauty in the local church, addressing the importance of understanding between artists and their pastors. Dave has worked both as a pastor and an artist and has particular wisdom to share regarding resistance and adaptation of new styles of art or music in churches. Dave completed a degree in Ceramic Art and Design at Alfred University in New York. Colorado has been his home since 1975, where he has taught college ceramic arts courses and set up a pottery studio along the banks of the Arkansas River. After following God’s calling into ministry, he served for 21 years as the lead pastor of the Salida Vineyard Church. Dave has recently retired from pastoring while continuing to serve in several national ministries. He currently travels the country, sharing his visual presentation, “The Potter’s Talk,” while using the potter’s wheel and clay onstage to demonstrate God’s transformational work in our lives.
Jill Cardwell Schuler • Vancouver BC, Canada
As a fabric artist, costume designer, and educator in British Columbia, Canada, Jill teaches Theology and the Arts through the eyes of a practicing visual artist. Jill is a core team member of We Make Stuff, a collaboration of Christian artists and innovators who document what creative people are doing across Canada; their goal is “recognizing that we [Christians] are both good and poor examples of Christ’s teachings, we wrestle in the realm of creativity to express ourselves and grow as people.” Jill’s team has published two volumes of books featuring 200 working artists of faith in the Vancouver area. Jill studied theology at Regent College under the instruction of Jeremy Begbie, who says churches young in the arts “need guides who can help them do more than dabble in the liturgical attic” and who will call “contemporary churches out of their historical amnesia.” Jill’s goal is for us to come to a theology of the arts with enough meaning and understanding for our congregations to engage even with complex ideas in art and scripture, and that this engagement will enrich our understanding of who God is.
Dean Estes • Boise, Idaho
Dean is a sculptor, painter, designer, and visual art teacher. He graduated from Boise State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1970. Since then he has worked as a professional artist with companies that include Albertsons’ Architectural Department and Hewlet-Packard Company. Dean loves to teach and has taught as an instructor and director of the Landing Art Institute for the Landing Foundation, VineArts, and individual studio instruction. Under his gentle guidance students venture into the visual realms of figure drawing, still life, perspective, and en plein air drawing. Dean teaches essential methods of defeating negative self-talk and insecurity. Students in his classes learn to demolish the fallacy of perfectionism while pursuing excellence in their artwork. Dean is a beloved teacher in visual art and private schools, teaching classes and individuals for over 30 years. Dean is considered by many artists to be their favorite arts pastor and mentor. He humbly says his calling is to speak life into others by “painting on people’s lives.”
Mike Freeman • Boise, Idaho
Mike is a theologian, pastor, devotional writer, Doctor Who fan, teacher of Greek and Hebrew languages, scripture aficionado, art and poetry lover, and church history buff, so needless to say, he really stirs up artists when he speaks on scripture and the imagination. With passion he communicates how grasping a biblical framework through Hebrew eyes can help artists and writers integrate their artwork more thoroughly with the depth of Scripture in all its layers. Mike has been a massive source of inspiration to artists at Vineyard Boise since 2002, and has been known to dance on stage during sermons. His knowledge of the imaginative and gritty art of the Hebrew language, coupled with his unbridled joy for heaven-ward headiness, tends to make artists whip out their sketchbooks whenever Pastor Mike is around. Mike is sometimes also affectionately known around his home church as Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.
Bryn Gillette • Pawling, New York
Bryn is a painter and art teacher who has a heart for orphans in Haiti. His compassion takes on the form of oil paint, and he says there’s little distinction between his artistic process and the act of prayer. With his B.A. in Visual Art from Gordon College and an M.F.A. in Painting from Western Connecticut State University, Bryn is a full time art, photography, and Bible teacher at Trinity-Pawling School in NY. He is the co-founder of TeamOne:27, a non-profit dedicated to serving the needs of Haitian orphans, and spends the majority of his artistic time as an advocate and champion of the needs of his Haitian family. In the wake of the Haitian earthquake in 2010 he “waited for days to hear from our Haitian family, finally to be told miraculous story after story of how every single one of our 200 children and staff were completely unharmed.” The “Beyond the Ruins” paintings are his prayers and meditations on the raw truth of Haiti’s brokenness, as well as his prophetic declarations of hope for the restoration of the country he loves.
Rick Jenkins • Boise, Idaho
As the director of the Boise City Art Center for 33 years, Rick gained a wealth of experience instructing and overseeing the entire visual art program for his city. He designed a state-of-the-art pottery studio for the center while teaching advanced clay courses. His leadership and encouragement led hundreds of youth and adults to experience the enjoyment of creative expression through the visual arts. As a teacher he has a wealth of knowledge to share with other teachers, leaders, and ministers on the joy of creating artists by offering students creative choices, rather than manufacturing students who simply copy what you tell them to do. His meaning-filled interactions with art students who don’t subscribe to the Christian faith go deep into the spiritual realm, leaving doors wide open for students to explore matters of faith. Rick has recently retired from his position as art director for the city and has begun a new phase of life dedicating himself to his art full time, studying the mysteries of carbon trap shino glazes, an ancient Japanese glaze from the 16th century, and it never ceases to amaze him how many variations can be achieved.
Manuel Luz • Folsom, California
Manuel is a musician, arts pastor, and writer who loves to explore the intersection of art and faith. His artistic and pastoral wisdom is surpassed only by his gentle ability to stretch and inspire other Christian artists in their calling. Manuel’s original career was as a rocket scientist before being called into full-time ministry, leading the worship community and community of artists at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California for 25 years. During this time he also recorded and released four original albums of piano-driven, jazz-influenced, and lyrically-evocative compositions. Manuel performs as a piano soloist and with a trio, and has produced, arranged, performed, and/or written for scores of independent music albums. His first published book, Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist (Moody Publishers) is a practical and personal theology of the arts, perfectly capturing in words the mystery, communion, engagement, and transcendence God has designed the arts to be, as a manifestation of His glory.
Lisa Marten • Star, Idaho
Lisa has been putting her hands and feet to work in her service as a traveling art minister around the world since 2002. Lisa is a full-time art career as an abstract expressionist and performance painter as well as an art missionary to over a dozen countries with the philosophy that art is a language that transcends other barriers. With a background in ministry and psychology with emphasis in cross-cultural studies and youth, she actively listens for ways to break down walls between people– walls of geography, language, age, race, gender, religion, politics, economic standing, education, distance, and time. Her specialty is being present in conversation, with art as her medium. “There are conversations already happening before I even arrive– conversations with the artist and the work, with the artist and the Divine, with the artist and nature, with the artist and humankind, with the artist and self.” Lisa comes alongside individuals and groups to bring about collaboration, the sharing of truth, and the building of relationship. In her travels she relies on a close community of support and prayer at her home base. Her mission is to keep “walking through walls” as a follower of Christ and bringer of hope in the world.
J. Scott McElroy • Indianapolis, Indiana
Scott is an author, speaker, arts advocate, voiceover artist and visual artist based in Indianapolis. He is the author of The Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation (InterVarsity Press, April 2015) and Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image, 2008). His articles are carried on Crosswalk.com, Burnsidewriters.com, and all of the websites in the Salem Network. Scott speaks nationally on the arts in the church, spiritual formation for the artist, learning to hear God’s voice, awakening the creativity of God that lives in every person, The New Renaissance and more. Scott advocates for the arts in his role as Director of Arts at the Vineyard Church, Indianapolis, as well as with the Vineyard Arts Community, USA. As a voiceover artist, he has worked hosting national TV shows and commericals as well as delivering weekly reviews on radio. Scott enjoys integrating the visual arts with worship during church services and he wants to see other artists around the world embrace their creative calling.
Andrew Nemr • New York City, New York
Tap dancer and TED fellow Andrew Nemr is known for weaving profound storytelling into his tap performances, featuring memorable teachings on what love is and how his faith meets his art. Andrew collaborates with Justin Nielsen to demonstrate the art of listening and preferring one another to create harmony — both artist to artist, and artist to God. Mentored by Gregory Hines, Andrew is considered one of the most hardworking and diverse tap dance artists today. He directs Cats Paying Dues in NYC and is co-founder of the Tap Legacy™ Foundation. Andrew has garnered a reputation for impeccable musicianship and sensitivity, and respect for the craft that he loves. Also a graduate of the Center for Faith and Work, Andrew encourages and empowers artists of faith to embrace their calling to this broken world that desperately needs hope and beauty. Andrew lives and works in New York City, NY.
Travis and Kathy Nelson • Boise, Idaho
Travis and Kathy are not only husband and wife, but also writers and poets, as well as visual artists working in mosaic, ceramics, wood, photography, metal and stained glass. Together they founded and still lead the writers’ group at Vineyard Boise Church and are active in several International writers forums. Travis and Kathy will teach on the parallel between writing and visual art– the art of writing is drawing pictures with words. Their instruction for all ability levels includes an introduction to poetry and journaling, reading and writing as performance, scripture as dynamic storytelling, and spoken word performance. The Nelsons are highly traveled and their love for Ireland in particular is reflected in the work they create.
Justin Nielsen • Eagle, Idaho
Alyee Willets • Boise, Idaho
Alyee is an aspiring art therapist with dreams reaching beyond the horizons of the decade-long eating disorder that almost killed her as a teenager. Her heartbeat is to see others set free to bring joy and healing to themselves and everyone around them. Alyee teaches community art classes and trains groups on art and healing, intercultural missions, and social justice. Visual art began as her hobby and transformed into a coping skill God used to help save her life. In 2010 she discovered Vineyard Boise Church where she first met Jessie Nilo, the art minister who became her mentor in an artistic pursuit of spiritual wholeness. Seven years later, Alyee is healthy and passionate to share with others the healing gift of artistic expression. Today, she is a grad student at Boise State University, completing her M.A. in Counseling. Her prayer is that she will leave a legacy of freedom’s footsteps for others to follow.