In May 1998, I requested a year’s leave from the school where I was teaching. I actually tried to quit, but Principal Clausen offered me a leave instead, a grace-time that made the transition from high school teacher to troubadour sound more reasonable. My husband, Troy, left his job a few months later and we were off. There are no words to describe that time. If Troy and I were Hansel and Gretel, the breadcrumbs were loaves, plentiful and littering the path. I still managed plenty of fear and doubt, but the signs were unmistakable: This Way!
A couple of years ago it dawned on me that my children did not get to witness this season in our lives. To them, we have always been out singing and playing music. I wanted them to understand the journey that brought us here, so I climbed up into the top bunk of their bed and recollected every miracle and every moment of divine assurance along the way. The boys asked questions and cried when I cried remembering the generosity of God and so many friends. So when the loaves started to show up again this winter, we did not hesitate to bring them in on it: “Remember the stories we told you? Pack your bags and get ready!”
But before I get to where we're going, I have to revisit one more place we’ve been. In 2003 we recorded a portion of The Other Side of Something at The Art House — home, studio, and much more to producer Charlie Peacock and his wife (and author) Andi Ashworth. We were finishing up a much-needed maternity break after the birth of our second son. We were in desperate need of a vision, a template for the whole artist’s life. A bit heart-numb and recovering from new-artist-itis, I remember the surge of joy I felt at first seeing the Art House — church and gardens — place cultivated.
Our initial conversations there left us feeling challenged and validated at the same time. It was as if something in the air transformed our weary stories of life on the road into stories of the blessing and stewardship of storytelling. I remember walking to the car after our first visit saying, ”I get it, I get it, I get it . . .” I’m not sure I could have recited the mission of the Art House at that moment, but Troy and I had caught a vision of the revitalization of church/place, the open-door life, and the ongoing dialogue about the way of Jesus, faith, and art.
ART HOUSE NORTH
In 2007 Troy and I came across a church for sale, and in passing I joked, ”Art House North?” But it wasn’t really a joke, and we both started to think about what that might look like for us and for our family. A year later we ran the idea by Charlie and Andi, who were already starting to develop ideas for an Art House in Dallas. Their enthusiasm was encouraging to say the least, and we started to look for properties in earnest. It was another three-year process of walking through houses, dilapidated mansions, old schools, and warehouses before finally, in January of this year, we found it — a 100-year-old church in St. Paul with all the right bones to become Art House North!
As Troy’s and my gifts and abilities are different from those curating the other Art Houses, we are excited to see what type of personality emerges from our Art House North, but the heart will be the same — cultivating creative community for the common good. We have more ideas than we can bring to life, and we have such an incredible group of friends and fellow artists here who will collaborate with us as well. We are excited to add this local endeavor to our life on the road. Troy will be the Director of Art House North**, and I will work alongside him as always.
Of course, all of our friends and neighbors want to know, what is it? What does Art House North do? I don’t know. What can it do? I’m excited to find out, and we hope you are too.
Sara Groves is a singer-songwriter residing in St. Paul, MN. With her husband, and avid stamp collector, Troy, they attempt to raise their three children with lots of grace, mercy, and idle threats.