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Blending Beauty and Hope
A Vancouver artist’s gift spills over into all areas of her life as she lives out one of her favourite Scripture verse to serve others.

When it comes to Christian influence, Vancouver, British Columbia, is often cited as the poster child of grim statistics. In the midst of what some see as a decidedly anti-Christian climate, Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation chose a faith-based theme for one of the Christmas cards in its 2005 fundraiser.

Hazel Breitkreutz

Hazel Breitkreutz, the artist who painted the manger scene, "The Mystery of God," entered life with an ability to see God in the beauty that surrounded her.  As a child she was inspired by the free calendars that adorned the walls of parents' farm home in Western Canada. Now an active member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, Hazel developed her skills under the instruction of several noted painters. Her works have been successfully entered in juried exhibitions, as well as a number of solo and group shows.

Hazel's practical, everyday faith is evident to those she interacts with in the arts community.  On a visit to her home, you might meet Hazel’s talented Iranian friend. Hazel reached to this new immigrant, helping her learn English and including her in family functions like Thanksgiving dinner. In time, Hazel brought her friend to an Alpha course at Broadway Church where she became a believer. Her friend’s teenage son attended as well but was pretty defensive of his Muslim faith. He took the course again and is now a follower of Christ.

Hazel’s gift spills over into all areas of her life as she lives out one of her favourite Scripture verses: "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10). After driving her friend Barb to art class for two years, Hazel was surprised with her greeting one particular evening: "I thought it would be a good idea to start going to church." Barbara has since passed away, but not before embracing the same faith that she'd seen demonstrated in Hazel's life.

Not surprisingly, Hazel and her equally creative husband Larry have passed on an appreciation of the arts to their children Loren and Marilee.

Photography, painting, graphic design and music are elements that permeate their home. Their commitment to help light the way for other seekers has led the couple to several years of involvement in Alpha and the Alpha Marriage Course.

Sharon Wells (SW): Hazel, in the past, Evangelicals had a reputation for not appreciating the arts. Any thoughts as to why?

Hazel Breitkreutz (HB): "I wonder if it was a move away from icons and images, or because families in a young country were struggling just to get bread on the table. Spending money on art supplies or pieces of art was perhaps seen as frivolous. Items were deemed to have value if they were 'useful.' Now more Christians are enrolling in art schools, graphic design studies, and in the interior design fields."

SW: What message would you like to share about Christians and how they relate to art?

HB: "I'm reminded of how God laid out elaborate details for the temple. Artisans had to be gifted in their creative fields to be chosen. God expressed creativity through His creation of the world. As well, we are inspired by artistry at its finest."

SW: Some of your artwork has evolved over the years to a more abstract form. Can you explain why?

HB:  "Yes, I've moved from realism to more impressionistic and enjoy abstraction, although it is more difficult to achieve. For me, it's not so much, "What is it?" but rather, "How does it make me feel?" A successful piece of art, just like any creative work, should keep on giving and giving. You never tire of a well composed, beautifully executed piece of art, where the colours inspire and the composition is strong. The movement of the eye is smooth, uninterrupted, satisfying. To me, good art evokes a powerful yet gentle message that leaves a lasting impression. Questions can be raised through the images made and that gives me an opportunity to respond."

SW: What do you consider to be your life's message?

HB: "I want Christ to be recognized and glorified in me, like salt and light in a world crying for justice and peace. My painting gives me a powerful voice, along with an opportunity to communicate a message of hope. The arts reveal what our society is thinking, feeling, and struggling with — emotions run high through the visual messages of this powerful medium.  Whether it's a beautifully set table, a lovingly presented floral arrangement, or a creatively designed building, it all speaks of a Creator who made humans capable of enjoying beauty. I encourage believers to get involved, whether as an artist or as a hands-on supporter of the arts."

Hazel's passion for art and her passion for God are visible in her paintings and in her life. They blend to create a message of beauty and hope a message our world is dying to hear.

Susan Wells, also known as "The Decorating Coach," lives in Delta, British Columbia. She is a home decor specialist, humorist, author and inspirational speaker.

Originally published in Testimony, December 2007.




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