5 Ways to Use Your Artistic Talent in Outreach

5 Ways to Use Your Artistic Talent in Outreach February 16, 2024

An Italian Street Painting I did at Saints Home COGIC as part of an outreach.
An Italian Street Painting I did at Saints Home COGIC as part of an outreach. Photo by the author

…or how to use your artistic gifts to “draw them in.”

In a previous column, we looked at ways we artists can serve  One thing nearly all churches have in common is a need for reaching people beyond their walls. I have found this can be a great opportunity for visual artists to serve. Art can be a real attention getter for people in the community. Some of these ideas require more ability, while others are great entry level opportunities, but all of them are a great way to engage people in conversation.    

  1. Public Art

This can be done by virtually any artist of any discipline. You don’t even need a special event. Just go some place where there are people and start creating. For some reason, people are very interested in seeing someone make art. One of my favorite things to do on a beach vacation is to go to the board walk and watch the street performers and if there is a visual artist, they nearly always draw a crowd. Case in point is this guy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oljb28HSyqo), who I have watched many times. Also consider the plethora of YouTube artist channels. It’s clear, people love to watch artists create, so why not set up somewhere and talk to the people who come up to watch you work? 

Please note: 

Some places, such as the aforementioned boardwalk, require a busking permit for these kinds of activities. If you’re not sure, inquire as to whether a permit is required. They are usually inexpensive.

  1. Italian Street Painting

This art form, sometimes is called Madonnari, because it was originally done by starving artists who would duplicate religious works of art (specifically the madonna and child, hence the name) on the streets in chalk for donations. I first did this at a street painting festival called via Colori, but I’ve also done it in support of various churches and ministries as part of their outreach activities. An example of that can be seen here, complete with simple instructions.

A Great Experience

One of my favorite times doing this type of work, was when I was invited to do a street painting as part of a church’s outreach in a park in Terre Haute, IN. Using inexpensive chalk pastels that I bought from Michaels’, I laid out the grid and sketched out the whole piece. Before long people were watching what I was doing, as usual, but then something unusual happened. 

Children asked if they could help. At that point I had a choice, I could try to keep control of it and do the mammoth piece myself, or I could get into the spirit of the day and let them. I started to mark off color areas and let them fill them in. By the end of the day, I had people of all ages working on the piece, including a homeless woman who possessed some serious art skills. At the end of the day I gave her the left over pastels, and encouraged her to pursue her skills. The people from the church also ministered to her and many others, meeting physical and spiritual needs. I had a lot of great conversations that day, and a lot of fun too. You can see the finished piece above.


The word of caution here. This is not graffiti. You will need permission to do this and before you do it on a large scale, test your materials to make sure the colors will wash away. Most of the time the chalk will wash away naturally, but at times it needs the help of a hose and a scrub brush/broom. If you have good knees, and a desire to share God’s love, give street painting a try.  

  1. Give Away Drawings

This activity came about accidentally or maybe providentially. My intent going into the day was to do a street painting as part of a community outreach for a church in another city, but thunderstorms ruled the day. So there we there, three artists without the ability to make our art. We decided to get creative. The people putting on the event had some sharpies and a ream of paper and off to work we went. We all started drawing cartoons and posted them behind us, before long, we each had a line of people asking us for the art, and then making requests. We went through most of that ream of paper that day and each piece opened the door to conversation as people waited for their art to be made. 

It doesn’t have to be cartoons. Nearly any kind of art will work. The main thing is to pick something that you can do well and do quickly. 

  1. Caricatures

As a cartoonist, a lot of people ask me to draw them. I’m always concerned about this because part of cartoons is emphasizing a person’s prominent characteristics. I never want to offend anyone with my work so I have a standing rule. The only two people I draw as cartoons are myself and Jesus. For this reason I do not do caricatures, but there are some people who are fantastic at it, and if you’re one of them, this can be a great way to engage people in conversation while you are serving them with your gift. After all how else are you going to talk to someone who has to sit still? If you are comfortable with doing caricatures, and can do them fairly quickly, give this one a try, If you would like to pursue doing caricatures, there are a lot of great tutorial videos there to get you started. Here’s a good example.  

  1. Face Painting

Speaking of captive audiences, there is no greater captive audience activity than face painting. Where else can you have a five minute conversation with someone who cannot move? Is it high art? No, but it can lead to some really great conversations, and, as with any art form, you can bring your best to it and end up with something truly amazing. Again, to some artists, things like face painting  may seem simplistic, but I have had some very rewarding times of ministry doing simple things. 

A few cautions here

Use some good quality paint that is designed and formulated for painting on skin. The last thing you’d want is to give someone an allergic reaction or stain their skin for days or weeks. Test the paint on your own skin first to make sure it washes away, Secondly, I recommend having a chart of the designs you will do ahead of time. This makes it easier to keep the line moving, but there is another purpose to it, and this one, I learned this one the hard way.

I was working in a city that was largely unknown to me. Several kids asking me to paint “Uptown” on them. I attributed it to my age and figured “Uptown” was a band of which I had not yet heard. That all changed when, while I was painting “Uptown” on a child of about ten, a girl came up to him and said, “Oh, you’re Uptown. I can’t talk to you.” A chill ran down my spine as I asked, “What’s Uptown?” to which the child replied, “It’s a gang.” It ends up I “tagged” several children that day, and learned a valuable lesson. Now when I face paint, I have a chart of things I will do and I rarely deviate from it. 

In Conclusion

I’ve just given you five ways to use your artistic talent in outreach. Needless to say there are many more, but these are a few that I have done or seen work very well. Of course, as with any ministry effort, the first and most important step is prayer. Ask God where He would have you go and what He would have you do and say. Ask Him to give you opportunities there to share His love. One thing I like to do is to have some sort of event to invite the people to where they can learn more. Even if it’s as simple as having some cards for your church. In this way, you can further the connection. 

One Last Caution 

Some artists are more personable than others, and some of these activities lend themselves to conversation more than others. If you are someone who is more introverted, it may be a good idea to intersperse your art team with a few extroverts. These are people who are more comfortable talking with strangers, i.e. the people you draw in (some pun intended).  The gift you have been given, has been given by God to be used for His Kingdom. These are some fun ways to use your give to His glory. 

About Dave Weiss
Dave Weiss is a pastor and a traveling speaker. He has written and/or illustrated many self-published books and has his MDIV and DMIN, both with a concentration in Creative Arts Ministry. He is married to his wife Dawn and has two adult sons and a grandson named David. You can see more about his ministry at AMOKArts.com. You can read more about the author here.

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