The SpiritArt Mission


The SpiritArt Program has a clear mission and goals. 

 Our mission is

  • To provide a safe and welcoming art space.
  • To offer programming that nurtures spirituality and inspires hope, creativity, growth and healing though artistic expression.
  • To build and nurture a sense of community and connection through programming.
  • To provide a structure which will sustain connections made and to provide ongoing opportunities for support for people in their spiritual journeys.

There are many great schools and studios in Ottawa offering instruction in the arts ranging from dance to drama, from painting to poetry.  If your goal is to improve your technique and learn from an expert, then you’ll easily find what you’re looking for.

But if, on the other hand, your goal is to grow personally and spiritually through your art, to connect to the Source of life and to heal your wounds by using your imagination and creativity, then your options are fewer.

Our Mission at SpiritArt is to offer precisely this kind of artistic exploration; art-making that leads to spiritual growth and a sense of  community, the kind of imaginative exploration that focuses on the process rather than the product.

We believe that the creative arts provide one of the best possible paths to growth, healing and healthy community.  Why? Because when we engage our imagination in creating something new, something that doesn’t yet exist, we are – by definition! – open to learning and growing.  And because, when we are learning and growing we are more likely to find the strength and resources we need to face our hurts and pains and overcome them.  AND because, when we’re using our imagination, we are – almost by definition – HAVING FUN!

And fun is something too many of us have too little of.

That’s why SpiritArt has a clear mission and goals that set it apart from most of the other arts-based organizations in the city.


Partnerships: the name of the game

Here’s how we define our Mission at Faith&Arts Ottawa:

“to engage people in deepening their spiritual lives by offering arts-based spiritual growth programs to the Ottawa community, and by creating a faith community of people committed to sharing their lives with one another. “

We have employed many art forms in pursuit of this mission: journaling, poetry, creative writing, music, sculpting, drama and more.  As we have grown our programs we have met a lot of wonderful people who share the vision and have offered their own gifts in partnership.

Like the amazing congregation of All Saints’ Anglican Church in Sandy Hill who have turned their former chapel into a fully equipped art studio and are partnering with Faith&Arts Ottawa to create the SpiritArt studio and SpiritArt program (

Like Eleanor Crowder and Anna Lewis, two of the principals at the Bear & Company Theatre company ( who led our ‘god Monologues’ verbatim theatre project back in the spring of 2013.

And now, like Jonathan Harris and the good folk of the 9th Hour Theatre company ( who are partnering with us to create a remarkable piece of original theatre called “Grain of Salt.”  More about that later, but for now we are delighted to find kindred souls at 9th Hour, who define their mission this way:

“9th Hour Theatre Company exists to creatively engage the art of storytelling in order to explore, examine and express themes and questions of faith and spirituality, including the person and characteristics of God.”

With a Mission so closely aligned with Faith&Arts Ottawa’s, the only surprise is that it took over a year for us to seek one another out and begin collaborating.  Now that we have, and we are, you can look forward to lots of engaging, spiritually challenging theatre in the years to come.


My name is Jane Dawson. I work with David Sherwin as the Arts Programmer for Faith and Arts Ottawa.

What should I tell you about me? I agree with the idea from Carl Jung that “you can’t understand the world if you can’t understand paradox.” In light of this, I have been trying change my mental habit from “but” to “and”. So…

I love poetry…and I don’t read or write it as much as I would like.

I am not a painter or an actor or a musician or a dancer…and I am gladdened and inspired by people who have these gifts.

I love yoga…and I am not very disciplined about practicing on my own.

I love meditation…and ditto about practicing on my own.

I love biking, running, reading mystery novels, eating sushi, traveling, canoeing, quiet time, and taking naps…and the minor matter of making a living makes my access to these pleasures less regular than I would like.

I was born in Vancouver, lived in Nova Scotia for many years, and now live in Ottawa where I am still coming to terms with winter.

I used to be a full-time professor of adult education but left academia to follow a call to become a spiritual director and help people – regardless of belief – explore the nature of spiritual experience in their lives.

Which brings me to Faith and Arts Ottawa. I believe the arts are the language of the soul. When people have a chance to express the creative possibilities within themselves they are closest to the pulse of creativity that infuses the universe. I am excited to be in a role where I can help make such opportunities happen!


In November, 2010 I was in Kingston, Ontario attending a course on transformational leadership. The workshop leader engaged us in an imaginative exercise using just pencils, paper, straight lines and curves. Out of these simple elements came some surprising new insights into my own attitudes and beliefs. It was an “aha” moment for me: I realized that the simplest exercise of my imagination could lead to deep, even profound, new self-understanding.

I don’t call myself an artist, but, like every other human being, I have an active imagination and I enjoy being creative. It’s fun. I wondered, is there a way to connect the joy of imagining and creating to the deep spiritual questions that most of us have? And, of course, there is.

I am a Christian minister. For more than 20 years an important part of my work has been listening to people’s deep questions about life and faith, and helping them to find the answers they are looking for. And for most of those years I have felt an aching, incoherent dissatisfaction with all the ways that I have tried to do that. Even when things went well, I felt that there was ‘something more’ that might be possible.

That “aha” moment in Kingston opened up a new and unexpected direction for me. I began to ask around and I discovered that there are all sorts of creative, arts-based approaches to spirituality. Many people, in all sorts of settings, are finding answers to their questions and growing in their relationships through the exercise of their imagination in the creative arts. So why not here in Ottawa, and why not through my church, the United Church of Canada?

The vision for Faith and Arts Ottawa has grown out of these questions, and others like them:

  • Where can people who have a personal faith open up about their questions and doubts without feeling judged?
  • Where can people who are not part of any religious organization open up and ask their spiritual questions?
  • Can older adults with a life-time of spiritual experiences find common ground with young adults who have no experience of faith or faith communities at all?
  • And so on, and so on.

I think that we need to ask these questions and then set out to find the answers. I don’t know where we’re going, but I do know it’ll be a fun ride.


What is Faith and Arts Ottawa?

Faith and Arts Ottawa is, most of all, an experiment, so our focus is less on what it is and more on what it will become, and that is still a mystery.

But, there are a few things we can say:

  • It is an experiment in exploring faith and spirituality through the use of the imagination and the creative arts.
  • It is an experiment in creating a new community of people who are drawn to the vision of what it might become.
  • It is an organization dedicated to creating arts-based events and programs that will help people ask and answer the important questions of their lives.
  • It is a way to connect people who are asking spiritual questions, regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs.
  • It is a place for hospitality, questing, learning and friendship, and,
  • It is a new ministry of the United Church of Canada (founded in February, 2012).

We hope that our programs will connect with people of all ages and all walks of life: men and women, young and old, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or none of the above. In particular, we hope that young adults looking for purpose and meaning in their lives will find help and encouragement in what we offer.

We hope that our programs will connect with poets, musicians, song-writers, actors, dancers, play-wrights, potters, photographers, videographers, painters, sculptors and carvers, and more.

Faith and Arts Ottawa is about creativity and imagination, about creatively making and shaping our lives, and our programs will be for anyone who is interested in exploring life through the creative arts and the creative process.

Faith and Arts Ottawa is grounded in the Christian faith and the teachings of Jesus:

  • Love for our neighbours
  • Hospitality for the stranger
  • Care for those in need, and …

Faith and Arts Ottawa is also grounded in the diverse, multi-religious, secular society that is Ottawa today. To become fully the people we can be, we need to talk with and listen to ALL our neighbours, especially those whose beliefs are different than our own. A core piece of the vision of Faith and Arts Ottawa is that every human being is creative and has something important to add to the community.


Hi, I’m glad you found your way here.  Welcome to the web home of Faith and Arts Ottawa, a newly formed mission of the United Church of Canada that brings spirituality and creativity together through imaginative exploration of both Faith and the Arts.

Every human being has an imagination, but most of us don’t exercise it as fully as we could.  That’s too bad, because we miss out on a lot of fun, and a lot of learning.  Creating something – a story, a poem, a song, a video, a photograph, a play, a pot, a dance, whatever – is a great way to learn new things, especially about ourselves.  When we open up our creativity, we open ourselves to what is new and surprising, we never know just how a poem is going to turn out until it is done.

That openness to the new and surprising, which is the heart of creativity, is also the heart of spirituality.  It is both playful and profoundly serious.  We will be exploring the intersection of spirituality, faith, creativity and the imagination on this blog, and in the programs and events sponsored by Faith and Arts Ottawa.  You’re welcome to join in.

“Between religion’s “this is” and poetry’s “but suppose this is,” there must always be some kind of tension, until the possible and the actual meet at infinity.”
Northrop Frye, The Anatomy of Criticism.