John Reid was unloading sacks of cement when I arrived at the New York Arts Group (NYAG) office in Greenwich Village. Reid brushed his hands on his jeans and gave my hand a hearty shake. Then the new administrator of the eight-year-old fellowship of Christian artists turned to guide the truck dumping a load of sand on the sidewalk.

The arrival of the cement and sand heralds changes for the artists’ group, beginning with the creation of a rehearsal studio in the unfinished basement. (The cement will be the new floor.) The studio will only be 400 square feet. But, says Reid, “in Manhattan, a lot of people would kill for 400 square feet.”

The main-floor office will be remodeled too, making room for “a small East Village-type gallery where different members’ work can be circulated.” Reid is intent on making the NYAG office a hub of activity for Christian artists and would-be artists. The studio and gallery space are steps in that direction.

At present, the group has a general meeting monthly, and more frequent peer-group meetings for writers, musicians, and others who share a common discipline. These are not prayer meetings—because Reid is committed to the idea that NYAG is not a church: “We want everyone to be part of a normal church, because that’s where they find the connection they need in the Christian life. Our emphasis is more to challenge each other professionally.”

Significant Commitment

Reid himself is another change. Former NYAG administrator Irma Levesque began working for NYAG part-time, and then became full-time. But Reid sees the group’s decision to support a full-time administrator with a wife and four children as a significant commitment to fulfill its potential in the New York arts community.

Reid brings a varied background to his work with NYAG. Most recently director of development for Christian Aid Mission of Charlottesville, Virginia, he has done everything from playing jazz and blues guitar to being a building contractor.

When he became a Christian, Reid tried playing his music in church, “but it really was not relevant,” he says. However, several years ago when he again began playing professionally in nightclubs, restaurants, and bars, Christian friends were shocked and dismayed. “I understood—but I felt a freedom before God I had never felt trying to be a church musician.”

Did he approach his nightclub work with an evangelistic message? “No, I didn’t try,” he says. “For me the important thing is how I can be real and be good enough as an artist to capture the attention of the people who are listening. If, through excellence, people are drawn to you and say, ‘There’s some depth to what you’re doing,’ that’s the business of building relationships with people.”

Challenging NYAG’s members to excellence is Reid’s main goal. “Unless there is a standard of excellence, it would be better if we weren’t identified as Christian artists,” he says. That challenge to excellence is at the heart of a ten-year scenario he is working on “to build a strong community of Christians who are artists, arts-related professionals, and patrons of the arts, working together to encourage and support one another to live lives that will glorify God and bring excellence into their work.”

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.