F Street Neighborhood Church, a Christian Reformed congregation in Lincoln, Neb., is expanding its ministry with the Art Chapel, a restoration of the historic chapel on the church’s property, into a community creator space. Jean Stryker is a part-time creative arts director at the church, a role that includes assisting and consulting with the church’s pastors and worship leaders to incorporate visual art to help communicate their message. She’s been a big part of the project, which broke ground July 12.
The chapel “will host low-cost art and craft classes, open studio hours, crafting groups, art shows, and other art-related events,” Stryker said. The building, right next door to F Street church, once used as a parsonage, was originally one of the first churches in Lincoln and has been unused for many years, Stryker said. In 2016, as part of “vision casting” for its future, the F Street congregation envisioned restoring that building as an art space: The Art Chapel.
Stryker enlisted the help of the University of Nebraska College of Architecture (architecture.unl.edu) to help design the re-created building. Students drew up designs and worked on “custom windows and cabinetry, work tables, and a rolling wall” for the unique space.
Unfortunately, COVID-19, getting funds, and finding people to be involved in the project set the project back, Stryker said. They were able to renew their work with the university in 2022 and received approved building permits in 2023. After the groundbreaking in July, they “hope to be operational” by this coming fall, Stryker said.
Willow Applegate, a member of the church, has been named the Art Chapel director.
The church sees this restoration project as a gift to the neighborhood. “We believe that creativity is essential to human thriving and can be a way to connect with God, especially for those who are reluctant to participate in traditional church,” Stryker said. “When a person makes art, meaningful conversation often flows naturally, creating an opening for discussing faith matters.” She has seen the impact that opportunities, classes, and other events have offered people in their community and is encouraged that the new space will make that more accessible.
“The building itself will be a beautiful public space that welcomes folks who sometimes are not welcome in such places,” Stryker said.
Jay Bernardt, a recreational specialist at CenterPointe, an adult rehabilitation clinic in Lincoln for those experiencing difficulty with mental health, addiction, and homelessness, has partnered in projects that F Street Church offers. He has noticed the pride that many residents take in the artwork they have created. “Many individuals who come through the CenterPointe program get excited about going to art with Jean,” he wrote in a thank-you letter to the church. “This is super important to my clients because it is hard to find resources that provide a big impact. … This doesn't just help the clients, but helps the staff. … It helps build great bonds with the clients as we are able to express ourselves through the activities along with them. This overall creates a better atmosphere at CenterPointe.”