Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making says we need gardeners and artists in culture. He says it like this:
“The postures of the artist and the gardener have a lot in common. Both begin with contemplation, paying close attention to what is already there. The gardener looks carefully at the landscape; the existing plants, both flowers and weeds; the way the sun fall on the land. The artist regards her subject, her canvas, her paints with care to discern what she can make with them. And then, after contemplation, the artist and the gardener both adopt a posture of purposeful work. They bring creativity and effort to their calling...They are creaturely creators, tending and shaping the world that original Creator made.”
The artist and gardener are about a particular posture of the heart. A true green thumb doesn’t rush into the garden and sling manure everywhere and plant flowers in random places. They contemplate and consider the terrain. They ask for eyes to see.
Artists also contemplate and ask and consider what isn’t and what needs to be. The writer asks… What if? Both the gardener and artist are essential in a healthy culture. One tends and cultivates and stewards what already exists.
Artists work from the stuff of creation and use the blank canvas. They start from scratch, as they say. But we need both gardeners and artists in culture. We need people who can come into existing structures and institutions and be the gardener. Contemplate and see what the plants need to thrive. Where water is needed.
We also need artists to start new things and see what’s lacking and bring new life and create new cultures.
Unfortunately, we think one is better than the other. Gardeners want to heal existing structures, institutions, and relationships. Artists want to blow things up and start fresh.
Every culture needs both. One is not better or more needed. Each one used wisely will have a part to play.
The good news is we all get to play one of these roles. Or both. It’s part of being made in the image of the Divine-Artist-Creator.