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The Question That’s Haunting Us

Nancy Carroll


Andy Gullahorn, amazing singer/songwriter from Nashville, connected with a group of InSpero’s creatives this week (those pictured above and more who left before we remembered to take a photo!) and asked us this question, “If we believed our ‘art’ could save a life, how would it change the way we live?" At the same time he challenged us how do you balance believing in the power of your gift/calling while not take yourselves too seriously? (Let's just say he has a dream of being a professional badminton player. There is such a thing.)
Here’s a few thoughts from Gina Hurry about that: 
First about the life-saving part. It’s much easier for me to believe it's true for others than for myself and my own work. But I do feel deeply compelled to go after the hearts of others through my work and through conversations around the experience of beauty. I know what it feels like when deep calls to deep. I know those connections have helped save me.

Second, how would it change the way I work or spend my time?  I think I'd keep doing what I’m doing, but take better care of myself in the process. I think If I truly believed in the impact and value of my work, I’d slow down and do less. I’d listen more and listen more deeply. I’d be more intentional and thoughtful in the small things. That goes against my instincts and my culture which tells me to work harder and sacrifice all of me for that one life. But I'm trying to live more lightly while living out my calling.


About the art of connecting. I could make a list of all the times music or story or the beauty of someone’s kind hospitality has rescued me and saved my life. Maybe this is why the movie August Rush resonates so deeply  when August says, ”I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales. I like to imagine that what I hear came from my mother and father. Maybe the notes I hear, are the same ones they heard, the night they met. Maybe that's how they found each other. Maybe that's how they'll find me. I believe that once upon a time, long ago, they heard the music and followed it.”  I think we all want to be found, we all want to deeply connect.  When I’m painting I’m looking for a way to connect to something or someone. Maybe that's a form of belief for me?

Andy is giving a benefit concert this Sunday evening at Cahaba Brewery. If you’re interested in music that will draw you in with laughter and take you deep places, here’s the link.


Magic City Storytellers This Thursday! 10 Tickets Left

  Photos from last year's Magic City Storytellers event by Pete Collins

Photos from last year's Magic City Storytellers event by Pete Collins

We're getting ready for one of our favorite events, InSpero's Fourth Annual Magic City Storytellers. Appetizers, wine and beer will be served on the beautiful porch of the Clubhouse on Highland from 6-7. Performances 7-9 pm with an intermission with desserts and coffee from The Neighborhood Brew.  If you want to come, don't wait. We sold out last year and only have about 10 tickets left as we put this newsletter together. Please link here to order. We are grateful to donors who've helped fund this event so we can keep ticket prices low. Link here to see our great and eclectic line-up of singer/songwriters, fiction/prose writers, and poets all living in Birmingham. 


Birmingham: A City Rich in Stories

Nancy Carroll

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

Muriel Rukeyser



InSpero's Fourth Annual Magic City Storytellers is just a month away on Thursday, June 14. Appetizers, wine and beer will be served on the beautiful porch of the Clubhouse on Highland from 6-7. Performances 7-9 pm with an intermission with homemade desserts and coffee from The Neighborhood Brew.  Seating is limited. Link here for tickets.

We've got an amazing line-up singer/songwriters, fiction writers, and poets living in Birmingham. They include:

Wilder Portrait jpg_2.jpg

Wilder Adkins’ songwriting gleans as much from the poetry of Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver as it does from folk luminaries Richard Thompson and Bruce Cockburn. Adkins won the 2016 NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition and has performed at the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center and shared the stage with notable acts such as Josh Garrels and Peter Bradley Adams.  

  Photo by Ryan Russell

Photo by Ryan Russell

Nathan Peek is a singer/songwriter whose distinct sound and stage persona has captivated audiences at venues throughout the country. Born in Birmingham, Nathan was raised on his parents’ appreciation for 60’s era rock n’ roll and folk. With the Nathan Peek Band, he releases four full length compilations Stale Wine, Loose Ends, & Porcelain Hearts and Sore Thumbs. Nathan has had his hand in forming other bands such as the rock/pop six-piece Kids Your Age which released the LP Big Whoop in 2013. He's about to release a new compilation with the rock band Long Bony Arms.


Kristen Iskandrian's debut novel Motherest was long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, named a Best Book of 2017 by Publishers Weekly and Lenny, and called a "defining book of 2017" by The Wall Street Journal. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin HousePloughsharesMcSweeney's Quarterly ConcernZyzzyvaThe O. Henry Prize Stories 2014The Best American Short Stories 2018, and many other publications. 

Hehn Bio Pic.JPG

Russell Hehn is a copywriter, regular writer, and gardener from Birmingham where he lives with his wife Katherine Anne, their two-year-old Isaac Thornell, and their dog Poppy. Russell's work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Barcelona Review, LimeHawk, and in lawns and landscapes around Crestwood and Avondale. His current overambitious project is The New Toy Prototype Review with Grover Kwattle, a podcast featuring a retired spy gadget inventor who reviews hazardously over-designed kids toys. In his off time, he is the owner and operator of Red’s Electric Lawn Care, Birmingham’s first and only all-electric lawn service.

bio picture of salaam green.jpg

Salaam Green is a poet, writer, award-winning author and master healer. Born and bred in the Black Belt of Alabama, some of her “hats” include: Rural Organizer Leader, Human Rights and United Nations Panelist, Southern Essayist/Freelance Writer and Poet, founder of Literary Healing Arts and Red Couch Writers, University of Alabama at Birmingham Arts in Medicine Artist in Resident for Creative Writing and Poetry and a Deep South Storyteller for Creatively Aging, 2016 Poet Laureate for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and 2018 Tedx Birmingham Speaker. She blogs at


María Vargas is a Nicaraguan poet, narrator, and translator who lives in Birmingham. She graduated from UAB with a BA in English and a BA in Philosophy, and from The University of Alabama with a PhD in Latin American Literature. Her work has appeared in anthologies published in England, Argentina, USA and Nicaragua. In 2010, she won a Hackney Literary Award and in 2004, her book, Los ojos abiertos del silencio (The Open Eyes of Silence) won the Rafaela Contreras Prize for Central American Women Writers. 


InSpero's Pastor - Artist Dinner 2018


InSpero spent a night dreaming about Birmingham's future and seeking to understand the wounds of its past and the fruits/frustrations of the calling to be a prophet through the arts or through the church.  The pastors who came this year included Arthur Price of Sixteenth Street Baptist, Doug Ferguson of Mountaintop Community Church, Don Sellers of South Park Baptist, and Gary Purdy of City Church Midtown. Artists included glass blower/woodworker Micah Simpson,  jewelry designer/interior designer Lucy Farmer, drummer Jesse Suttle, photograher/cancer advocate Marty Balencie, author Marjean Brooks, and photographer Charity Ponter. Bob McKenna of The Clubhouse on Highland joined in the conversation and Mac Russell of Shindigs Catering provided a "foretaste" of heaven feast. Photos by Pete Collins. 





What Makes You Weep?

Nancy Carroll

  Original art by Liz Landgren, Design by Dawn Curtis

Original art by Liz Landgren, Design by Dawn Curtis

What Makes You Weep? 

InSpero board member Steve Garber reminds us that powerful art tells the truth and quotes Walker Percy, “Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition.” InSpero invites you to see the works from thirty Birmingham area artists who have created art in response to the Victor Hugo quote "Those Who Do Not Weep Do Not See." 

Our featured artist, acclaimed fine-art photographer Vicki Wilson Hunt, allows herself to see the human condition, social injustice, poverty, and the power of human connection in the midst of hardship. Upon the death her father, Lonnie Wilson, Vicki discovered photos he had taken as a Birmingham police officer during the civil rights era of the 1960s. His photos are placed alongside Vicki's for this show.

  Photo by Vicki Hunt

Photo by Vicki Hunt

Thirty other artists have also created around themes of injustice, grief, hope, and beauty for this show. Teen boys from King's Home, through their art, reveal what makes them weep.

Allow time to see all these pieces and read the stories behind them. The gallery will be open to visitors weekdays during business hours March 18 through June 1 on the walls outside Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church's sanctuary. During business hours, enter through the portico at school entrance. 

You're invited to our opening reception and community conversation on Wednesday, March 21 from 6:30-8 p.m. Park by Oak Mountain Presbyterian's sanctuary doors to enter gallery on Wednesday evening. Refreshments will be provided by Little Donkey, coffee from The Neighborhood Brew, and music by Wilder Adkins. Wilder won the Grand Prize for the NewSong Music Performance and Songwriting Competition. His award-winning song "Side by Side" is about the city of Birmingham and the struggles of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is also an anthem for peace and a call to keep hoping and never give up fighting darkness with the power of light. Link here to listen.

Other contributing artists include: Bill Boyd, Bill CarrollNancy CarrollPete CollinsAaron ConradJennifer DavisBrooks DuellRachel GoreAshley GuestGina Hurry, King’s Home Youth, Rik LazenbyLiz LandgrenHeather MetcalfMiriam McClung, Jill McCool, Molly MorrowCatherine PartainCharity PonterBruce Phillips, Alisa Poole, Catie Radney, Cathy RobbinsTricia Robinson, Katherine Trammell, Kaitlin West,  and Lee Wilson.


  Show being installed this week. 

Show being installed this week. 

We are thankful to Melanie Grant who has curated and installed this show and to Linda Barrett for editing the information provided for each of the artists.  

InSpero Thanks All Who Have Helped with This Show, Including:

Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church
Little Donkey Restaurant and Catering
The Neighborhood Brew
Griffith Art Gallery

Wilder Adkins
Linda Barrett

Dawn Curtis
Lucy Farmer
Wendy Garner
Melanie Grant
Kate Hamilton
Rachel Hunt
Vicki Hunt
Sarah Pea
Cathy Robbins
Sarah York


Weeping, Seeing, Dreaming

Nancy Carroll


InSpero Spring and Summer 2018 Offerings

  Original art by  Liz Landgren , design by Dawn Curtis

Original art by Liz Landgren, design by Dawn Curtis

Those Who Do Not Weep Art Gallery Opening Night

Wednesday, March 21, 7-8:30 p.m.

We invite the creative community of visual artists, artisans, visionaries, and those who love our city to join us to discuss and create around Victor Hugo's quote "Those who do not weep do not see."  On Tuesday, February 13 Gary Purdy will lead a Lenten lectio divina (meditative creative reading of Scripture) on a passage in Joel 2 and then together we will contemplate where our hearts break and how we respond. Continuing our tradition to encourage artists to create through the Lenten Season, we will offer a gallery show for visual artists of any medium: photography, paint, charcoal, mixed media, sculptural, encaustic, etc., and for all others (poets, writers, musicians) interested. If you would like to submit an original offering reflecting this theme, please contact Melanie Grant at The deadline to receive art is March 9 for submissions and the gallery will be held at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church March 21 - June 3. To download our artist submission form, please click here.

Lenten Lectio Divina
Tuesday, February 13
9-11 a.m.
2817 Central Ave. 
Homewood, AL 35209

7-9 p.m.
Meadows Home
617 55th Place S
Birmingham, AL 35212

For more information on our Lenten lectio, contact Nancy Carroll at 


Pastor - Artist Dinner Tuesday April 10

  photo by Josh Vignelle

photo by Josh Vignelle

One of the most powerful ways InSpero has brought beauty and hope to our city is through our annual pastor-artist dinner where we invite five pastors from different ethnic and denominational backgrounds in our city to connect more deeply with an eclectic group of five artists. We discuss the deep struggles and deep fruit of their callings and how they most desire to impact Birmingham for good. We are delighted that Mac Russell of  Shindigs Catering  will create an amazing meal presented at the Clubhouse on Highland.  

Magic City Storytellers  Thursday, June 14 

  photo by Pete Collins

photo by Pete Collins

Mark your calendars for our fourth annual Magic City Storytellers show on Thursday, June 14 from 7-9 p.m. at the Clubhouse on Highland. Last year we sold out on this amazing night of story and song featuring emerging and established voices in Birmingham in poetry, fiction and songwriting. Come early for wine, beer and appetizers and enjoy our adult milk and cookie intermission as well.  For more information, contact Nancy at and we will be updating you this Spring through email and our Instagram and Facebook accounts.  


InSpero Annual Winter Retreat


A group of artists and creatives gathered for InSpero's annual winter retreat on Saturday, January 13 to contemplate "Making Ourselves at Home" based on John 15. Thanks to Melissa Salem for opening her beautiful home, Elizabeth Dortch for organizing all the wonderful food, and to Innova for their amazing coffee. 

Thank You to Our Amazing Donors

Without your financial contributions and hundreds of volunteer hours, none of these events would be possible. You have provided scholarships to "starving" artists to attend retreats, helped us keep our ticket price to beautiful events within reach of everyone, and allowed us to provide a powerful evening of pastors and artists dreaming together for Birmingham.  

Beauty Matters and So Do Those Who Create It

Nancy Carroll


You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

Isaiah 58:11-12 The Message


How Your Contribution Helps Fulfill Our Vision for Birmingham

InSpero believes in the power of creative community to help bring beauty, hope, and healing to our city and churches. 

  InSpero hosts pastor-artist dinners to seek mutual understanding for their shared vision to bring hope and healing to our city.  Photo by Josh VIgneulle

InSpero hosts pastor-artist dinners to seek mutual understanding for their shared vision to bring hope and healing to our city.  Photo by Josh VIgneulle

Who is this creative community?

The artists and artisans, the painters and poets, the dancers and architects, the storytellers and musicians, the potters and actors, the chefs and those who set the table of hospitality, along the visionaries and risk takers and preachers, and so many more. It's those who see what is and what "ought" to be. Those who articulate truth in ways that move us. They are the prophets of our times. Like prophets of old, they experience isolation, self-doubt, criticism, or never getting the chance to be heard or seen. We make sure these artists and artisans know their work matters, that they matter, and we provide ways for them to give their good gifts to our city and churches.

  InSpero hosted a beautiful Christmas Vespers service this year led by Corey Nolen, Ashley Spurling and Chandler Parker at the Wilson home. Photo by Emily Kicklighter

InSpero hosted a beautiful Christmas Vespers service this year led by Corey Nolen, Ashley Spurling and Chandler Parker at the Wilson home. Photo by Emily Kicklighter

How has your contribution helped InSpero inspire this creative community in 2017?

Through your contributions, we've been able to enrich and strengthen artists through retreats and opportunities to collaborate, give scholarships to artists, to make beautiful events affordable for those who need them but can't afford them, to develop meaningful long-term conversations about the wounds of our city, and to help musicians develop connections in the city.  These offerings include:

  • Annual creatives retreat at Pursell Farm
  • Lenten retreat to prepare people to create through the season of Lent
  • Time to share these creative Lent offerings (from dance to paintings to harp music)
  • Thy Love Inspires, area musicians coming together to sing ancient and new hymns held at Bluff Park Community Church 
  • Third annual Magic City Storyteller event featuring fiction writers, poets and musicians 
  • Bridge Builders, ongoing intimate gatherings for artists to learn more about the racial wounds of our city
  • Birmingham Music Makers, ongoing gathering of musicians to connect and encourage each other
  • Social justice photo display by Vicki Hunt and her late father, a police officer and photographer during the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham. This discussion will lead to "Changing the Picture of Birmingham" artistic events in 2018
  • House Concert with Allen Levi
  • Advent Lectio Divina
  • Christmas Vespers

Our next post will describe some of the beautiful events InSpero planned for 2018

  InSpero's Bridge Builders gather to discuss the difficult topic of our city wounds and racial inequity and how the artist can respond. Photo by Lucy Farmer

InSpero's Bridge Builders gather to discuss the difficult topic of our city wounds and racial inequity and how the artist can respond. Photo by Lucy Farmer

Please remember InSpero, Inc. in your 2017 year-end giving.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to InSpero, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization.
Click here to give online
Checks can be written to InSpero, Inc. and mailed to
246 Marwood Drive,
Birmingham, AL 35244

Slowing the Season, InSpero's Heartbeat

Nancy Carroll

Our True Homes, Our True North

All art is about coming home. All music, all drama, all literature is about coming home. 
Ken Gire

What can we do that makes us gladdest, what can we do that leaves us with a strong sense of sailing true north and of peace, which is much of what gladness is? Is it making things with our hands out of wood or stone or paint on canvas? Or is it making something we hope like truth of words? Or is it making people laugh or weep in a way that cleanses their spirit? I believe that if it is a thing that makes us truly glad, then it is a good thing and it is our thing and it is the calling voice that we were made to answer with our lives. 
Frederick Buechner

  Photo by Bill Carroll

Photo by Bill Carroll

InSpero exists to inspire those who point us to our true home and recalibrate us to our "true north." The artists and artisan, the painters and sculptors, the poets and writers, the musicians and dancers, the prophets and preachers, the truth tellers and risk takers, the finders and curators of beauty, those who offer hospitality that makes people feel at home. These are the people who battle doubts that their work matters in a world of hustle and hype. InSpero's calling is to remind them that beauty matters and so do those who create it. We nurture and inspire this creative community and provide intimate offerings where people can enjoy and celebrate their work. It is the ultimate mutual blessing. These artists feed those hungering for true home and true north, who in turn, validate and encourage them that their work matters. 

This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for all who support InSpero and the impact we are having on Birmingham and its creative community. Below are some of the highlights from the past month and upcoming offerings. During this season of giving and as we approach the end of the year, please consider donating to InSpero, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible non-profit organization, through our website, through designating InSpero, Inc when making an Amazon purchase through their Amazon Smile program, and by considering InSpero, Inc. this upcoming Giving Tuesday

Above All, Trust in the Slow Work of God

The title of this poem by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin speaks to InSpero’s deeply fruitful and quieter year, developing relationships and offering our creative community, city and local churches an invitation to a slower season in contrast to the usual high-paced, hectic holidays.

Fall 2017 Highlights

Advent Lectio Divina

In October, we offered a a lectio divina (mediative sacred reading) of Luke 1 highlighting Elizabeth's story of barrenness to blessedness. Held at Innova Coffee, artists and creatives engaged their imaginations to enter the Advent Season more slowly and create in response to Scripture. Above is a painting by renowned Chinese artist He Qi based on Mary's visit to Elizabeth before the birth of John the Baptist. For more information on lectio divinas. please contact Nancy.

Bridge Builders

  Recent Bridge Builders meeting discussing Vicki Hunt's social injustice images

Recent Bridge Builders meeting discussing Vicki Hunt's social injustice images


InSpero's Bridge Builders provides a safe place for creatives/artists to share and build relationships with friends from different backgrounds, a place built on authentic interest, humility, and curiosity as we deal with the complex issues of racial wounds and socioeconomic inequities in Birmingham. We want to explore what the artists’ role is in creating art for the healing of the deep wounds in our city. This past week, members of this group each took an implicit bias test developed by Harvard University and then gathered at one of our volunteer's homes to discuss the results and how we are implicated to respond in the place we live.  Here is the test for those interested.  

House Concert with Allen Levi 

On Saturday, November 18, Allen Levi, joined by pianist Dewayne Creswell, wove magic with his musical storytelling to a sold-out InSpero house show. Although the electricity went out, candles and the inner light of Allen's music shone through the evening. InSpero has found intimate house shows to be a mutual gift to artist and audience. Vocational creatives often battle those discouraging internal and external voices that make them want to give up. In a home setting, the artist can see the impact and hear the feedback from those who need the work they give. 


  Photo by Caroline Hurry (after the lights came back on)

Photo by Caroline Hurry (after the lights came back on)

Upcoming Events


Lucilla and the Snarly Skein Release Party November 30


Join us for a magical evening celebrating the release of Amy Grimes’ second storybook, "Lucilla And The Snarly Skein." Walk through the story one illustration at a time as you view the original paintings. Pick up a signed copy of the new book. Find creative gifts to put on and under the tree this year—original paintings, fine art prints, handmade Christmas ornaments, signed storybooks, and Amy’s new Dreamy Tees. Everything will be available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds going to Children's Harbor. Drop by anytime between 5 and 9. Refreshments provided. Children are welcome.

Christmas Vespers 

 Painting by  Gina Hurry

Painting by Gina Hurry

To help us slow and relish the Advent Season, Corey Nolen, Ashley Spurling, and Chandler Parker will lead a quiet, rich time of music and readings at an intimate house show at Chad and Christi Wilson's home on Thursday, December 7 from 7-9 p.m. Wine, coffee, and desserts provided, $10 per person, adults only. Limited seating. For more information, please contact Nancy at 

2018 Events

January 12       Annual Creative “Tribe” Retreat at Salem Farm
February          Changing the Picture of Birmingham photo exhibit
February 12     Lenten Retreat
March              Pastor/Artist Dinner
June 14           Magic City Storytellers at the Clubhouse on Highland


Join InSpero in Bringing Beauty, Hope, and Healing to Our City

InSpero's financial and volunteer needs grow as we reach more of Birmingham's creative community to bring beauty, hope, and healing to our city and churches. Please go to our website to make a donation and contact Rachel Hunt at to find your place at InSpero to invest your time, talents, and passions. Click here and select InSpero, Inc. so a portion of your Amazon purchases will benefit InSpero.

Please remember us this Giving Tuesday, November 28.

Bearing Fruit that Will Last

Nancy Carroll

As InSpero celebrates its fourth anniversary, Gina and I look back in amazement and gratitude (scroll through our Stories page to see some of the reasons why) and look ahead to what’s next for InSpero. The last four years have been a whirlwind of beautiful collaborative events, new creative connections, deep conversations, and developing relationships. Many seeds have been sown.

  "A seed only flourishes by staying in the ground on which it is sown. . . .be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received."  Henri Nouwen / photo by Nancy Carroll

"A seed only flourishes by staying in the ground on which it is sown. . . .be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received." Henri Nouwen / photo by Nancy Carroll

This year, we are slowing down to allow these seeds to develop deep roots. We've been pondering a verse in Scripture that says

"I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last." 

So What is the "Work" InSpero Has Been Called To?

We believe the work we've been called is to nurture a creative community to bring long-lasting hope and healing to our city and churches. We cultivate this creative community by offering collaborative events to Birmingham; initiating conversations between artists, our city and churches; and celebrating creativity for the good of our community.

What is the "Fruit" That Will Last?

Inspero’s impact will be measured as Birmingham has a thriving creative community whose work stirs people to hope, as local churches embrace the arts as part of their message of restoration, and as our city flourishes because its creative community flourishes. We believe that a vibrant creative community can help bring healing, hope and restoration to the brokenness, pain and alienation of our world.

Where Have We Seen InSpero's Impact Most? 

Developing authentic, mutual, ongoing relationships. This is most often with artists who often feel alienated and discouraged and with those who have experienced the most brokenness in our city.

Encouraging artists and artisans that they matter and what they do matters. As we can, we give them opportunities to share their vision and work.  

Gathering a team of like-minded visionaries and volunteers. We are privileged to have people who believe in InSpero and help us carry the weight of events and offerings. They share a passion for flourishing our city through flourishing our artists and the arts. They are committed to doing this through building relationships as well as organizing our offerings.  

Offering events and conversations that are beautiful, collaborative, and bring hope and/or healing.  These include

  • Retreats and lectio divinas centered around the liturgical calendar, especially Advent and Lent.
  • Pastor/artist dinners building a mutual vision for the healing and hope for our city.
  • Bridge Builders dinners and conversations to seek understanding of the wounds of our city.
  • Birmingham Music Makers creating space and a place for all those who want to create music in our city.
  • Magic City Storytellers a beautiful night combining storytelling, poetry, and music in one beautiful evening.
  • House Shows intimate gatherings where musicians and artists can share their work and the heart behind it.

InSpero Summer Happenings 2017

Magic City Storytellers / June 8

 James Mullis of Early James and the Latest  / photo by Pete Collins

James Mullis of Early James and the Latest  / photo by Pete Collins

A sold-out crowd packed the Clubhouse on Highland for InSpero's third Magic City Storytellers with performances by emerging and veteran performers in fiction, poetry, and singing/songwriting. Shout out to the best host in the city, Bob McKenna. Before the performance, people connected over wine, beer and appetizers and at intermission relished amazing desserts and coffee from The Neighborhood Brew. Plans are underway for our fourth night of story and song! 

 Storyteller Jim Reed / photo by Pete Collins

Storyteller Jim Reed / photo by Pete Collins

Birmingham Music Makers

BMM v3.jpg

 Birmingham Music Makers was an idea formed out of a growing sense of a need for musicians to connect with one another. As with many forms of art, music can often lead people further into themselves and further away from community and outside influence. The purpose of BMM is simply to create a space where people from different backgrounds could come together and interact with one another through their common desire to make music. These events were open to singers, songwriters, musicians, producers, engineers and anyone else involved in the creation of music in the Birmingham area and has been initiated and facilitated by InSpero Board member Corey Nolen and other local musicians.  They met in May and August.


Bridge Builders

Bridge Builders comes together several times a year to share on a spiritual level the hurts and fears of racism in Birmingham and across the nation. We wanted to give creatives/artists who are considering creating for the common good a safe place to share and build relationships with friends from different backgrounds--a safe place to learn from each other. We want to know what is the artists’ role in creating art for the healing of the deep wounds in our city, especially related to racial brokenness. Who is standing up and talking about it? This August, InSpero hosted a Bridge Builder evening at one of our volunteer’s home for an open, genuinely curious and thought provoking discussion. Before this gathering, these friends watched "13th," a Netflix documentary, and processed the inequities of the American prison system together.


InSpero’s Coming Events 2017-2018

October           Lectio Divina / Scriptural preparation for creating through Advent
November       Bridge Builders / artists and lay people gathering to discuss the wounds of
November 18  Alan Levi Concert /  intimate house concert
December       Christmas Vespers /TBD
January 12-13 Annual Creative “Tribe” Retreat at Pursell Farms
February          Changing the Picture of Birmingham
                        photo display of Vicki Hunt’s poverty/social injustice images alongside her father’s
                        Civil Rights photography from police files
February 12     Lenten Retreat
March              Pastor/Artist Dinner
June 14            Magic City Storytellers at the Clubhouse on Highland

Hear from Local Birmingham Voices at the Third Annual Magic City Storytellers: June 8

Nancy Carroll

"There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place." J.K. Rowling

Make room for an evening of stories and songs at the Clubhouse on Highland at InSpero's Third Annual Magic City Storytellers. You'll hear from a firefighter storyteller, the owner of the Museum of Fond Memories, and as WBHM described, a musician who has an “old soul with a millenial’s heart.”  

We're starting earlier (6 p.m.) so you can enjoy more time on the patio for wine and cheese, beer and appetizers.  Performances begin at  7 p.m.  Intermission features a coffee bar by The Neighborhood Brew and desserts (break-up cookies....oh my...if you've never had them...) from Church Street Coffee and Books

Did we say there's limited seating at this beautiful, historic Birmingham home and venue?  Reserve tickets here

 The Clubhouse on Highland

The Clubhouse on Highland

Here's our 2017 line-up of local Birmingham writers, poets, and singer-songwriters:

InSpero believes in the power of beauty--through stories, songs, setting, people--to bring hope and healing to our city. We are grateful to donors Ricky and Marjean Brooks and the following sponsors who have helped us make this a magical evening within reach of all who want to attend. 

Stories That Transport Us: Hear These Birmingham Voices on June 8

Nancy Carroll


Stories make us
more alive,
more human,
more courageous,
more loving. 

-Madeleine L’Engle

Stories give us a thread of hope that there’s more to come and we can survive. They help us fight the lie that we’re alone. And as J.K. Rowling says, "There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”  

Make room for an evening of stories at the Clubhouse on Highland at InSpero's Third Annual Magic City Storytellers. You'll hear from a firefighter storyteller, the owner of the Museum of Fond Memories, and as WBHMdescribed, an “old soul with a millenial’s heart.”  Limited seating. Reserve tickets here

Here's our 2017 line-up:

 James Mullis

James Mullis

James Mullis of Early James and the Latest is an Americana musician based in Birmingham, Alabama. At age 23 he has been playing music for eight years. He attempts to spin what perhaps has not been spun before; a so called "fresh" take on Folk, Blues, Jazz, and Country with dark, rusty, crooner-esque stylings.

 Jim Reed. Photo by Larry O. Gay Photography

Jim Reed. Photo by Larry O. Gay Photography

Jim Reed's early career in broadcasting and public relations ended 37 years ago when he founded Reed Books and the Museum of Fond Memories in downtown Birmingham. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of stories about his life in Alabama. His weekly columns appear on the internet, as do his audio podcasts. Jim speaks to groups and classes about the joy of writing, the joy of reading, and the joy of not have bosses for 37 years.

 Kwoye Maples

Kwoye Maples

Kwoya Fagin Maples holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and is a graduate Cave Canem Fellow and a Homeschool Lambda Literary Fellow. In addition to a chapbook publication by Finishing Line Press entitled Something of Yours (2010) her work is published in Blackbird, The Berkeley Poetry Review, The African-American Review, PLUCK!, Cave Canem Anthology XIII, and Sow’s Ear Poetry Review.  Her current manuscript, MEND, a finalist for the Robert Dana Anhinga Poetry Prize, tells the story of women who were the experimental subjects of Dr. James Marion Sims of Montgomery, Alabama.  

 Katherine Webb

Katherine Webb

Katherine Webb is the founding director of the Nitty-Gritty Magic City reading series, a monthly literary event hosted at the Desert Island Supply Company in Woodlawn. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Times, The Sun, PANK, North American Review, The Bitter Southerner, Arts & Letters, apt, among others, and has been nominated for various awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2011. She and her husband tend to dusty garden and a husky baby boy called Ike.

 Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson

Writer and storyteller Ben Thompson is a husband, father of two and serves the city of Birmingham as a Lieutenant for the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service. His hope is that one day all wars will end and after every human being has been fed we can explore outer space together, forever.



Karvy is a writer and musician, with a penchant for travel. It wasn’t until a late-twenties identity crisis and subsequent walkabout that she herself began to write. Since that happy turn of events, she has become a freelance writer and ghostwriter. She is now engaged in a new adventure of vagabonding about the world and writing about her journeys at her
Karvy has been working feverishly to finish her novel, Problems with the Moon, and is hoping that by the time you read this, the book will be completed and claimed by an appreciative publisher and available soon at a bookstore near you.

 Rachel Hebert

Rachel Hebert

Drawing material from her former life as a teacher, her day job as a children's librarian, her magnetic attraction to all things outdoors, her weird obsession with science, her hermit-like reading habits, and her relationships as wife, sister, daughter, and friend, Rachel Hebert writes songs that often sound a lot like fireside stories and front-porch musings set to guitar.

An Invitation to Music and Silence

Nancy Carroll

Heaven has been described as

"The regions where there is only life and therefore all that is not music is silence.”

(The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXII, C. S. Lewis quoting George MacDonald)

In this satirical book by C. S. Lewis, Screwtape, the elder and experienced demon, expresses his strategy against the Enemy (God) in the battle for a man’s soul.

“Music and silence—how I detest them both! . . .no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied with Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.”

To fight the increasing noise and distraction in our world, and to relish a foretaste of Heaven, InSpero invites you to two offerings this coming week, Thy Love Inspires on Sunday, February 26 and our annual Lenten Retreat on Tuesday, February 28.  

An Invitation to Music

An Invitation to Silence


InSpero's Annual Lenten Retreat

Giving Up Noise and Seeking Silence This Lent Season

Tuesday, February 28

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to keep silent and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

Join us for a time of quiet beauty and preparation for the Lent Season. This half-day retreat, for men and women, includes music, Scriptural meditation through a Lectio Divina, and a time for personal reflection in a beautiful setting. We will finish with small group interaction and discussion of how to use Lent as a time of creative offering. Tickets are limited and the $35 fee covers supplies, coffee, pastries, snacks and lunch. It will be held at the Wolnski Farm at 297 Lake Providence Drive, Leeds, AL 35094.  Link here to purchase tickets. 


A Beautiful Way to Begin the Holidays

Nancy Carroll

Before the holidays hustle you away, slow down this Sunday, November 27, and quiet your hearts to wait and wonder as Mary did when the angel Gabriel came to her with these words: 

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

InSpero’s fourth annual Creation Waits will help you remember what the Christmas season is about. We invite you to wait with us in this quiet, worshipful way on the first Sunday of Advent (November 27) at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Performance begins at 6 p.m. Singer and songwriter Jenny Pruitt will share her meditations on Advent through her original music.  

 Photo by Amy Henry

Photo by Amy Henry

Artist Gina Hurry will paint live in response to her music.

 Photo by Amy Henry

Photo by Amy Henry

Do Not Fear

Art Inspired by the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)

Creation Waits Advent offering is followed at 7 p.m. by a reception and gallery show of 30 Birmingham area artists displaying new art around the theme of “Do Not Fear.” $10 gallery donation per person through eventbrite or at the door ($20 maximum per family). Children under 12 are free.

Artists from around Birmingham have meditated on the Scriptures from Luke 1:26-38 (traditionally known as the Annunciation) to inspire them to create the works in this gallery. All pieces will be displayed through January 9, 2017. The 30+ artists participating include: 

Ashley Armistead, Karina Barrington, Sissy BooneBill BoydSally Powell BoydWellon Bridgers, Holly Carr, Aaron Conrad, Melanie Grant, Amy GrimesVicki HuntGayle Hurley, Janet Jerez, Liz LandgrenJane LazenbyRik LazenbyAbby Little, Sarah MasonMiriam McClungHeather MetcalfCatherine PartainCarrie Pittman, Cathye Price, Charity Ponter, Cathy Robbins, Tricia Robinson, Catherine Shepherd, Micah SimpsonAmy StonePam TruittGenny Weaver

Jenny’s Creation Waits CDs, Gina’s limited signed prints, and much of the displayed original art will be available for purchase. Gina’s paintings from this evening will also be available by silent auction with all profits going to further InSpero’s dream of renaming Birmingham #thecitybeautiful.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

"Stories connect us. They bring us together. Our stories allow us to understand and to know that we are not alone. Together, we share a beautiful story that is being written in us and through us. Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. Fear is the enemy of now. And right now, we are beloved and capable of more than any one of us can comprehend. 

Willingness to share is a powerful beginning to tearing down the walls we build when we are alone. It takes courage, humility, and selflessness to express our 'desperate neediness,' but in doing so, let us draw closer to one another, and fall even more fully into the arms of the Father."  Billy Ivey

Based on the Do Not Fear theme for the Creation Waits Art Gallery, InSpero has installed an audience participation gallery where people can anonymously share their fears, and read others' fears, and realize they are not alone. 

Join InSpero in Bringing Beauty, Hope, and Healing to Our City

Consider InSpero for Your Year-End Giving

InSpero exists to support the growth of creative community—those artists and artisans whose work awakens our longings for beauty and truth in the midst of our struggle with suffering and search for meaning. We believe this community has a unique ability to bring healing, hope, and restoration to the brokenness, pain, and alienation of our world.

To continue to give these moments of beauty, hope, and healing to our city, to our artists, and to our churches, we need your financial help. Please consider giving InSpero, Inc. a 501c3 tax-deductible organization, a year-end gift. Click here to donate online or mail checks made to InSpero, Inc. to InSpero, Inc., 246 Marwood Drive, Birmingham, AL 35244.

Contact Rachel Hunt at to find your place at InSpero to invest your time, talents, and passions.

We are grateful to our many volunteers, supporters, and sponsors for Creation Waits and the Do Not Fear Gallery Show. They include (with many more wonderful unnamed helpers): 

Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church (Technical Support: Jason Sears, Wes Smith, Michael Sutherland. Facilities Support: Gordon Thompson, Jeff Smith)

Alabama Art Supply

Administration and Volunteer Coordination/Rachel Hunt

Hospitality Team/Ami Evans, Elizabeth Dortch, Christi Wilson

Poster Design/Dawn Curtis

Program Design/Sarah Pea, Hiregin Design

Printing/UPS Store Caldwell Mill

Reception Serving Pieces/Susan Gordon Pottery

Gallery Hostess/Lucy Farmer

Gallery Installation Team/Ami Evans, Charity Ponter, Gil Weingarten, Melanie Grant, Amy and Russ Grimes

Participation Gallery Facilitators/Billy and Bethany Ivey

Do Not Fear Chalkboard Painter/Gil Weingarten

Artist Communication/Tricia Robinson

Art Display Design/Dawn Curtis

Editor/Brooks Duell

Artist Relations/Ben Donohue

Prayer Team led by Scotty Loveless

Neighborhood Brew for donating coffee for reception

Oak Mountain Missions Team

Beauty matters and so do those who create it. 


An Invitation to Taste Joy

Nancy Carroll

In her new book, The Spirituality of Wine, Dr. Gisela Kreglinger, a German theologian raised on a vineyard, invites us to experience a fuller, deeper life that includes joy and feasting.

“Wine has the potential for profound beauty and can help stir our hearts toward Heaven.”

This message of her book resonates with InSpero’s desire to bring hope and hints of heaven to Birmingham through a creativity community pouring out beautiful gifts on the city.

This unique book challenges us to examine ourselves. Gisela asks, “How can we recover the meaning of this sense of joy and joyful feasting and its place in Christian spirituality? And does wine have a role in helping the church recover this great sense of joy?”

Through a thoughtful historical and biblical perspective, she invites us to see wine as one of God’s good gifts to help us slow down and re-engage our senses. She addresses the concerns of those Christians who feel caution, conflict, or guilt discussing wine. There is a well-researched chapter on substance abuse that probes the roots of addiction and isolation and encourages the moderate and communal benefits of wine.

She also reflects our individualistic, complex culture. “Exhaustion, anxiety, fear, and loneliness have become specters with which many of us are all too familiar, and joy seems hard to come by.” This utilitarian approach “celebrates human progress rather than honoring and embracing God’s sustaining and redeeming presence. Creation groans under this terrible burden, which eclipses the love, mercy, and sustaining care of God.”


 Dr. Gisela Kreglinger photo @Pat604Johnson

Dr. Gisela Kreglinger photo @Pat604Johnson

Gisela uses illustrations from movies, such as Babette’s Feast, as well as Scripture, for those pragmatic Christians uncomfortable with what they may consider a life of indulgence. In this movie, Babette, an exiled chef, becomes a servant to two kind older women who are part of a dying and divided sect that believed in self-denial and seriousness. The movie shows the transformation of this small community as Babette creates for them a lavish meal with the best of wines spending all of her resources. “The Christians of this community finally realize that the Christian journey is not about enduring life on earth until they escape to heaven. Babette’s sacrificial feast teaches them that the Christian life is about welcoming and embracing heaven as it comes down to earth—paradise restored.” She continues, “Somehow the Church has forgotten the importance of joy for Christian spirituality, and has forgotten how to embrace and cultivate it. The Hebrew/Christian tradition has traditionally understood feasting as a way to embrace and practice a life of gratitude and joyful celebration before the face of God.”

“Savoring wine teaches us to be more fully present to ourselves and the world around us. It also teaches us that we are part of a greater community which includes the sun, the rain, the soil, the vines, the labor of the vintner, and all who participate in bringing the wine to us. It reminds us that this world is a beautiful and mysterious place that we must not take for granted.  It is a gift to treasure, celebrate, and care for. At its best, a well-crafted wine teaches us to be grateful.”

We have savored Gisela’s book and look forward to her visit to Birmingham on Thursday, November 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Clubhouse on Highland. where she invites us to “drink beauty” through a wine tasting and presentation. A discussion and book signing follows the wine tasting and books will be available for purchase. Link here for tickets. We recommend that you order tickets quickly as seating is limited.







Two Ways this Busy Season to Slow Down and "Come to Your Senses"

Nancy Carroll

Don't “Miss” Christmas This Year

 InSpero’s fourth annual Creation Waits invites you to go from the hustle of the holidays to the wonder of what the Christmas season truly means. Wait with us in this quiet, worshipful way on Sunday, November 27 (the first Sunday of Advent) at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Performance begins at 6 p.m.

Singer and songwriter Jenny Pruitt will share her meditations on Advent through her original music.  Artist Gina Hurry will paint live in response to her music.This Advent offering is followed at 7 p.m. by a reception and gallery show of 25+ Birmingham area artists displaying new art around the annunciation and theme of “Do Not Fear” found in Luke 1:26-38.

$10 gallery donation per person through eventbrite or at the door ($20 maximum per family). Children under 12 are free.

Jenny’s Creation Waits CDs, Gina’s limited signed prints, and much of the displayed original art will be available for purchase. Gina’s paintings from this evening will also be available by silent auction with all profits going to further InSpero’s dream of renaming Birmingham #thecitybeautiful.

Coming to Our Senses:  Towards a Spirituality of Wine, Joy, and Feasting

Dr. Gisela Kreglinger, friend of InSpero and author of "The Spirituality of Wine," returns to Birmingham to give a unique evening exploring with the importance of wine, joy, and feasting for our spiritual lives on Thursday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Clubhouse on Highland. It will begin with a presentation on the spirituality of wine after which Dr. Kreglinger will introduce wine tasting as a spiritual practice. A discussion and book signing will follow the wine tasting. Books are available for purchase. The $30 ticket covers the presentation, wine tasting, and discussion. To purchase a ticket, click here.

"A Holy and Historic Moment for Birmingham"

 More than 100 gather to pray for our city at 16th Street Baptist Church. Photo by Josh Vigneulle

More than 100 gather to pray for our city at 16th Street Baptist Church. Photo by Josh Vigneulle

InSpero’s The City Beautiful week of events featuring Andi Ashworth and Steve Garber culminated in a prayer breakfast at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church where more than 100 people from around the city gathered to hear from Steve Garber, pray, and sing Amazing Grace. Dr. Garber writes,

With heartache, the 16th Street Baptist Church is known for the tragic bombing in the early 1960s which killed four little girls as they walked from their class to the sanctuary one Sunday morning. In every way, that wounded the city, bringing a sorrow that still hangs over Birmingham. But over the last few years I have been watching good people do good work here, seeing themselves implicated for love's sake in the way the city turns out. These were the folks who brought me in, their loves and lives teaching me the most important things. As I walked out of the church, someone said to me, "This was a holy and historic moment." I hope so, I hope so.

Below is a video slide show and some photos from our three-day event.

 Pastors and artists share a magical dinner by Chef Mac Russell at the Clubhouse on Highland and listen to each other on the fruit and frustrations of their callings and how to dream together to make the City Beautiful.  Photo by Josh Vigneulle. 

Pastors and artists share a magical dinner by Chef Mac Russell at the Clubhouse on Highland and listen to each other on the fruit and frustrations of their callings and how to dream together to make the City Beautiful.  Photo by Josh Vigneulle. 

 At the City Beautiful Lunch at the Nest in Avondale.  Photo by Charity Ponter.

At the City Beautiful Lunch at the Nest in Avondale.  Photo by Charity Ponter.

 An InSpero Family Feast at the Salem farm. Photo by Charity Ponter

An InSpero Family Feast at the Salem farm. Photo by Charity Ponter

 Gina Hurry, Andi Ashworth, Steve Garber, and Nancy Carroll discussing a life "implicated for love's sake."  Photo by Charity Ponter

Gina Hurry, Andi Ashworth, Steve Garber, and Nancy Carroll discussing a life "implicated for love's sake."  Photo by Charity Ponter

Consider InSpero in Your Year-End Giving

There’s a story of a woman who breaks an alabaster jar of perfume and pours it over Jesus. It was extravagant. Many considered it a foolish waste of resources. But Jesus stopped them in the midst of their criticisms and calculations. He told them, “She did what she could and it was a beautiful thing.” That’s how we felt about this October's The City Beautiful events.

We did what we could. 

And it was beautiful thing.

Beauty is like an alabaster jar. It’s extravagant, foolish, and often misunderstood. But it leaves a lingering aroma of hope that gives strength to those in the midst of the brokenness of life.To continue to give these moments of beauty to our city, to our artists, and to our churches, we need your financial help. We’ve poured out our alabaster jar. Please consider giving InSpero, Inc. a 501c3 tax-deductible organization, a year-end gift. Click here to donate online or mail checks made to InSpero, Inc. to:

InSpero, Inc., 246 Marwood Drive, Birmingham, AL 35244

For more information about InSpero, to get involved, or donate, sign up at our website,



The City Beautiful: Join Us for Special Events October 18-20

Nancy Carroll

 "Unless the Lord" by Gina Hurry, reflecting on Psalm 127 as part of project for Corner Room Music

"Unless the Lord" by Gina Hurry, reflecting on Psalm 127 as part of project for Corner Room Music

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,

restore old ruins,

rebuild and renovate,

make the community livable again.

Isaiah 58:12 The Message


"Stepping Together for The City Beautiful" 

Our Shared Dreams for Birmingham
October 18-20, 2016

InSpero believes in the power of creative community to help bring beauty, hope, and healing to our city and churches.  Join us October 18-20 as Dr. Steven Garber and Andi Ashworth engage us in the conversation and show us ways Birmingham can become "The City Beautiful." 

The Power of Two:  Steve Garber and Andi Ashworth Speak on Why You, Your Voice, and Your Vocation Matter in Our City

InSpero features two of our board members who are nationally known voices on the integration of faith, vocation, and the arts for the flourishing of our city October 18-20. They are Dr. Steven Garber, author of Visions of Vocation and founder and principal of the Washington Institute of Faith, Vocation and Culture and Andi Ashworth, co-founder and executive director emeritus of Art House America and author of Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring

In his book, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, Steve Garber asks, "Can you know the world and still love it?" He challenges us that as we see and know the world around us, we are implicated. What part do we play in this world that is not as it should be?  He invites us to a broad view of vocation which incorporates the whole of our lives with our relationships and responsibliites over a lifetime. 

Andi Ashworth and her husband, Charlie Peacock, have spent their lives loving and caring for the stream of musicians, artists, dreamers and drifters who have come to their home (a renovated church in Nashville) which became the first of the Art House America locations. In her book, Real Love for Real Life, she asks herself (and all who have been sucked into too-busy lives) the good and hard questions of "What kind of life do we want, and what choices can we make to move toward it? Has our busyness become so intense that we are no longer able to care for people out of love and freedom?" She speaks to the reality that hospitality and caregiving needs space and margin to love well without losing ourselves. 

Steve and Andi, good friends, weave their voices and visions together to speak to the artists, dreamers, leaders, restorers, curious, weary, the ones questioning their "career" choice, the ones needing hope, the ones who see Birmingham, love it, and want to know if they can have a part in making it The City Beautiful. 

Get Tickets Now as Seating is Limited for These Events


 Tuesday, October 18

"Havens of Grace: Hospitality in a Busy World" Andi Ashworth

2712 Alta View Drive, Vestavia Hills, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Link here for tickets.

Andi will speak on the joys and realities of living a life of hospitality. Lunch begins at 11:30. Program begins at 11:50. Catered by Ashley Mac's.  Ashley MacMakin will also share on generations of hospitality which have resulted in the Ashley Mac's restaurants in the Birmingham area.  Andi's book will be available for purchase. Link here for tickets.


"The City Beautiful/The Church Beautiful" Pastor—Artist Dinner

6:30 p.m. 

By Invitation only


Steve and Andi will join with five local pastors from different denominations and five artists (ranging from a film maker to architect to musician) in a facilitated conversation of dreaming together on how beauty can bring healing and hope to our city and our churches.



Wednesday, October 19

"The City Beautiful" Lunch with Steve Garber and Andi Ashworth

11 a.m. - 1 p.m. (Lunch served at 11:30, Program begins at 11:50 a.m.)

Link here for tickets. 


Steve and Andi will speak on how cities around the country are being "flourished" by the shared vision and work of visionaries, leaders, artists, and those committed to the common good. This event is for all who love our city and want to know their "place" in it. It will be held at The Nest in Avondale with catering by Post Office Pies.  Limited seating. Link here for tickets. 


InSpero Family/Friend Feast

5:30 -8:30 p.m. The Salem Farm

By invitation only

Board and Advisory Council members and friends and supporters of InSpero will gather at the beautiful farm home of Richie and Melissa Salem for an Italian feast by Chef Benard Tamburello of Vecchia. Steve and Andi will speak around the campfire after dinner. 

Thursday, October 20

Stepping Together for the City Beautiful

16th Street Baptist Church

6:45- 8 a.m.

Link here for tickets


InSpero is honored to gather at 16th Street Baptist Church for a citywide catered prayer breakfast on Thursday, October 20 from 6:45 a.m - 8 a.m. Program will begin at 7 a.m. and Steve Garber will begin speaking at 7:10 a.m. This event is supported by 16th Street Baptist, Covenant Presbyterian, Mountain Brook Community, and Oak Mountain Presbyterian churches. Link here for tickets

Please go to our website calendar for list of all our upcoming events. 

Join InSpero in Bringing Beauty, Hope, and Healing to Our City

InSpero's financial and volunteer needs grow as we reach more of Birmingham's creative community to bring beauty, hope, and healing to our city and churches. Please go to our website to make a donation and contact Rachel Hunt at to find your place at InSpero to invest your time, talents, and passions.



InSpero People: Wellon Bridgers

Gina Hurry

Wellon was so gracious to allow us to use her art for the invitation for InSpero’s October events featuring Steve Garber and Andi Ashworth. We appreciate her generosity and are so glad to introduce others to her and her art. 

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I studied English and French at Auburn University and received my Masters in English at Wake Forest University. I taught for several years in the high school and university setting and have worked closely with service learning programs. During this time, I discovered a love for painting and enjoy exploring new techniques and styles. I currently serves as the US Director for Mwana Villages, a grassroots organization caring for the most marginalized in the Republic of Congo. I’m married to Stephen and we have four (playful, creative, determined and spunky) children: Fitz, Chloe, Daniel and Leila.

Where can we see your art?

I will be showing my work at two upcoming shows: Bluff Park Art Show (October 1st) and Moss Rock Art Festival (November 5-6). I also show regularly at Gallery 1930 and Scene and Art Alley in Birmingham. My website is and I'm on Instagram at @wellonart. 

How is your life different from what you imagined when you were in high school?

This is pretty insightful and VERY amusing to think about how my life is different than how I imagined in high school. In many ways, it’s exactly as I would have hoped or imagined—several of my same dear friends from high school (and before) have become like sisters; I still love some of the same simple creative things in life like  a woodsy stroll and a cup of coffee and time to journal. But to think of how the Lord has shaped and molded my early passions into callings and endeavors to which I devote my life now is humbling. My high school self may be surprised to hear that we have boy/girl twins AND two children whom we adopted from Congo; that my days would be spent between mama-ing; collaborating with partners in ministry from Congo, France, Canada and right here in Alabama; and painting (and showing those paintings!). But I wouldn’t trade any of it and am so deeply grateful for the opportunities He has provided.

What are three things that have inspired you recently?

I have been so inspired recently by a few people: 1. My brilliant artistic mama (Emily Lee) who designs incredible interior spaces. Watching her aesthetic change from French country to contemporary funky has been truly inspiring. She has a way to create lived-in, artistic, beautiful spaces that truly reflect individuality and creativity. 2. Heather Day is an artist out of San Francisco that is really inspiring me in her abstract interpretation of the world around her. I find that because I am always so inspired by other artists, it’s both a challenge and a joy to find your own signature within that inspiration—not borrowing from other artists’ work, but using that creativity as an impetus to push me further. 3. The Psalms. And our incredible music minister’s songwriting of those Psalms (Adam Wright with Corner Room Music at Cahaba Park Church). I am quite positive there will never be a day I crack open my Bible to the Psalms and am not awed by its poetry, comforted by its truth, emboldened by the writers' tenacity.

How would you like to be remembered?

What an interesting question. This very question was posed to a group of Congolese visitors we hosted just recently. My father was delivering the homily at a close friend’s funeral, and he in turn asked our visitors what they would most like to be remembered for. For me, I don’t really care to be remembered except by those I love most dearly, a simple handful of people and for them, I would love to know that they have come to know their Creator and Savior a little more closely because I have been continually awed by Him. Most days, I probably fall pretty short of it. But who knows…maybe one day they’ll read this back and find that we all journeyed together to see His goodness a little more clearly in life.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island, what 5 things (besides food and other necessities) would you want to have? 

Well, as a mom to four kids six years old and under, being on a desert island with NO ONE and NOTHING around sounds pretty incredible for this very introverted mama! That simple gift of quietness is one that I cherish, even though I know these years of a noisy energetic home are to be cherished! So packing my bags for this dream of a quiet isolated place, I’d take some melancholy songwriter music (the Patti Griffin type), my journal and Bible (the Psalms are nearly worn through), cookie dough, leggings and my leopard crocs. When can we leave!?


The "Flourishing" of Birmingham

Gina Hurry

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins,
rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
Isaiah 58:12 The Message


Helping Birmingham Flourish


InSpero believes in the power of creative community to bring beauty, hope, and healing to our city and churches. Join us this Fall as we explore The Art of Community in September and The City Beautiful/The Church Beautiful in October. 

The Struggle for Real Community

Listen in as two singer/songwriters, a storyteller and a counselor/author discuss their need for community in a world filled with isolation, comparisons, and competition. They will also share what creative community looks like in Nashville and how it’s forming in Birmingham. You’ll hear original songs from Eric Peters of Nashville and Corey Nolen of Birmingham, stories from author Jonathan Rogers of Nashville, and a reflection from Birmingham-based counselor Gordon Bals about the universal longing for community. It's this Thursday, September 15 at Pike Road Millwork. Link here for tickets. 

House Show with Eric Peters

Friday, September 16 at 7 p.m.

Join us for a special evening with singer/songwriter Eric Peters as he shares songs from his latest album, Far Side of the Sea.  Eric has a soft spot for folks who, like him, struggle with anxiety, depression, and are in recovery. An artist to the core, Eric also paints, creates folk-art sculptures out of repurposed, found objects (Daily Piece), and is an avid collector of books. He lives in Nashville, TN with his bride and their two boys.  It will be held at the Wolnski home in Vestavia Hills at 7 p.m. with music starting at 7:30 p.m. Please purchase your tickets in advance / $10 per person. Dessert and coffee provided.  Link here  for tickets. 


From Memory to Story:

A One-Day Writing Seminar with Jonathan Rogers

Saturday, September 17
Covenant Presbyterian Church
9 a.m. - 2 p.m. 

We tell our stories, not only to be understood, but in order to understand ourselves. In this one-day seminar on the short memoir, author and teacher Jonathan Rogers will help you find your voice and shape your memories into written stories.The day's instruction will include short lectures, group discussions, and several short writing exercises. 
Link here for information and tickets.

What’s Coming Up


The City Beautiful/The Church Beautiful: Our Shared Dreams for Birmingham

 Andi Ashworth

Andi Ashworth

 Steven Garber

Steven Garber

This October InSpero presents a series of events featuring two of our board members who are nationally known voices on the integration of faith, vocation, and the arts for the flourishing of our cities. They are Dr. Steven Garber, author of Visions of Vocation and founder and president of the Washington Institute of Faith, Vocation and Culture and Andi Ashworth, co-founder and executive director emeritus of Art House America and author of Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring. 

Reserve Tickets Now as Seating is Limited for These Events

Andi will speak on "Havens of Grace: Hospitality in a Busy World" at a beautiful home and garden on Tuesday, October 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., catered by Ashley Mac's.  Ashley MacMakin and her mother, Sandy Deaton, will also share on generations of hospitality which have resulted in the Ashley Mac's restaurants in the Birmingham area. Sharing starts at 11:50 a.m. Limited seating. Link here for tickets.

Steve and Andi will speak on "The City Beautiful" on how cities around the country are being "flourished" by the shared vision and work of visionaries, leaders, artists, and those committed to the common good.  This event is for all who love our city. It will be held Wednesday, October 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nest with catering by Post Office Pies.  They will begin speaking at noon.  Limited seating. Link here for tickets. 


Eat, Pray, and Love Our City

Thursday, October 20
16th Street Baptist Church
6 - 8 a.m.

InSpero is honored to gather at 16th Street Baptist Church for a citywide prayer breakfast on Thursday, October 20 from 6 - 8 a.m.  Get there early for food and coffee. Steve Garber will begin speaking at 6:30 a.m. Covenant Presbyterian Church is helping cater the breakfast. 

Please link to our website calendar for list of all our upcoming events. 


Join InSpero in Bringing Beauty, Hope, and Healing to Our City

InSpero's financial and volunteer needs grow as we reach more of Birmingham's creative community to bring beauty, hope, and healing to our city and churches. Please contact Rachel Hunt at to find your place at InSpero to invest your time, talents, and passions. Click on our donate button to help support our vision. 

Beauty matters and so do those who create it. 

InSpero People: Matt Schneider

Gina Hurry


Matt has been a friend a partner of InSpero’s for about two years. We met him through mutual friends and felt an immediate connection with him because of his vision and desire to see art bring renewal to this place and particularly to the City of Birmingham. Matt was also instrumental in making InSpero’s Five Men Show art show happen in October 2015. We are thankful for Matt, his work, and his heart for this city and its people. We look forward to collaborating with Matt more in the future as we continue to hope with him now.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Matt Schneider, and I’m on the clergy staff at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in downtown Birmingham. I am the pastor of our Five O’Clock community; I am the editor of our annual magazine, The Advent; and I oversee our newcomers ministry, among several other things. I’m originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I’m married to Hawley, who is from Washington, DC. We have two daughters, Eden (6) and Zoë (4), and we’ve lived in Birmingham for two years.

How is your life different from what you imagined when you were in high school?

When I was in high school I was an atheist. So that’s changed dramatically. But I knew I wanted to be a writer. I paid attention in my English classes, ended up being the editor of my high school newspaper, and knew I wanted to study journalism in college, which I sort of did. I ended up getting a degree in communications with a writing emphasis. But I changed course to become a teacher and earned a master’s in English for the sake of being a teacher. I was a writing teacher and a tutoring center coordinator for a while during and after grad school. At the same time I was becoming a Christian—against all odds. Through a long process of life happening to me, I ended up answering a call to switch career paths and pursue professional pastoral ministry. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all of my studies were part of a long progression toward something. None of my undergraduate and graduate schooling was wasted. I’ve applied my studies in writing, rhetoric, and teaching to ministry—I now have a very creative approach to being a pastor. But circling back to your question, if you would have told me in high school, while I was living in Northern California, that I’d be a pastor in Alabama, I would have figured you had the wrong guy for sure.

What are you creating right now?

As I mentioned, I’m the editor of a magazine, and we just finished our second annual issue. Most people push back when I call it a magazine, saying I should call it a book or a journal. This is because we intend for the publication to be timeless, something people will want to keep on their bookshelves or coffee tables for a very long time. It’s more akin to an arts and literary journal in its shape and feel, but it’s kind of like nothing else: It’s published by a particular type of church, so there is a clear theological current through everything. It’s literary, but the content is not predominately literature. It’s perfectly bound like a paperback book, and it’s printed on very thick matte paper. So it has the appearance of a serious literary journal. Probably the best way to describe it is as a compelling hybrid between Vice magazine, The New Yorker, and Modern Reformation if you know what any of those publications are. It’s serious with principled conviction, yet can be tongue in cheek and witty at points.

Each year we devote the issue to a theme. Last year it was storytelling and this year it is creativity. We’re trying to grapple with topics that people are talking about a lot in both secular and Christian contexts. I’ve noticed during the last few years that people have been talking about creativity. I see it in church with a growing interest in the arts. I see it in the city of Birmingham, which is going through a period of creative renewal that people are excited about. I also see it in bookstores around the country, where people seem to be buying more products like coloring books for adults and journals to get their creative juices flowing. Creativity is also embodied in the hipster, maker, and artisanal movements. Some of this is just trendy for sure. Some of it is sincere though. And it’s prevalent across cultures of varying stripes even in places we would have least expected years ago. For example—and I’m not judging but just observing here—it seems every young Pentecostal person I meet nowadays shops for clothes at Urban Outfitters and American Apparel.

I’m really excited about issue 2 of The Advent, the “Creativity Issue,” where we wrestle with all this stuff from a Christian perspective, predominantly influenced by the Protestant Reformation. Our treatment of the topic is by no means exhaustive, but I’m really happy with the content, both written and artistic. We release the issue this week, and it will be available at our church for up to a year until we run out.

What's a lesson your art and/or work have taught you?

I think tons about process. The popular culture’s fixation on art is with end products. But for me the process that gets me to my products is perhaps even more important. I’m a big fan of demystifying creative processes since a lot of people’s creative growth is stunted by fixating on end products. Any productive and respected artist knows that the stuff we put on public display has a lot of fits and starts, discarded drafts and sketches, and failures and embarrassments in the background. The creative process is humbling, maybe even humiliating. 

Can you describe a time you have failed?

Now that I do a lot of editing, I find it helpful to write for other publications so that I can be edited. I recently had a piece I was working on rejected by another publication. Most new writers are crushed by this kind of rejection—this applies to any creative endeavor really, not just writing. The more I fail and get rejections, the more accustomed I become to it as part of the creative life. In order to produce art for public consumption, I have to accept that taking risks, falling flat on my face, and then getting back to it is all part of a well-rounded creative career. I haven’t really mentioned my life as a minister much yet, but failure is true for me as a preacher, pastor, and mentor too. And it’s true for me as a father—I fail my kids everyday.

Of course, there are periods of grieving that come with the failure. I allow myself to feel crummy when a sermon seems mediocre or a piece of writing gets rejected. Then I come out of it by God’s grace and am able to start over again. It helps to work with caring people too when you’re creating. My editor who scraped that recent essay called me the next day just to make sure we were still on good terms. He’s sensitive to the vulnerability that is inherent to writing. I loved him for this, and his gesture helped me move on from the initial emotions I had. These types of experiences then make me a better and gentler editor (and pastor and father) because I’m reminded of what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island, what 5 things (besides food and other necessities) would you want to have?

Assuming I’m alone and can’t bring my wife and kids, I’d bring a pen, some paper, a utility knife, a broad-brimmed hat, and some high-SPF sunblock. I’m being honest about the pen and paper. If I can’t write stuff down, it just bounces around my head, stresses me out, and my sleep suffers. I’m sure this would be even more the case if I were by myself and accompanied only by my thoughts. I’d need to get them out. I think that’s better than talking to a volleyball named Wilson, at least for me.

Please tell us more about The Advent magazine release party and how people can get a copy.

The Advent magazine issue 2 Release Party will be this Thurs., Sept. 8 at 7 pm at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, 2017 Sixth Ave. N, Birmingham (downtown). After that, the magazine will be available to pick up during normal business hours or on Sundays around the church building. And the copies are free, a gift to the people of Birmingham. Also, folks can hear me preach most Sundays at the Advent at 5 pm.

Also, I mentioned my wife Hawley earlier. I want to give her a nod as an artist too. She’s a portrait photographer, and she is the staff photographer for The Advent magazine. Working on this magazine together has been a total joy. It’s actually one area in life where we’ve been able to work together without a hitch. Getting the laundry done in our house is perhaps more complicated than collaborating on a creative project! When you pick up your copy of our magazine, take a look at the photography first. Her work in this issue blew me away.

InSpero People: Connie Skellie

Gina Hurry

 Photo by Corey Nolen.

Photo by Corey Nolen.

We met Connie through InSpero's Thy Love Inspires events. We appreciate her winsomeness and willingness to step out and take risks to share her gifts through Act of Congress and her church and the community. InSpero also appreciates her strength as a woman and is glad to support her work and encourage her in her music endeavors. We look forward to continuing to partner with Connie and are excited to see what the future holds!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a singer, songwriter, violinist, band member, worship leader,

retirement/nursing home entertainer, whistler, lover of creation,

lover of friends and family, mother to four children and wife of one

extraordinary husband. 


Anything I have done that is noteworthy is only because God through

His spirit gave me the grace and means to do it.

I am so thankful He allows me to continue to have musical outlets that

satisfy this creative desire and love of music. 

 Album art byWhitney Preg.

Album art byWhitney Preg.


*"Let all People Praise You" will be released Tuesday, August 23rd! I currently do not have a website but please feel free to send me a Facebook friend request if you want updates on my current musical endeavors.*


What is a lesson your art and/or work have taught you?

I've learned that to be good at something you must always be willing

to be a student and keep learning.  I'm honored to be able to work

with some of the finest musicians around and they have modeled this so

well.  Their humility, openness and honesty continues to challenge me,

and their example has given me more of a desire to grow as a musician.


What are you creating right now?

Right now I'm finishing up an arrangement of the Lord's Prayer.  I'm

hoping it will be the next single I record. 


I have lots of ideas!  In fact, I just checked my voice memos and

there are 137 recordings!  Most are melodies and reminders of

something I played on the piano or a new song I've begun. 


One idea I had a few months ago during what seemed like one horrific

event after another was to arrange and record "This is my Fathers

World".  Instrumentally it would be recorded with the violin playing

the melody in sort of a haunting, tender, beautiful way. I envisioned

getting a few photographers to capture rather difficult images while

looking for the hope in the midst of them reminding us all that.....


"This is my Fathers world,

Oh let me ne'er forget,

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Fathers world,

The battle is not done, 

Jesus who died shall be satisfied; And earth and heaven be one."


Can you describe a time you have failed? 

Just to be clear, I have learned that failure is a necessary part of

life. I try look at failure as an opportunity to grow. 


Musically speaking, I failed at my very first violin recital when I

was about 4 years old. I began to play my song and hit a wrong note.

Even then I wanted nothing less than perfection and was devastated. My

mom tells me I ran out crying. 


Fast forward a few years to the 7th grade. My sweet math teacher was

getting married and asked me to play the violin during her ceremony.

As I walked up to play my mind went completely blank and I awkwardly

walked back to my seat without playing a single note. 


In college I put on a concert and during the last number my voice

cracked so badly and I literally froze. 


There are many, many more stories like this. I used to think they were

failures but now I know it was just me being human. It wasn't an easy

lesson to learn but eventually God taught me that the ultimate place

of rest was in my true identity. I am loved by Him no matter how I

perform.  It has been one of the most freeing truths of my life.


When in life have you felt most alone? 

Two out of the four songs on "Let all people praise you" were born out

of a very difficult time in my life.  We were in the midst of a very

painful move and also dealing with family health issues.  Both of our

sons had been diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration, a visual

impairment that has left them legally blind with no cure. The

realization that I had taken my church family and friends for granted

for the last ten years was such a burden. I looked at my neighbors and

saw how I had failed to love them well.  Looking back on how I had

chosen selfishness instead of love for my family time after time, and

looking at the house we would soon be leaving, just made me weep. 


I played the piano for hours and hours during those hard days. It was

the only place of relief I could find, as I sang songs the Lord had

given to me. 


Trust in the Lord with all of your heart,

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding.

In all of your ways acknowledge Him.

He will make your path straight,

He will make your path straight,

So trust, trust in the Lord with all your heart,

Oh trust, trust in the lord with all your heart. 


I sang this at least 100 times. It would become the first track on my

ep. I had no idea I would end up recording these songs, but God had

already begun preparing me for it. These verses were in my heart and

the Lord gave me a melody for them. 


This is my commandment,

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid or discouraged,

For the lord your God

Is with you wherever you go,

He is with you wherever you go,

With you wherever you go.

He is with you wherever you go.


I began to sing these songs in faith because sometimes the promises

were hard to believe.  But He was with us and He is with you. No

matter how hopeless you feel. He will never leave you. 


For my sons who can't rely on their vision to see, and for you and me

when this world seems unbearable, and your situation feels lost - His

Word will be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. 


Oh God let it be so!


InSpero People: Adam Wright

Gina Hurry


Adam is excellent at what he does. He's passionate about his music and bringing other artists (musicians, visual artists, and varied audiences) into the process to share an experience together for the good of the city and the church. InSpero is thankful for his courage to try new things and to reach out to new artists in the city.

Here’s a bit about Adam and his work:

Adam Wright, writer and producer for The Corner Room, has been a musician his entire life.  He has had the privilege of leading worship at Cahaba Park Church for 7 years now and is excited about sharing this new music project.  As a founding member of acoustic music group, Act of Congress, he has enjoyed many other musical opportunities including traveling internationally as an ambassador with the State Department, collaborating with regional symphonies and writing, arranging and recording over 40 songs since the band’s creation in 2006.  Over the past 10 years, he has also taught private music lessons to over 50 students in the Birmingham area.  

The Corner Room has a new release, "What Great Mystery," coming out tomorrow (August 2) on their website, and iTunes. Also, here's a link to a video from the album,

What's a lesson your art and/or work have taught you?

Music is a gift that has continually been teaching and challenging me for almost 30 years.  It brings to light my strengths, my weaknesses, my joys, my ambitions, my fears and failures.  But, the most valuable lesson it has taught me in every facet of my work as a musician is how to worship: planning a worship service so that the congregation and I hope in nothing but Jesus; calling on the Lord for help and wisdom when producing a recording; prayerfully considering a song lyric and how it may or may not honor the Lord and His truth; playing and singing, not out of duty or for a paycheck, but because it brings me joy to praise my Redeemer; striving to love and serve the teams of musicians around me, even when there are tensions that need to be resolved.  Worship runs through every word, thought or deed in our lives and we are all always worshipping something.  Music helps to focus my aspirations and efforts on the only One worthy of worship.

How is your life different from what you imagined when you were in high school?

To be honest, I was a student who had no idea about what I wanted to do for a career.  From an early age, I was heavily involved in choirs, ensembles, private music lessons, worship teams and even began writing songs in high school.  It seemed to be a natural gift.  Upon graduation from college, I still had no “plan” and found myself taking a retail position at a honey glazed ham store.  I can still see my Dad scratching his head. 

In that same season in the “desert,” a weekly jam session at a friend’s house was becoming a more serious business endeavor.  (This would become the band of which I’ve been a part for ten years, Act of Congress.)  A move to an apartment in Moody became an opportunity to take a job helping to lead worship in a local church with good friends.  The good friends connected me with a school of fine arts that employed me for a decade as a private music instructor.  A few years later, I began working part-time in a young PCA church plant called Cahaba Park Church.  Now a full time employee, I’ve been serving as their music leader for almost eight years and have been able to use my skills in weekly worship and in writing and recording music for The Corner Room, a music ministry of the church.  

God has faithfully provided a clear path for me and my family and I am so incredibly thankful to work as a musician, especially when I imagine the monotony of working as a honey glazed ham cashier.

What are you creating right now?

Currently, I’m finishing up a very active season of writing and recording.  The Corner Room released a new project called Psalm Songs, Volume 1, a collection of original music arrangements of ten entire Psalms from the ESV.  I spent 2015 producing this album and have just finished producing our second project, What Great Mystery. While Psalm Songs was intended as a devotional/Scripture memorization tool, WGM offers more selections for corporate worship (two retuned hymns, two original worship songs and a fresh rendition of the Doxology).  This project will release at the end of July.  I already have plans to release a Scripture Song project for kids and another batch of Psalm Songs in 2017.  Setting Scripture to song has quickly become one of my favorite things to do and I plan to do much more of it in the future.

Act of Congress is finishing up pre-production for a new 3 song EP due out in fall/winter of this year.

What does your future hold?

There was a point in my life when being able to play and record music in a touring band excited me.  The allure of a life known and praised by many for my skills was enticing.  This also seemed a very complicated venture, one that would require endless sacrifice from me and my family.

Now, a (hopefully) matured thirty-something, the thought of that life absolutely repels me now.  There is great joy in living a simple life, loving my family, friends and others the Lord places in my path and using the gifts God has given me to make much of His name and grow His kingdom.  I don’t know specifically what that will look like, but I know that it’s exactly where I want to be.

What are your hopes for Birmingham's creative community? 

In the past ten years, I have grown in my awareness of and appreciation for the artistic community in Birmingham.  Two specific ways that have broadened my view are Inspero event, Thy Love Inspires and VIBRANT, Cahaba Park Church's annual music and arts festival.

Thy Love Inspires is a special event to me because it's an opportunity to band together with friends I've known for years for a night of music.  Our set list is compiled of a very diverse collection of original songs intended to encourage and empower the church.  As individuals, we bring these songs to the table, but collectively, styles and personalities merge to create a collaborative tapestry of music.  It's a beautiful picture - we're called into community together and this event is a direct reflection of that.

VIBRANT is an event that features artwork and music based on the Psalms.  I am not an artist, but have grown to appreciate the diversity in artistic style to communicate and display the grace and truth of God.  There is supreme value not only in the artwork, but in the artists who are using their gifts to point people to the beauty of creation and it's Creator.  I'm so grateful to be a part of the event and am looking forward to next year's festival.

InSpero People: Charity Ponter

Gina Hurry


Charity Ponter has been connected to InSpero for about three years. She is a treasure to Birmingham and embodies much of what InSpero is about. Charity has a heart for helping other people tell their stories. She also values artists and their processes, and she is a safe person for those she comes in contact with. 

Tell us a bit about you and your work.

I’m a creative documentary photographer native to Birmingham Alabama. I specialize in capturing creative people in their natural habitats and in a way that enables them to visually share who they are and what they do with others. I also often create personal artwork projects in the the form of conceptual photo series. 

I am currently working on a commissioned documentary photobook about the past 20 years of a southern, counter-culture community and music festival in Haleyville, Alabama that is planned for release around October 2016. 

What's a lesson your art and/or work have taught you?

One lesson my art has taught me is that it is very possible, even likely, that the things I photograph and the way I see the world will be different from anyone else’s perspective. I think I have learned and am still learning to use my unique visual “voice” and to listen to my gut instinct, to capture what inspires me, even if it may not be trendy or crowd-pleasing at the moment. I have learned that sticking to a core value of authenticity in my artwork is a battle worth fighting, and that translates into other areas of life as well. 

When in life have you felt most alone? When have you felt most surrounded by others who support you?

Feeling alone is a constant struggle (I say this as a happily single 20-something). There was a span of time when I was newly divorced, and didn’t have many close local friends and had not yet found my current church family/community. I poured myself into my artwork but it was very difficult to stay motivated and to keep depression at bay (translation: I did not keep it at bay). I don’t think we are designed to live alone, or with just two or three other people. I think the “American Dream” is isolating. Even when you’re married or have kids or both, you have your own house and your own little bubble. People need to be in community with others - and I think proximity is a huge part of that. Even if you’re in community with others, if you don’t live near them, it just isn’t the same. I would like to see my generation become a part of more community-living situations. My dream living condition would be to live in a big house with a diverse group of people, everyone having their personal space but sharing the rest. Any time I have felt most loved and supported and not-alone, I lived with a lot of other people in one building. That may not be realistic, so my secondary dream is to share art studios in that kind of setting. I’m still figuring out what community looks like. I don’t think the only options are to have a significant other or to be lonely. I think we all need WAY more community then what we are getting or giving. I want to know what that looks like, so I plan to keep figuring it out. Also, and unfortunately, to be an artist means that sometimes you simply won’t be understood by the general public. That’s not being “emo" or egotistical, it’s just true. Sometimes being an artist means being lonely, no matter how involved you are in a community. I love being an artist, so I’m ok with the trade-off. 

What are you proudest of?

In 2014 I started a project that took a year and a half to complete. I created a coffee table book entitled “for the beauty of: Birmingham” that featured a photo series of 14 different local artists in their studios. I poured all of my free time and energy into it and released the book in November of last year (2015). It was a learning experience and I created an enormous book (350 pages!) As a result the project offered little to no financial yield, but the relationships that were built and/or strengthened in my community as a result of my time and effort were well worth all I had invested. I sold nearly 100 copies and when sales slowed down I had to retire the first edition to be able to take on my next large project. I am still considering creating a limited second edition, but even if I never do, I’m proud of myself for sticking with the project, doing 95% of the book myself start-to-finish, and all during the worst/most difficult year of my life! 

What are your hopes for Birmingham's creative community?

My hopes for Birmingham’s creative community is that we as artists would be able to collaborate and support each other -- not just showing up for each others art shows but spending time with those who bring you joy and breathe creative life into your own work. I love it when I see the creative community working together to make art, looking out for each other, trading skill sets, and just generally investing in relationships with each other. I think that kind of support can only stem from genuine love and respect for each other along with a conscious decision to leave competition at the door. I can name a long lists of artists in this town that I admire who are my peers, and I can’t wait for the day when I am able to financially invest in their work in addition to relationally investing in their lives.