It's Been a Magical Year for InSpero

“Art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs
into bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be.
Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstances.
Art reminds us that we belong here. And if we serve, we last. . .
Its conversation with the public and among its various genres is critical
to the understanding of what it means to care deeply and to be human completely.”

Toni Morrison


InSpero cares deeply about beauty and those who create it. Since March we've hosted a Lent Retreat at the peaceful and lovely Salem Farm, packed the house atLeaf & Petalfor a concert by David Wilcox and Andy Gullahorn, offered an intimate songwriter's workshop led by David and Andy at the gracious Wolnski Farm, and facilitated a deep conversation on our dreams for Birmingham at our Pastor Artist Dinner at theClubhouse on Highland.

Lent Retreat

Photos by Emily Kicklighter


This year led by Adam WrightBill Boyd, and Nancy Carroll, our annual Lent Retreat invites people to slow down and create through the season in preparation for Easter. 

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A Magical Evening with David Wlicox and Andy Gullahorn

Photos by Charity Ponter and Caroline Hurry


Who knew that a nursery (Leaf & Petal Cahaba Heights) could be the perfect location for an intimate concert? The audience of more than 100 was as diverse as the many plants filling the greenhouse and eclectic as all the trendy mismatched chairs and tables and decor. David and Andy held us  spellbound with their music and chemistry. They are in production for a shared album and promised to do a repeat performance when they debut their new music. We'll keep you posted for the encore! One of the songs Andy sings, "If You Want to Love Someone" (lyrics by Jason Gray), reflects the evening:

”The heart will hide where it's been broken
but the fault lines still remain
like a map to lead you home when
you can enter through their pain
If you want to love someone
search their soul for where it's broken
find the cracks and pour your heart in
if you want to love someone...”

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Songwriters Retreat with David Wlicox and Andy Gullahorn

Photos by Corey Nolen 
 

It was a privilege to soak in the wisdom of David Wilcox and Andy Gullahorn at the InSpero Songwriters Workshop in March. As a non-musician, I (Nancy) sat in the shadows, scribbling notes, surprised how their creative process resonated with me as a spiritual practice for any who struggled to understand and communicate their own heart truths. Here are a few of their thoughts:
 
Don’t think this writing is ever easy. It is a simple practice of showing up every day, sitting in the silence and discomfort of your own heart to know what you feel.
 
David asks himself, “Is there something I should know before it’s too late?” He tries to write it down before he forgets what it feels like. He uses what he calls the “warmer/cooler” game for every emotion he is trying to communicate in his lyrics and music to narrow it down to the “truest true.” David and Andy spoke of the discipline of not settling for being “clever” but to keep digging deep for ways to “sing the cries of everyone else.”  Thank you, David and Andy, for being songwriters who give us music that help us stay alive and give us hope that we’re not alone.

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Pastor Artist Dinner

Photos by Emily Kicklighter

One of our favorite and most fruitful connections every year is our pastor-artist dinner where we connect five pastors and five artists from the city to better understand each other and their shared hopes for Birmingham. This year's pastors included Bill Brunson, Vestavia Hills Methodist Church; Glenda Curry, All Saints Episcopal Church; Mike Jones, Harvest Community Church; Kam Pugh, Iron City Church; Matt Schneider, Cathedral Church of the Advent. This year's artists included Scott Barfoot, master stylist; Susan Gordon, potter; Gisela Kreglinger, writer, theologian; Wen Reagan, musician, worship leader, professor; Chiharu Roach, painter; Chelsey Whild, musician. Gina, Nancy and Bob McKenna also joined the conversation. The beautiful tablescaping by Gild and Garnish

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Get Your Magic City Storyteller Tickets Now! 

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Join us at our fifth annual Magic City Storytellers on Thursday, June 6, 6-9 pm to hear from poets, musicians and writers who bear “witness to the world as it is and as it should be.” All at theClubhouse on Highland(thank you, Bob!) with a beautiful spread of wine, beer, charcuterie boards (thanksGild and Garnish, Christi, Elizabeth and Shelly!) and break-up cookies fromChurch Street Coffee and Books(thanks, Cal!) at intermission. We've sold out the past few years so get tickets now.Warning!As of this moment, we only have 15 tickets left at the $15 suggested donation level. (We do have about 20 “golden” tickets available at the $50 level which will get you reserved seating, a few special treats, and our undying gratitude to be able to keep this beautiful event accessible for all our Birmingham folks.) Link here for tickets!  

Here is the amazing lineup of 2019 singer/songwriters, poets, and storytellers.

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From L to R, top to bottom
Brian "Voice Porter" Hawkins, poet. Tina Mozelle Braziel, poet. Will Stewart singer/songwriter 
Chelsey Whild singer/songwriter Graham Cotten, fiction  Gin Phillips fiction.

Link here to read more about each of these amazing Birmingham voices! Link here for tickets. 

We are grateful to all in our creative community who, as Toni Morrison describes, bear "witness to the world as it is and as it should be." Our desire is that Magic City Storytellers and all our offerings are moments of "as it should be." 
 

It's Time for Some More Magic!

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Photo by Emily Kicklighter Photography

Photo by Emily Kicklighter Photography

InSpero's Magic City Storytellers offers you the chance to experience some of Birmingham's amazing musicians, storytellers, wordsmiths, and poets. All at the Clubhouse on Highland (thank you, Bob!) with a beautiful spread of wine, beer, charcuterie boards (thanks Gild and Garnish, Christi, Elizabeth and Shelly!) and break-up cookies from Church Street Coffee and Books(thanks, Cal!) at intermission. We've sold out the past few years so get tickets now. Link here!   Thanks also to Charlotte Donlon, Corey Nolen, and Charlie Ritch for curating these amazing storytellers. 

Here's this year's wonderful line-up:

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Gin Phillips is the author of five novels. Her debut novel, The Well and the Mine, was the winner of the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Since then her work has been sold in 29 countries. Her latest novel, Fierce Kingdom, was named one of the Best Crime Novels of 2017 by The New York Times, as well as one of the Best Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly, NPR, and Amazon. 

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Will Stewart has been away from his hometown of Birmingham for years, living in Nashville while earning his stripes as a songwriter, frontman, and lead guitarist. Still, something kept drawing him back home where he'd grown up surrounded by the twang of classic country music and the stomp of rootsy rock & roll. Alabama was a complicated place, its history filled with dark characters and cultural clashes, but it was oddly compelling, too. After a decade away, he rediscovered his muse: the Modern South, whose characters, complexities, open spaces, and strange beauty are all channeled into Stewart's full-length solo debut, County Seat.

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Tina Mozelle Braziel, author of Known by Salt (Anhinga Press) and Rooted by Thirst (Porkbelly Press). She's been awarded the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, an Alabama State Council on the Arts fellowship, and an artist residency at Hot Springs National Park. She directs the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop for high school students at UAB. She and her husband, novelist James Braziel, live and write in a glass cabin that they are building by hand on Hydrangea Ridge.

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Brian Voice Porter Hawkins, poet, writer, actor, community development consultant, visionary and master gardener. Brian is vice-president of We Are Rtists (WAR), an organization that facilitates collaboration between artists and seeks to educate artists in the business of art. He is creative director of Bards & Brews at the Birmingham Public Library and On Stage at the Carver, the longest running poetry open mic in Alabama and co-founders of WordSpeak Literary Entertainment; a non-profit organization that uses writers and actors to enrich the lives of underprivileged children. As director of "The Color Project Ensley," Brian seeks to transform a neglected part of our community, into a place overflowing with beauty and warmth. The Color Project Ensley addresses the social, mental, and physical health of the people of Ensley with public art, creative placemaking, performance art, and urban planning. 

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Chelsey Whild is a Birmingham native whose sound and song writing reflect a "woman in afraid to dig into the human condition." She has released two projects, "Fire" and "What I Need." She's also recently curated the Girls Rock Fest to benefit Girls Rock Bham. 

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Graham Cotten,  a Zell fellow in fiction at The University of Michigan’s MFA program, has also attended workshops at Tin House, Sewanee, and the Yiddish Book Center. His short stories have appeared in American Short Fiction and on NPR’s All Things Considered. This summer, his wife and her business partner are opening an independent new bookstore in Birmingham, Thank You Books. He is finishing a novel. 

Be sure to come at 6 to enjoy appetizers, wine and beer on the most beautiful patio in Birmingham. Program begins at 7 p.m. Intermission features Church Street Coffee and Books break-up cookies.

Be sure to come at 6 to enjoy appetizers, wine and beer on the most beautiful patio in Birmingham. Program begins at 7 p.m. Intermission features Church Street Coffee and Books break-up cookies.

So come to a magical night of song, storytelling, refreshments and beauty Thursday, June 6, 6-9 pm. Limited seating so go ahead and reserve your spot now. Link here for tickets. 

 

Be Our Guest at InSpiring Events this Spring 

(Hint: Tickets are going fast!)


We hope you will join us as we seek to give small moments of magic  to Birmingham. From a contemplative retreat to begin the Lent Season to an intimate evening with David Wilcox and Andy Gullahorn followed by a songwriters' workshop to our annual Magic City Storyteller evening, there's something special coming up. Because we focus on more beautiful, intimate events, tickets are limited.

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LENT RETREAT

Tuesday, March 5
8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
The Salem Farm

Slow down and prepare for the Lent Season through a day retreat at a beautiful farm.
Adam Wright (Act of Congress, Corner Room Music) will offer his music and
Rev. Bill Boyd will invite us into rest in a Scriptural meditation.
You will have the opportunity to be encouraged, to connect with others, to find quiet,
and be challenged to create through the season of Lent. Lunch included.
Limited to 30 participants. Link here for tickets. 

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A Magical Night with David Wilcox

with special guest Andy Gullahorn

Thursday, March 21

7 p.m.
Leaf & Petal

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Join us in this intimate greenhouse setting for a fun night of story and song featuring guest artist,David Wilcox. David is an American folk musician and singer-songwriter guitarist known for his warm lyrical storytelling. We are thrilled to announce our friend, Andy Gullahorn will make a special guest appearance.
(We're even more excited to introduce Andy as our newest InSpero Board Member.)  
Seating is limited. Please order your tickets now as they will sell out. 

 Golden ticket holders will attend a special pre-show happy hour and relaxed meal and meet
David and Andy and the Inspero Board of Directors 6-7pm.
Only a few tickets left. Link here.
All proceeds to benefit InSpero's ongoing activities and
scholarships to artists to attend events such as the songwriter workshop. 

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Songwriters Workshop with David Wilcox and Andy Gullahorn

Friday, March 22

The Wolnski Farm
9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. 
Limited to 20 participants


Spend the day with David and Andy in community with other creatives processing the art of writing and storytelling as well as cultivating your craft and tending to your soul. The workshop will be held at a beautiful country home. A light breakfast (lots of coffee) and lunch will be served. Link here for tickets.

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Only a few spaces left.

 Pastor-Artist Dinner

Tuesday, April 9

6-8:30 p.m.

The Clubhouse on Highland


One of InSpero's most fruitful events each year is our Pastor-Artist Dinner where we gather senior pastors from different denominations and artists from around the city to talk about their callings, their frustrations, and their desires for seeking the good for our city. This year's dinner will be held at the Clubhouse on Highland featuring a beautiful meal created by Chef Mac Russell of Whistling Table.
 

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Magic City Storytellers


Thursday, June 6
6-9 p.m.
The Clubhouse on Highland


This will be our fifth annual Magic City Storytellers and it has sold out quickly in the past years. Please link here for tickets for an evening featuring the voices of two local singer/songwriters, two poets, and two writers. Besides the music and stories, enjoy appetizers and beverages on the front porch (6-7) and coffee and dessert at intermission.
Golden ticket holders will receive a special gift bundle featuring some of the books/music from our artists and help InSpero keep the ticket price accessible for this beautiful evening of song, story, and food. 

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  Thanks to Louanne Elliott for her help refreshing our website.  She's heading to New York City soon to join Gotham Writers but we hope we can lure her back to Birmingham.
 

Seeking Ways to Sustain the "Sustainers"

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This past month Gina and Nancy received a great gift:
words of wisdom, freedom, and affirmation from trusted friends
as we sought direction and answers for InSpero 
at a vision retreat at the beautiful Pursell Farms.

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These creative visionaries from around the Southeast
and then members of our creative tribe spoke (and sang) wisdom as we shared our desire
to find a consistent place to offer thoughtful, intimate, restorative retreats
for those on the frontlines of the arts and ministries and city renewal. 

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Their answer was a resounding YES that this kind of retreat is vitally important for them and us.
But they also gave us a unified NO about finding a physical place.
Their answer was “we are the place—wherever we are—whoever we are with.” 
They said the vision is enough weight. A physical place could add more weight than we need now.

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They encouraged us to stay true to our vision for the common good
to see Birmingham look more like heaven through inspiring creative community.

To our belief that beauty matters and so do those who create it.

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When you carry a dream or a vision for a long time,
the weight of it sometimes feels like this statue pictured above at Pursell Farm's Parker Lodge.
Having friends help sustain us so we can sustain others lifted our heads and hearts.

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If you are reading this, you too, may have a vision or dream
and wonder how you can sustain it, how you can keep going. 

Here are some of the words of wisdom they gave us

There is beauty in letting love lead us and and pursuing and valuing the “one” person.

Doing things in a small, slow, faithful way over a long period of time will continue to be our rhythm.


Full, unhurried, uninterrupted presence with each other is rare, powerful, and so needed.

We cannot do anything without the amazing people God has brought to carry us: 
pray-ers, hospitality givers, space-creators, table-setters,
those who bring their hearts/music/visions and those who contribute financially.
Thank you. 

The answer we were seeking is something we already possess
and we came away knowing that this intimate retreat will play a critical part in our annual rhythm and in our own lives as we continue to see hints of heaven break into Birmingham
and we care for our creative community to bring beauty and hope to our city and churches.

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So with a bear hug from some of our friends and a renewed affirmation of our vision, 
in a few days, please look for another InSpero email
where we will give you links to tickets to some of our upcoming events, including
our Lent Retreat March 5, David Wilcox with Andy Gullahorn events on March 21-22,
and Magic City Storyteller on June 6.

David Wilcox Tickets Now LIVE!

Art by Gina Hurry

Art by Gina Hurry

 

"I've come at last," said he. "She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last.
Aslan is on the move. The Witch's magic is weakening."
Father Christmas   From The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis


Advent reflects the heart of InSpero, living in this now-and-not-yet time. It is a time of waiting and wondering, of remembering and longing, of acknowledging a world that is not as it should be, but still a world glimmering with a "thousand points of light" in the darkness.

 Our dear friend and board memberSteven Garberreflected on this in 2015:

“Always winter. Never Christmas. . . . I have staked my life on something more: that this wounded world, this very broken world, is not the last word. Simply said, I believe in Christmas, and in a Christmas that has moral meaning. Cursed as we are, cursed as this life so often seems, it will not always be winter. Christmas has come, and is coming… and I am longing for its blessings to flow far as the curse is found." Linkherefor his full post. 

InSpero (spero=hope in Latin, inspired=God breathed) holds with both hands this "double hope" during the Advent Season.

He has come. He will come again.

As we wait, InSpero longs to make Birmingham look and feel more like Heaven, a little more like “Always Christmas.”

David Wilcox Tickets Now Live

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One of the ways we are doing that is through an intimate concert and conversation with singer/songwriter David Wilcoxon Thursday, March 21, inside the beautiful newLeaf & Petalgreenhouse in Cahaba Heights. They magically transform their space into a concert venue. Wine, beer and light appetizers will be available. "Golden tickets" available for those who would like to meet and greet David at a happy hour from 6-7 pm. 

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We can only fit a limited number of people and wanted our mailing list be able tolink to ticketsfirst!  This will be followed by a full-day songwriting workshop led by David at a beautiful farm home on Friday, March 22. This has even morelimited tickets available. If you're interested in helping to sponsor this concert and/or workshop, please email nancy@inspero.org. 


Tickets to the David Wilcox concert or to the songwriting workshop  would make great Christmas gifts!
All proceeds will benefit the mission of InSpero to bring beauty and hope to our city and churches through creative community.

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Another way we’re encouraging our artists is through intimate house shows. Recently, a musician was able to share his music and his struggles with faith in a setting where people could with compassion just live in the questions with him. No fixes. A community willing to come alongside.

Year-End Giving


Please consider InSpero in your Christmas and year-end giving. As a 501(c)(3), your donation is tax deductible. We are having more and more opportunities to cultivate Birmingham’s growing creative community to bring beauty and hope to our city and our churches. Your donations will help us continue to provide events such as Magic City Storytellers, pastor/artist dinners, intimate house shows where people can sit together in the questions of faith and life, Bridge Builders addressing the systemic wounds of our divided city, and retreats/soul care for artists and visionaries and “front liners” for our community. Just go to ourwebsiteand hit the donate button or mail a check to InSpero, Inc. to 246 Marwood Drive, Birmingham, AL 35244.

We believe Aslan is on the move in Birmingham. And you are helping us to "thaw out" the always winter of this world as we wait for the  "always Christmas."



Seeking the "Shalom" of the City 

Hospitality offered by Christi Wilson and Elizabeth Dortch and cupcakes by Dreamcakes own Aaron Conrad. Photo by    Emily Kicklighter

Hospitality offered by Christi Wilson and Elizabeth Dortch and cupcakes by Dreamcakes own Aaron Conrad. Photo by Emily Kicklighter


InSpero packed its fifth birthday celebration on September 14 at the Clubhouse on Highland with new and old friends, music, food, cupcakes, photo booths, balloons, and joy. This magical evening was made possible by the many volunteers, donors, and Bob McKenna for sharing this vision which is InSpero. Below are some photos and a short excerpt of what Nancy shared that night. Keep scrolling down to see some of the beautiful offerings coming this year.

Our featured guests,    Jill Phillips    and    Andy Gullahorn   . Photo by    Emily Kicklighter

Our featured guests, Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn. Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Photo booth provided by    Charity Ponter    (p.s. that's Elizabeth and Christi in the frame.) Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Photo booth provided by Charity Ponter (p.s. that's Elizabeth and Christi in the frame.) Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Gina Hurry   , founder and CEO. Arden Dortch, administrator/event planner;    Nancy Carroll,    president Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Gina Hurry, founder and CEO. Arden Dortch, administrator/event planner; Nancy Carroll, president Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Laughter and joy were the hallmarks of the night. Photo by Josh Vigneulle

Laughter and joy were the hallmarks of the night. Photo by Josh Vigneulle

Nancy and Gina pausing in prayer before the festivities Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Nancy and Gina pausing in prayer before the festivities Photo by Emily Kicklighter

One reason I love InSpero is because it isn’t easily defined (or even pronounced).

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It's a movement, an offering. It's a way of seeing, acknowledging, healing, and restoring our beautiful, broken city through the stirring of our creative community. There’s a passage in Scripture where the prophet Jeremiah tells the exiled Israelites to "flourish" the city where God sent them. He uses the beautiful Hebrew word "shalom" that encompasses peace, wholeness, welfare, flourishing, a sense of rightness or as Andy Gullahorn's upcoming album is titled “Everything As It Should Be.”

This room (as well as you reading this post) is filled with shalom seekers. But how do shalom seekers keep going when they see and feel the brokenness every day? For me, the last few years have been painful. My default to the brokenness around and in me is to check out, find some safe anesthetic to numb myself.  But I was reminded recently that "an-esthetic" means the absence of sensation or awareness, the loss of our five senses. That’s another reason I love InSpero. It helps me fight to come back to my senses, to the beauty around me. It’s the artists and artisans, the poets and potters, the prophets and pastors, the musicians and makers, the dreamers and dancers, the chefs and the storytellers who help keep us awake, alive, willing to hope, willing to be hurt again. They remind us there’s more to come. Beauty can hurt. It is so fleeting. But it is so worth it. And hope can hurt, but we can’t live without it.

May InSpero (Spero=Hope in Latin+Inspired=God breathed) give you a breath of holy hope. 


 

InSpero Calendar of Events 2018-2019

Bridge Builder Dinner
October 26, 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

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Deidre Clark, founder of KUUMBA and Birmingham TedX speaker and dear friend of InSpero, will share from her participation in the Aspen Ideas Festival. InSpero's Bridge Builders is a group of artists and city visionaries seeking to understand and help heal the divisions and wounds of our city. 

 

Film Screening "Revival: The Sam Bush Story"
Followed by Q&A with Wayne Franklin, Wannabe Films
November 30
 

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Birmingham's own Wayne Franklin, co-director of the new music documentary, "Revival: The Sam Bush Story" will be available to answer questions after we view this film about the Father of Bluegrass. Location TBA. 

Annual Lent Retreat

March 5 

InSpero will offer a one-day retreat inviting artists to create through the season of Lent. It will be followed by a gallery art show of their work. 

 

David Wilcox Concert Benefiting InSpero
Thursday, March 21
Leaf and Petal, Cahaba Heights

Breakfast and Conversation with Creatives
Songwriter Workshop
March 22

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Please stay tuned for more information as the amazing singer-songwriter David Wilcox gives a benefit concert for InSpero, Inc. on Thursday, March 21 at the Leaf and Petal in Cahaba Heights and follows it with a deeper conversations and a songwriting workshop for local musicians and artists on Friday, March 22. If you're interested in helping to sponsor this concert and/or workshop, please email nancy@inspero.org.
                              


Annual Pastor Artist Dinner
April 9 

One of the most powerful events we do each year is a deep conversation between five senior pastors and five artists in the city around a chef-created meal. 
 


Magic City Storytellers 
The Clubhouse on Highland
June 13, 6-9 p.m.


Save the date and watch when the tickets go on sale for this event because it has sold out in the last few years. Two local singer-songwriters, two writers, two poets weave together story and song along with beautiful appetizers and drinks all at the Clubhouse on Highland. 

 

Five Years of Bringing Beauty and Hope to Birmingham through Creative Community 

Mako Fujimura, Gina Hurry, Steve Garber

Mako Fujimura, Gina Hurry, Steve Garber

Gina recently attended a special symposium given by artist Mako Fujimura and Visions of Vocation author and InSpero board member Dr. Steven Garber in Vancouver, British Columbia. They delved into the power of art and story and vocation in finding a way to live, and still love, amidst the ruins. As Steve repeats often, "What will you do with what you know? How can you see your world in all its joy and pain and still love it? How will you seek its welfare?" For InSpero, our world is Birmingham, our creative community, and how our creatives can help the city and its churches flourish. 

Mako challenged the group with the question, "When was the last time you wasted time?" Playing, creating, listening, sitting, thinking, being with people. Some thought Jesus "wasted" time because he didn't keep step with the agenda of others. Mary "wasted" her alabaster jar of her resources. But none of it was wasted. In a productive, driven world, people fear wasting time on the things that really matter. Beauty. Art. Creativity. Conversation. Collaboration. Relationships. Community. Restoration. Celebration. Hope. Conversations and questions like these with Mako and Steve confirm for Gina and Nancy the calling of InSpero for such a time as this!  We've highlighted some of our upcoming events below.

 

InSpero Calendar of Events 2018-2019

InSpero's 5th Birthday Party
September 14, 6-9:30 p.m.
The Clubhouse on Highland

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We're celebrating our birthday with an intimate night of story and song featuring special guests and friends, Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn. Musicians and songwriters from Nashville (who also happened to be married) Jill and Andy weave true and resonant (and sometimes hilarious) stories through their powerful music. Appetizers and drinks will be served on Bob's amazing porch from 6-7 pm and the concert begins at 7 pm. We'll have an intermission with dessert because, well, it's our birthday!  Please consider donating to InSpero, Inc. at this party so we can continue inspiring our creative community to bring beauty and hope to our city. There will be a limited number of tickets available to the public and they will go "live" on August 24. Link here for more information. 

Bridge Builder Dinner
October 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

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Deidre Clark, founder of KUUMBA and Birmingham TedX speaker and dear friend of InSpero, will be sharing from her participation in the Aspen Ideas Festival. InSpero's Bridge Builders is a group of artists and city visionaries seeking to understand and help heal the divisions and wounds of our city. 

Annual Lent Retreat
March 5

Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Photo by Emily Kicklighter

InSpero will offer a one-day retreat inviting artists to create through the season of Lent. It will be followed by a gallery art show of their work. This is from last year's gallery called Those Who Do Not Weep Do Not See and featured more than 40 local artists. 

 

David Wilcox Concert Benefiting InSpero
Thursday, March 21

Breakfast and Conversation with Creatives
Songwriter Workshop
March 22

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Please stay tuned for more information as the amazing singer-songwriter David Wilcox gives a benefit concert for InSpero, Inc. on Thursday, March 21 and follows it with a deeper conversations and a songwriting workshop for local musicians and artists on Friday, March 22. If you're interested in helping to sponsor this concert and/or workshop, please email nancy@inspero.org.
                              


Annual Pastor Artist Dinner
April 9 

Photo by Josh Vigneulle

Photo by Josh Vigneulle

One of the most powerful events we do each year is a deep conversation between five senior pastors and five artists in the city around a chef-created meal. 


Magic City Storytellers
The Clubhouse on Highland
June 13, 6-9 p.m.

Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Photo by Emily Kicklighter

Save the date and watch when the tickets go on sale for this event because it has sold out in the last few years. Two local singer-songwriters, two writers, two poets weave together story and song along with beautiful appetizers and drinks all at the Clubhouse on Highland. 

 

Magic City Storytellers 2018: Great Night of Stories and Songs

Our fourth annual Magic City Storytellers Night sold out once again and was a beautiful evening. Thanks to those who helped pull it all together: Charlie Ritch, Charlotte DonlonCorey Nolen, Elizabeth Dortch, Christi Wilson. And to our amazing host Bob McKenna. Our amazing line up included Wilder Adkins,Salaam GreenRussell HehnKristen IskandrianNathan Peek, and Maria Vargas. Thanks to the Clubhouse on HighlandVintage WineThe Neighborhood Brewand Church Street Shop for their break-up cookies. Here are a few photos (all taken by Emily Kicklighter Photography) that captured the event:

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The Question That’s Haunting Us

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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.

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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

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

Muriel Rukeyser

 

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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:

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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 Literaryhealingart.com.

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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?

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

 

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 melaniegrantdesign@gmail.com. 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.
Kanzi
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 nancy@inspero.org 

 

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 nancy@inspero.org and we will be updating you this Spring through email and our Instagram and Facebook accounts.  


 

InSpero Annual Winter Retreat

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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

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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

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

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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 nancy@inspero.org. 
 


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 rachelmillerhunt@hotmail.com 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

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

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 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.
 

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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.
 

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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
                        Birmingham
 
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

"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

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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

Karvy

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 website-becomingkarvy.com.
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

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

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 rachelmillerhunt@hotmail.com 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

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.