Connecting the Dots

One dot was in western New York. Another dot was in New Jersey. Yet another dot was in Southern California. They were connected about a year ago when Pat Heran, Institute for Youth Ministry administrative assistant, contacted me about informally mentoring one of its students enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary’s Certificate in Youth Ministry program. As artists integrating faith and creativity, she thought we would have a lot in common. Pat was right about that.

Tara Eastman is an accomplished artist and musician currently engaged in lay ministry with youth and families in her Lutheran congregation. Our conversations via email, Facebook and Skype this last year have been about purposefully integrating the arts into ministry. Even with all the advantages of the Internet, it was frustrating to be so far distant from one another. We each looked forward to meeting face to face some day.

That some day arrived when we both participated in the recent Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, a stately campus exquisite in the full bloom of spring. I was serving as the artist/theologian in residence and Tara was a participant. She was also my studio assistant during the extended seminar I taught on art and prayer over three days. There’s no better gift than an assistant who knows what and when to prep, put out, and put away supplies in an art studio. Tara’s got the gift! 

What fun it was for me to learn from her creative approach to each activity.  To see the variations on a theme that personalized her work, the unique aspects and details that gave it depth and meaning. And to appreciate her initiative as other art projects unfolded.

In additional to the art workshops, I was also responsible for a colaborative art-making experience for the conference participants. The theme of the conference was Create. During the opening worship service the liturgists has provided 5×7 index cards covered with random dots, a few of which had been connected. We were invited to create something by connecting the dots. I capped on that idea. Those who came to the art room during open studio time were initially invited to cover a 4’x5′ painter’s canvas drop cloth primed with gesso with lots of random black dots. Lots and lots of dots.

Hardly waiting for the dots to dry, a group of us began to connect the dots painting flowers and leaves, hot rods, tree trucks, bright pinwheels of colors, and Tara’s stylized black raven. Wandering lines were created between some of the dots by Ron Hiles representing the meandering nature of his life as he’s pursued connecting his dots while pursuing a master’s degree in theology and art. A sweet creative interpretation.

The image above was taken at the end of the first open studio time. Because of her mural painting experience, Tara added many of the integrating elements to the mural. It was finished by adding more blue “tear drops” and green leaves. And, yes, we simply connected some of the dots with bold black lines just for the fun of it.  

But I was most delighted with the opportunity to connect the dots and spend a few days making art with Tara while talking about art-making, life and faith.  Now that’s what I call connecting the dots.

If someone has connected the dots for you, what emerged out of that experience? How is your life different as a result of those connected dots? If you had a series of black dots on a canvas before you, what images would you paint by connect some of the dots?

Anxious to hear about your connect dots.

5 comments to Connecting the Dots

  • Annie Batten

    It sounds like Tara is lucky to have you and you are lucky to have Tara. Thank you for this post it feels good to think about those people who have and are connecting dots in my life

    Annie B

  • Jeannie Cavender


    As always enjoyed the “Brake Time” yes brake – a time to stop and ponder what you have written. I have as I may have mentioned in the past, I have 4 high school friends who have gathered at least once yearly for a number of years with all the variations of family, career choices, living location. We have termed ourselves the “Five Fables” each having a story to share that has meaning in itself but also connecting with one another. Thus your dot connecting fascinated me and I would love to bring it to our next gathering. Would like to do something like the prayer napkin banners but that would not work nearly as well as the dot connecting. One of the gals is a truly gifted with her cermanics and draws alot of it from her Jewish heritage. (She also has a doctorate in biochemistry from Harvard.) Another is a spinner, weaver, the one in high school who was making Vogue patterns when the rest of us were using Simplicity. Another is a dabbler in many creative forms – master of none – but delights in the variety paticularly in expression with the loss of her mother, then sister, and last year a 67 year old husband and what she can share without writing. The other woman is our practical, logical, research, pragmatic one whose art is in having the background and detail for many of our discussion – she is also an artist of sorts with food preparation. I don’t seems to fit into any of the above – guess alot of my dots are connected in writing. Be that as we all may the collabrative efforts as well as our individual ones should be fascinating as we connect the dots.


  • I wish I could have participated in connecting the dots. I love when meaning emerges out of seeming mindlessness or nothingness. Connection is always powerful. Thank-you.

  • Lynne – Having some time to connect dots with you this year from a distance and last week face-to-face was such a blessing! Thank you for your time, encouragement and push into working with art and faith more and more!

  • Sara Blackburn

    I did a similar project with my elementary kids. We called the Courageous Creatures. They closed their eyes and placed 25 random dots on their paper. They opened their eyes and connected those dots however they saw fit and turned them into silly looking creatures with courageous names. I would love to revisit that project with a lesson on the dots of life. There are so many ways a dot project could go!!

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