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The Makers Series | TRANSLATE

The next installment of the Makers Series explores how the visual, dramatic, and musical arts help us bridge the gaps between cultures, communities, and even between ourselves and our creator.  Doors open and refreshments available in the Fellowship Hall at 6:30 PM; program and conversation begins at 7:00 and runs until 9:30.


Coinciding with the final weekend of Third Church's February Term exploration of loving our global neighbors in a local context, this edition of the Makers Series focuses on the way the arts are often (if not always) efforts to translate one idea or experience into another form, to take what one person or community has seen or heard or felt and make it available to others.

Because the arts seldom rely on verbal means alone, they can be especially effective in communicating across linguistic and cultural lines, and have an important place in the work of the church--both ministry and evangelism. Moreover, the collaborative nature of many art forms offers a way for people of different communities to work together in the common cause of making things that are beautiful, useful, or help them tell their stories together.  Forming cross-cultural creative communities, then, can be a powerful way to understand and love our neighbors.

On the other hand, and while such efforts to draw out others' personal and spiritual insights and share our own via the arts are a profound gift, translation is inevitably fraught with ambiguity. Words, gestures, symbols and stories carry many meanings at once (sometimes with very subtle distinctions), and require attention and effort on both sides of the communication in order to carry over the true meaning and importance of what's being shared. Tonight's slate of Makers will draw out very different aspects of this complex "art as translation" idea, but all of them will help highlight how creative practices facilitate connection across boundaries, whether spiritual, interpersonal, or cultural.


Karen Swenholt

Karen Swenholt.jpg

Karen Swenholt is a figurative sculptor who lives and works in Northern Virginia.  After attending MICA and California College of the Arts, she continued studies at New York City’s New York Studio School under Bruce Gagnier, Virginia’s Art League, and the Art League.  Influences from the West Coast’s Bay Area Figurative Movement combined with the emotional power of abstract expressionism from her East Coast studies and origins to form the foundation of Swenholt’s work today.

 The rough painterly surfaces of Karen’s sculptures contrast with their grace, conveying emotion and movement.  Critic Glenn McNatt observed that “Swenholt renders figures in energetic, highly stylized forms that recall the earthy dynamism of Rodin and the skeletal surrealism of Giacometti” adding, “In her best pieces Swenholt manages to hold the rational and irrational in fruitful suspension so that her forms assume the surreal authority of dreams, revelations and spiritual encounters.” Indeed, an intersection of spiritual and technical exploration is at the heart of her work and life.

Karen is presently Artist-inResidence at Convergence in Alexandria, Virginia.  Her work can be found in many public and private collections including Cairn University in Philadelphia, Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C and churches across the U.S. Abroad, her work is in the collection of The Vladimir Romanov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia and at the Irish home of U2's Bono.

And, beginning on Friday, 2/3, you can see her work on display in Richmond at Gallery EDIT, at 8 E. Broad St. Read more and see images of her work at, but please take the opportunity this month to see Karen’s work in person and support our partners at EDIT.

John Riad & Michael Goolsby

John and Michael join us as members of the Christian Arabic Church Drama Team--friends and partners brought together through ministry in the arts.

John is an Egyptian-born VCU student who came to the US with his parents at age 15, growing up in the cross-cultural environment of public American schools and a complex Arabic-speaking community (both Christian and Muslim) of Henrico County. He discovered and joined the Drama Team as a way to start answering the call he felt to share the gospel with his peers and wider community.  As the Team's former leader moved on to grow a business, John stepped into a leadership role and has been helping facilitate the work of the Team as Coordinator.

Michael Goolsby was born and raised in Mechanicsville and graduated from UVA with majors in Arabic and Religious Studies, focusing on Islam. Study travel to Jordan, Egypt and Palestine cemented his love for the cultures of the Middle East—especially the incredible hospitality of those he met there.  Back at UVA he tried to return the favor as a Student Mentor to first-year and transfer students with Middle Eastern backgrounds, aiming to ease their transition into the University of Virginia. Coming home after college, Michael sought out the CAC and soon discovered John and the Drama Team as a way to connect and serve the Arabic Church here in Richmond.

We'll hear from John and Michael about their connection and friendship via the CAC Drama Team, their current projects and plans, and how the not only fosters community among its actors and members of the CAC, but also does the work of translating between Middle-Eastern and American cultures, as well as between Christians and non-Christians.

Uday Balasundaram


Uday Balasundaram was born in Coimbatore, South India, and raised in New Delhi. He studied guitar performance in Los Angeles before returning to India from 1991 to 2000, where he was part of a movement that revolutionized the production and spread of Indian commercial and film music worldwide, working closely with A. R. Rahman, the award-winning composer of the film, Slumdog Millionaire. Uday then returned to the US to pursue his M.Div and a Ph.D. in intercultural studies from Asbury Theological Seminary, where his research explored the process of musical creativity amongst indigenous cosmopolitan musicians for mission. 

Uday has served as a pastor in the global church (India and US), working with Bhutanese refugees from Nepal, and Korean, Pakistani, and Indian migrant Christian communities, and also taught at Fuller Theological Seminary, Houston Graduate School of Theology, and the South Asian Institute for Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India.

Currently, Uday is Director of Worship at Northland—A Church Distributed, in Lakeland, Florida.  From there he also stewards Estuary Cultures and the Academy for Creativity, Research, & Design: two projects that focus on research, development and implementation of ways the church can better understand and participate in the creativity of God for mission. 


Also consider attending the TRANSLATE | Art As Mission Symposium the next day, Saturday, February 25 from 9:00AM to 3:30 PM.  The Translate Symposium brings together more than 20 national and global practitioners, advocates and theorists of the arts as front-line missions work to connect them with each other and invite local church and missions communities to learn about and support their creative and evangelical work.  A half-day of presentations, performances, conversations, and interviews will connect and encourage some of the many believers who work in arts missions, and invite RVA churches and others passionate about evangelism to join them and each other in this area of ministry.

Earlier Event: February 23
Shiloh: Gathering of Dessert & Fellowship
Later Event: February 25
TRANSLATE | Art As Mission Symposium