“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” –Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” –Vincent van Gogh
The best artists are those who not only have the skill to evoke powerful images on paper but who have the eyes to see the artistry in every human soul. Van Gogh was such an artist; passionate for the humble dignity of the people he lived amongst; and such also is Marguerite Slocum Quinn, (“Margy”), who came from Washington D.C. to teach art and make friends in Bethlehem.
For the past six weeks, Bethlehem Bible College students and interested budding artists from the surrounding community attended Margy’s art classes, in which all art supplies had been freely provided. Students learned the basics of classical art; learning to draw the human face and working primarily in charcoal pencil and pastels. The classes had a beautiful way of bringing the community together. Local Bethlehem artists such as Zaki Baboun joined the class from time to time, providing translation help and working individually with students. Christian and Muslim art students worked side by side.
In addition to serving the students at the College, a weekly art outreach for children to the nearby Aida Refugee Camp was also born, in which BBC was able to partner with the Alrowwad Arts Center. This opportunity was graciously opened up to us by Dr. Abdelfattah Abusrour, founder of the center and community leader in the area.
During the afternoon classes at both BBC and Alrowwad, there were often clashes going on outside both buildings, in which the surrounding areas would be inundated with tear gas. Often, we drew beautiful images to the explosive sounds of tear gas and ambulances outside our window. Such is the value of the “beautiful resistance,” the slogan of Mr. Abdelfattah of the Alrowwad Center. Instead of trading “violence for violence,” we creatively resist the sad dysfunctions of this world by honoring and expressing beauty and truth, even—especially—in the midst of ugliness.
For six weeks, we saw this “beautiful resistance” formed in our students at BBC and Aida Camp. Brave students continued to attend the class in spite of the instability of the outside situation. Sometimes after the classes were over, we were forced to wait longer inside the classroom until the air was clear and people could go home safely. The children in Aida camp would quickly run to close the windows when tear gas was being fired and we would continue with our lessons, giggling together as we studied images by Monet and Mary Cassatt.
As one who worked closely with Margy during this time, I had the privilege of watching the students’ eyes light up with joy as they created something beautiful by learning the basics of the proportion of the human face and discovering that with some white pastel chalk they could add light and contours to their images. “The students were fabulous,” said Margy. “I have taught art for many years, in urban neighborhoods and prisons, but I have never encountered such diligent students as I have here in Bethlehem.”
The six-week class at BBC was culminated with an art exhibit which still hangs in the lobby of the Bishara Awad Center on the BBC campus. BBC looks forward to continued partnership with the Alrowwad Center through English story time and art classes which will continue on Friday afternoons in Aida Camp.
As a final gift to the college, Margy did a pastel rendition of the Last Supper using models from BBC. This pastel, which is meant to encourage and strengthen the Palestinian church (which has so often been forgotten and overlooked by the global church in the Palestine / Israel conflict), is being reproduced as a poster and will soon be available from the BBC gift shop; all proceeds of which will help to support the college.
It has been said that the greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for who we are—and also, in spite of who we are. This love is best demonstrated by Jesus Christ whose entire life was a graceful work of art; a “beautiful resistance” to fear and hatred; a gift to us all. This was the greatest lesson that Margy demonstrated through her gentle example of friendship and kindness. Because of her generosity, a young generation of Palestinian artists are sharpening their charcoal pencils and enlarging their hearts; learning to live in the creative reality of beautiful resistance. For the 6 weeks we shared together we give thanks for Margy, whose kindness has been indelibly printed in the hearts of all who’ve had the chance to know her.