» Jen Nagel & Don Portwood
How did you become an artist?
JEN: By profession and calling, I'm not called an Artist like so many amazing people around Intermedia Arts, but this question has me thinking about a series of required courses I took in Div School (a grad school, like law school, med school... this is divinity school). It was called the Arts of Ministry, and included a lot of the more practical subjects like preaching, worship, and pastoral care. I liked framing this work as an art, for like arts of all kinds, it takes both work and inspiration and much of that inspiration, for me at least, comes from beyond myself. In that way, there is space for creativity to respond to the Spirit's call and to the needs of the people and the needs of the world in a wonderfully wide, freeing way.
What inspires you?
JEN: Fresh air, good people, moments of grace, times of clarity, incarnation, the willingness to let go in times of utter chaos, healing, wholeness, connections and partnerships, children's wonder, elders' grit, sabbath rest, good food, faith, prayer, creative ways of worship, the bigness and intimacy of God, the possibility of transformation, forgiveness, new life.
How can art be a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world?
DON: Primarily, I have the privilege of speaking out through the art of preaching. The congregation has taken some strong stands speaking out for GLBT folks. Since 2006, we no longer do civil marriages for opposite gender couples, only blessing/religious ceremonies for all couples.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
DON: Lyndale and Salem Churches partnered (not merged) in 2006 and after we sold our building in 2009 we moved to Intermedia Arts with Salem Church. We worship either in the gallery or theater space and have been warmly welcomed. It has gone amazing well for two congregations in transition. Over the years, we've related to Intermedia Arts as neighbors, space providers for your programs, parking lot gallery-space, friends, a community resource, and now as renters of your space and roomies. This chance to live in Intermedia Arts is rich for a church community, for it pushes us wonderfully beyond our typical ways of interacting with the community and using space--it's really quite a gift and I suspect these many months will change the fabric of Salem for years even once we've moved on into our re-newed ministry center.
“I've always known a linking of faith and art, but worshiping in the gallery space and the theater space link this even more closely. It's sacred on so many levels.”
- Jen Nagel & Don Portwood
What is one of your favorite experiences with Intermedia Arts?
JEN: One evening this fall, I was beginning confirmation class with three of our teens. At the same time, Intermedia Arts was hosting the opening for Dimensions of Indigenous: the drumming had begun, the food was grand, and people were gathering and mingling, the place-looked great. Our class decided that we'd partake in the opening drumming and dancing. "It's a prayer" someone guided, and with that frame we watched in awe as the evening unfolded. Afterward we had rich discussion about the ways of prayer in our many traditions--what a learning time.
How has art changed you?
JEN: By its nature, it opens a space for diversity, drawing me in, somehow granting a zone of freedom, engaging sometimes very hard issues (deep prejudice, oppression, hope, etc.) in a multidimensional way. I've always known a linking of faith and art, but worshiping in the gallery space and the theater space link this even more closely. It's sacred on so many levels.
What do you see as Intermedia Arts' role in the community?
DON: Intermedia Arts provides a fantastic and structured outlet for fringe art (less mainstream) and welcomes and develops the arts of the people, the community. Intermedia Arts has the capacity to facilitate change by giving a venue for people to express themselves and their stories, for others to be opened and changed, for the world to become a deeper and better place.
JEN NAGEL has served as Salem’s pastoral leader since July 2003. She combines urban ministry experience, a love for working with congregations in the midst of transformation and change, and a deep care for the people of Salem and the neighborhood. Jen is one of "those pastors" as she's openly gay and partnered--a debated reality in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA). On January 19, 2008, Jen was ordained and installed at Salem and is part of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministry (ELM) roster.
DON PORTWOOD was born and raised in Nebraska. He graduated in 1972 from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and after traveling in Europe and working as a carpenter, he and wife Barbara traveled to Princeton, N.J. where he attended theological seminary. He moved to Minneapolis in November of 1980 to serve as pastor of Lyndale United Church of Christ. Don is a certified InterPlay leader and has interest in local organic foods. He is on the board of the Mill City Farmers Market in downtown Minneapolis.