“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” —Pablo Picasso
For six recent Calvin grads, Pablo Picasso’s musings from last century not only rang true but proved inspiring. Nick Dekker ’01, Beth Meyer Dekker ’01, Karl Boettcher ’01, Jessie Glover Boettcher ’02, Ryan Hoke ’03 and Jacqui De Boer Hoke ’05 all wanted to be artists when they grew up.
They all came to Calvin, got involved in the Calvin Theatre Company, and then they graduated.
“In college you make friends, learn things and have fun,” said Nick Dekker. “After that is when everyone has to go where they have to go and do what they have to do. We seriously questioned why it had to be that way.”
“Why do we have to leave college and all of our friends behind and start a brand new life all over?” added Beth Dekker. “We just never understood why we had to be so passive and couldn’t be more active in our choices about what we did and who we did it with.”
In fact, the group hatched a plan to ensure that it wouldn’t be that way, for them anyway. “We talked about how fun it would be if we could keep this [community] going, and then we came to the realization that we could do this,” Nick said.
From those original thoughts Wild Goose Creative was born nearly five years later.
Wild Goose Creative is an arts company that facilitates art in every way possible, according to Nick. “It’s a nexus to help artists do their work and to connect artists with other artists,” he said.
The company is purposely located in Columbus, Ohio, because of the area’s thriving arts community, the city’s large but not-too-large size, and its central location. The Dekkers were the first to relocate there after college. Nick and Beth attended graduate school in theater at Ohio State University in Columbus intentionally to scope things out.
“We’re doing something very countercultural in the interest of sustaining relationships and forwarding art that is edifying to the kingdom of God.” — Glover Boettcher Meanwhile, the Boettchers were in Minneapolis, Minn., where Jessie was in graduate school and Karl was working in banking, and the Hokes had relocated to Vancouver, B.C., to work for a theater company.
“There was never a moment that I didn’t think this would happen,” said Beth Dekker. “Each of us felt a call to be involved in art in some way,” added Nick.
Debra Freeberg, professor and a director for the Calvin Theatre Company, never doubted it either.
“I knew they would make it happen,” she said. “They talked to me about this already when they were students at Calvin—about trying to create a place where art and artists of faith can come together and make a difference in their community.”
In the fall of 2006, the company became a reality as the Boettchers and Hokes joined the Dekkers in Columbus.
It was literally a leap of faith they say now, a little more than a year after the move.
In fact, the Hokes had never even been to Columbus before but packed up and moved anyway. “Most people’s reaction was, ‘Ohio, really?’” said Jacqui Hoke. “But people have a lot of respect for the entrepreneur in people, I think. For us, we couldn’t deny the chance to do something that we felt so passionate about.”
Since then, the three alumni couples have worked to establish the arts company as a service to the community in Columbus. The goal is to provide community, resources and support for artists and to create and support excellent, relevant and surprising art.
“The whole thing has a sense of life’s mission about it,” said Karl Boettcher. “The normal way seems like you have your job for money, and then you have your hobbies and you go to church. Maybe there’s more to being transformative than that. Maybe there’s a way to find something meaningful and useful to do.”
While all of the partners in Wild Goose Creative currently do “have their jobs for money” outside of the company, they are hoping that will change someday. “I think certainly some of us would like to be employed by it in the future,” said Karl.
For now though, the couples spend many of their free hours discussing and planning for the future. Those sessions have already produced some tangible results.
So far Wild Goose Creative has established a monthly performance series called “Third Thursdays,” during which it showcases the talent of an artist or artists. The Dekkers open their home for the performances, which have included a play reading, a poetry slam, bluegrass music, comic book drawings and a one-woman show. The monthly event has been drawing about 35 people.
The group also recently hosted a three-day arts festival in Columbus that included performances and workshops on everything from crafting to acting and swing dance to printmaking.
The festival drew about 40 people each day, about half of which were from outside the state and many of which were Calvin alumni. “This festival solidified for all of us that we have gotten to the place that we want to be at this time,” said Jacqui Hoke. “We had so many people come and want to be a part of what we’re doing.”
The festival was an aggregation of exactly what Wild Goose Creative has set out to be: creative, hospitable, educational and community oriented.
Those four principles are the basis for all of the group’s decisions and are inspired by what the grads learned at Calvin, Nick Dekker said.
“These are the central tenets that we learned at Calvin,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is enact these tenets in our Columbus community. Art is a world that Christians are called to be a part of. We’re trying to establish a way to be a Christian example in that world.”
One of the ways to do that is to connect artists to each other and the world, said Jessie Glover Boettcher.
“Most artists feel a profound sense of isolation,” she said. “They might know a few others doing what they’re doing. Our goal is to create a stronger sense of community by providing social situations to be a part of and a place to see other works in progress.
“It really is a huge bummer that so many artists are not making a living at it,” Boettcher continued. “Art is not a career, and it’s kind of surprising that that is the case in America.”
By providing resources and facilitating collaboration, Wild Goose Creative hopes to make art as a career choice a more viable option, at least for some. What the group has to offer right now is energy, enthusiasm and ideas. Its members hope to offer much more in the future.
“The end goal is that we could buy or rent a space where we could produce shows, provide studio space for artists, a place that people could use for visual arts or music recording,” Nick Dekker said.
In addition to bringing out the artist in others, the formation of Wild Goose Creative allows each of the founding members to do what they have a passion for.
“People go to job interviews, and they put themselves in a box,” said Ryan Hoke. “Instead, we got together and said, ‘What do I want to do, and how do I want to do it?’ Each of our roles is what we love to do and what we’re good at.”
Unconventional job titles such as the Catalyst, the Reference, the Gateway and the Shepherd suggest both the work and the gifts of each member.
“Traditional roles weren’t going to cut it for us,” Hoke explained.
By “putting your time where your passion is,” each hopes to make a difference in the art world and beyond, Jessie Glover Boettcher said.
“We’re doing something very countercultural in the interest of sustaining relationships and forwarding art that is edifying to the kingdom of God,” Glover Boettcher said. “Kingdom work is not something that is deferred to the end times. Kingdom work is happening now.”
— Lynn Bolt Rosendale is the managing editor of Spark.
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