Art, Class of 1985
Artist answers call to the Big Apple
“Life for artists in New York can be so hard, so alienating, so expensive,” said Rick Beerhorst ’85. “If you’re interested in reaching out to artists, New York City is a good place to be. There’s a great need.”
Rick and his wife, Brenda, felt God pulling them to answer that need. So last summer they transplanted their family of six children from a two-story house in Grand Rapids, Mich., to an apartment in the heart of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Rick Beerhorst is a self-supporting artist. His intricate, finely crafted oil paintings and prints are an expression of his prayerful walk with God. His works sell for up to several thousand dollars each and have been shown in galleries in Grand Rapids; Chicago, Ill.; Seattle, Wash.; and New York City.
The Beerhorsts have always done things differently. They homeschool their children, several of whom produce their own art. Their house on Hermitage Avenue in Grand Rapids was simple but beautifully adorned. Twice a year the family invited the community into their home for an art sale. The sale worked, Rick Beerhorst said, because it was “more intimate than a gallery.” They always had visitors: “young people, artist types who needed affirmation and molding about how to live in the arts.”
Five years ago, Beerhorst made a faith decision to concentrate on his art and stop doing other work on the side. His artwork grew in value and visibility. “Since I really focused on my art, I got to that level where there was a certain punch to the pieces I was doing.”
Yet often Beerhorst would think of New York City: “I felt an overwhelming love for this place.” He was first smitten during a Calvin College Interim trip in 1981 and later spent a year in New York before returning to Grand Rapids.
In 2002, Beerhorst shared his feelings about New York City with a pastor, and “hit by the Spirit of God,” he fell on the ground as they were talking. “God has planted this deep in your heart,” the pastor told him. Rick and Brenda began to pray about New York, and slowly the dream became reality.
Life in Brooklyn has sometimes been lonely for the Beerhorsts, but their family weblog helps them stay in touch with old friends, and new bonds are forming. Beerhorst was recently introduced to Makoto Fujimura, an artist sometimes called the “Christian Picasso.”
The Beerhorsts believe their purpose for being in New York City is to mentor younger artists — Christians and others whom God is calling.
“I think there’s a hunger for leadership in the arts,” Beerhorst said. “We’ve been fed a diet of people like Vincent van Gogh, a picture of artists as flaky, grandiose, egocentric and sexually promiscuous. God is starting to raise up people that want to bring morality into their artwork.”
Beerhorst will always be one of those people. “When you’re doing a creative thing, it seems like God is part of it. It’s like another form of prayer,” he said.