Spark+Echo Arts is the coming together of thousands of patrons and artists from around the world to illuminate every verse of the Bible through the arts. Patrons are given “sparks” to vote on which verses are illuminated next, suggest artists, and encourage works in progress. Artists apply or are invited by our team of curators. Selected artists chose a passage, respond freely, and their new work is premiered on SparkandEcho.org, a unique platform that elegantly weaves stunning art with Scripture.
The project was founded in 2010 in NYC by artists that love the Bible and the process of creating art in response to it. They wanted to create a platform where others could have these same kinds of transformative experiences. We feel that something special happens when you simply open the Word and creatively respond to it. So the project continues that tradition: Give incredible artists a spark to respond to the Bible and trust that remarkable things will happen.
Artists that create for Spark+Echo Arts are from a wide range of backgrounds. They are urban, rural, religious, secular, from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, at different places in their careers; they create in every style and discipline imaginable, are deeply familiar with the Bible, or rarely open it. Our philosophy is that the Bible is ceaselessly relevant to any person, anywhere. With the help of our patrons and community, we curate phenomenal artists from all over the world, letting Scripture speak through them and their life experiences.
We respect…the artist, the Bible, the audience. We ask each artist to approach the task of responding to the Bible with an open mind, to focus on the passage itself, to treat the text and our audience with respect. Likewise, we respect each artist by giving them the freedom to respond in their voice and not censoring their work or process (See end of FAQ here for more on this topic). Finally, we ask our audience and patrons to approach each response with an open mind, with that same kind of respect.
Through this approach we will all experience the Bible in a new way: we’ll hear a verse come to life in ways we never imagined, watch world-class artists wrestle with Scripture in powerful ways… thousands of times over. This is a truly one-of-a-kind, giant, never-been-done-before project, a community effort of epic proportions! Join us!
How to Get Involved
Become a Patron and “spark” verses and works in progress–-leave comments on a verse with your ideas for how it should be illuminated. Explore the Bible and discover art. Suggest yourself as a potential Spark+Echo Artist. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram––every work has a hashtag and a comment thread, so get involved in the conversation. Learn about our financial vision and how to support it with a major gift or non-cash asset.
This project began in 2010. Our goal is to have the entire Bible illuminated by 2030. As of 2018 it will take 4,000 more works to illuminate the entire Bible. This will be achievable over the next twelve years if we have a full house of 2,000 patrons. Learn more about how we will achieve these goals.
Official Mission Statement
Spark+Echo Arts (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit) creates and commissions a work of art, music, theater, poetry, dance or film in response to every passage of the Bible. We engage visual, performing, and literary artists from a diversity of styles and backgrounds, working in the top of their field. We seek a balance of artists deeply familiar with the Bible and artists who have not yet explored it, showcasing their work in our online gallery and at live events.
Spark+Echo Arts provides artists with:
• An audience
We offer programming that champions the Bible in contemporary culture, fostering a new dialogue by focusing on creative works rather than verbal discussion. With an emphasis on multidisciplinary events in public venues for diverse audiences, we engage people through opportunities to discover and support art for the benefit of their community, the artist, and themselves.
This website was built by Cantilever, a digital agency based in Northern New Jersey with clients and staff around the world. The project was managed by Ty Fujimura, with design by JT Fridsma, backend development by TJ Draper of Buzzing Pixel, and QA by Chris Pau.
This iteration of Spark+Echo Arts would not be possible without an extensive research and development process led by Matt Steinruck of Big Picture Studio. We are also grateful for valuable support from American Bible Society during that developmental process.
Jonathon Roberts (Co-Founder, Executive Director) is a composer and sound designer for games, film, theatre, and ensembles. His style grew out of classical and jazz training, and evolved through quality life adventures: touring the country in an RV with a one person theater piece on the Apostle Paul, living in Brooklyn with an improv music ensemble, performing in a downtown NYC absurdist comedy band, and a long stint writing music for the renowned slot machine company, High 5 Games. He has released four albums including the latest, Cities a song cycle personifying biblical cities. He created the popular podcast/web series ComposerDad Vs. Bible, in which ComposerDad accepts intense compositional challenges from a mysterious Bible while out with his kids. He frequently collaborates on music and theater projects with his wife, actor Emily Clare Zempel. They live in Beacon, NY, with their two boys and a tangled box of electrical cords. www.jonathonroberts.com
Rebecca Testrake (Lead Administrator) is an artist turned theologian. She has a background in theatre, creative writing, and painting. Favorite performance credits include Grace in Life Without Parole, Lydia in Pride and Prejudice, and Gay Wellington in You Can’t Take it With You. A graduate from Fuller Theological University, she received her Masters of Divinity with an emphasis in Worship, Theology and the Arts and was a recipient of the Brehm Scholarship.She is the founding member of her experimental band, Sound Quilt: a project which interpreted original poems into songs and then music videos. A Southern California native, she thoroughly enjoys visiting NYC.
Emily Clare Zempel (Co-Founder) is an actor, professor, and musician based in Beacon, NY, who received her MFA from Brooklyn College. Favorite credits include Katherine in Love’s Labour’s Lost at Milwaukee Shakespeare, Ophelia in Hamlet at Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, and Wittenberg at Rep Stage, which was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award. She is a theatre professor at Manhattanville College and continues her Shakespeare studies at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford, U.K. She sings, plays bassoon, ukulele, and guitar in the Spark & Echo Band and has co-created the original play Esther with Jonathon Roberts and Chris Cragin. www.emilyclarezempel.com
Board of Directors
Michael Markham, New York City, President
Faith McCormick, New York City
Kimberly Reeve, Brooklyn, NY
Nate Risdon, Los Angeles, CA
Peter Sahlstrom, Atlanta, GA
Mark Sprinkle, Richmond, VA
Artists in Residence
Spark+Echo Artists in Residence spend a year developing and creating a major work in response to Scripture. Learn more about the program and this year’s artists.
Aaron Beaumont (Multidisciplinary) makes music for stage, for screen, and for practically any other thing, whenever possible. As a writer and performer, he’s shared his work in wide-ranging venues from the Sziget Festival in Budapest to KCRW Santa Monica to Theatre 80 in the East Village to the main stage of the West Hollywood Carnaval. L.A. Weekly wrote that Aaron’s music brings “a new life to the ancient music-hall/pop piano-man tradition, with clear-headed songs of genuinely witty lyrical oomph and, most of all, a historically informed musical depth – all delivered with style, grace, wit and elan, of course.” Recently, he was a finalist as a composer and lyricist for the Fred Ebb Award, co-wrote / arranged music for the film Permission (Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis), and premiered a new song cycle, Midtown Antoinette, with Parisian soprano Lorelei Zarifian for Florida Tech / Foosaner Museum / WFIT. He’s currently developing musicals with playwrights Meghan Brown and Drew Crabtree in LA and NYC, where he also occasionally helps produce outrageous bingo raves (Rebel Bingo), most recently at L.A.’s Globe Theatre for Night on Broadway. Aaron also works as a composer and producer for the Gregory Brothers, whose original music has earned them a gold and platinum record and nearly one billion views on YouTube. He co-founded SongLab and currently serves as co-chair of the Carnegie Hill concert series in New York, featuring leading interpreters of classical and New Music from around the globe. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys playing the piano, eating, making coffee, drinking coffee, going for brisk walks, being near coffee, and writing brief autobiographical sketches in the third person.
Marlanda Dekine (Spoken Word) is Sapient Soul, an award-winning Poet and social transformation worker, currently residing in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Furman University and her Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. Marlanda has served as a therapist, consultant, group facilitator, and forensic evaluator for individuals, children, and families across South Carolina.
Marlanda’s poetry can be found in Flycatcher Journal, Wake Magazine, Spark & Echo, and The New Social Worker. In 2012, she released her second album, SOULidifying Borrowed Concepts. She is the Founder of Furman University’s Poetry Club, Poetic Noise, as well as the Co-Founder of Spoken Word Spartanburg (www.spokenwordspartanburg.com), a nonprofit organization bringing awareness to the spoken word art form across the Upstate of South Carolina. Currently, Marlanda is the Founder and Executive Director of Speaking Down Barriers, a nonprofit that transforms our life together across our differences. She is working on a poetry project entitled “A Punch & A Kiss”, naming the ongoing trauma and psychic abuse caused by racism and racial injustice in the United States.
Marlanda is true to the meaning of her stage name, Sapient Soul. She believes that every word she shares with others has been dipped in the wisdom and truth given to her. She believes that art holds the healing power of transforming both people and spaces.
John Estes (Literature) directs the Creative Writing Program at Malone University in Canton, Ohio and is a visiting faculty member of Ashland University’s Low-Residency MFA. He is author of three volumes of poetry— Kingdom Come (C&R Press, 2011), Stop Motion Still Life (Wordfarm, forthcoming) and Sure Extinction, which won the 2015 Antivenom Prize from Elixir Press—and two chapbooks: Breakfast with Blake at the Laocoön (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and Swerve, which won a National Chapbook Fellowship from the Poetry Society of America.
Lauren Ferebee (Theatre) is a Texan native and a multidisciplinary artist whose primary mediums are playwriting and installation/video art. Most recently, her play The Reckless Season was selected for Stage West’s Southwest Playwriting Competition Festival of New Works, and her alternative screwball comedy Sexual Geography was a finalist for the Reva Shiner Comedy Award at the Bloomington Playwrights’ Project. In 2014, she was a juried fellow at Saltonstall Arts Colony, a semifinalist for the Shakespeare’s Sister fellowship and the first theatre-artist-in-residence at HUB-BUB in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where in addition to writing, she did community-based theatre work. Her most recent work includes Sexual Geography (developed at HUB-BUB), The Reckless Season (The Spartanburg Little Theatre/HUB-BUB), Somewhere Safer (FringeNYC 2013, Inkwell finalist), and Blood Quantum (At Hand Theatre & WET Productions). Three of her short plays, jericho, jericho, Bob Baker’s End of the World and The Pirate King are published online at indietheaternow.com, where Somewhere Safer is also published as part of the 2013 Fringe Collection. She is a member of playwriting collective Lather, Rinse, Repeat, and studied playwriting, screenwriting and television writing at Primary Stages/ESPA. Lauren also has regional and NYC credits as an actress on stage and in film, and from 2007-2010 was co-artistic director of a site-specific classical theatre company, Rebellious Subjects Theatre. She especially enjoys acting in and teaching Shakespeare and working on new plays. She holds a BFA in drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
She was also a Spark and Echo Arts Artist in Residence for 2016.
Sarah Gregory (Music) is a singer, songwriter, actor and producer living in Brooklyn with her husband Evan and their daughter Rose. She’s most known for her work with the online music and comedy quartet, The Gregory Brothers, who are responsible for viral hits that have garnered the group over 600 million YouTube views, two Comedy Awards, three Webbys, and a gold and a platinum record. In the last ten years since moving from her home state of Texas to New York, Mrs. Gregory has lent her voice to many amazing artists and projects, such as Kelley McRae, Andrew Rose Gregory, Pony of Good Tidings, The Welcome Wagon, Sufjan Stevens, BiFrost, Dishman + Co., The Key of Awesome and Josh Rutner’s Twelve Gates. Sarah received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater from Meadows School of the Arts at SMU and studied further at the British American Drama Academy in London. She’s a member of Resurrection Brooklyn, Williamsburg.
Laurel Justice (Visual Arts) lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she works from her historic loft studio as a psychotherapist, artist and art consultant. She recently served two terms as a Public Art Commissioner for the Pikes Peak Region and juries everything from latte art competitions and poetry slams, to large scale public sculptures and outdoor arts festivals. She has consulted on various digital art experiences (apps and blogs) for companies based in New York and London. Laurel also writes an occasional arts and culture feature for the local newspaper.
As a visual artist, Laurel works in soft pastels, creating abstract and landscape paintings primarily inspired by the Lowcountry of SC, Colorado and New Mexico. Her commissions hail from coast to coast in the US, and her work has been exhibited widely in Colorado Springs. People describe her work as energetic, whimsical, mysterious, topographical and inspiring.
A graduate of Agnes Scott College with a BA in Art, she went on to earn an MA in Counseling from Webster University in Myrtle Beach, SC. She is passionate about helping clients restore wholeness around whatever it is they feel they are meant to be in the world. Not surprisingly, many of those clients happen to be artists, writers, musicians, playwrights, dancers, etc. She designs workshops and retreats that support the personal and professional growth of creative people.
She is married to Steve and has 4 children.
Michael Markham (Film and Theater) is an actor/filmmaker/photographer based out of New York City. As an actor his favorite roles in New York include Platonov in The Spectacular Demise of Platonov at Shapiro Theater; Frizer in Christopher Marlowe’s Chloroform Dream at The Red Room, Giant in Giants at HERE; and The Singing Soldier in Mother Courage and Her Children at The New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park. Film and television include Law and Order; Coda, Terminal Legacy, Black Card, Fumes, Blind Date, and Last Girl Left. Regionally he has performed in A Little Night Music, Hamlet, the title role in Julius Caesar, and The Ibsen Project: A Lonely Light. His photography has been featured in Skating Magazine, online at FromThisTerrace.com, and the international The InsideOut Project from artist JR. As a filmmaker he has directed and produced videos for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, MPowerd, Operation Exodus, Tootelage, ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty) and Project CREO. He has also helped produce 3 films for Spark and Echo Arts and produced videos for Spark and Echo Band for their third album. Michael graduated from the Juilliard School Drama Division, and has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Acting from Washington University in St. Louis. Michael grew up in Montpelier, VT but has lived in New York for over 13 years. He currently resides in Harlem with his wife, Karen, daughter, Claire, and their 2 cats.
Katie Reimer (Music) is a New York City based concert pianist with broad interests as both a soloist and collaborative musician, acclaimed by the New York Times for her “meditative” playing . She has performed extensively across the United States, and internationally in Austria, Lithuania, and Sweden.
Her debut solo piano CD, Mirrors, was released in September, 2016 on Arabesque Records, featuring works by J.S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Philip Glass and the debut recording of Mohammed Fairouz’s Piano Sonata No. 2, “The Last Resistance.”
She was the Artistic Director for the Mimesis Ensemble’s debut CD on Bridge Records, featuring Mohammed Fairouz’s opera, Sumeida’s Song for 4 singers and orchestra. She collaborated with the Grammy award winning producer David Starobin, and Scott Dunn, Associate Conductor of the LA Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, for this project. Opera News selected this CD for their Dazzling Dozen best releases of 2013, calling the Mimesis Ensemble’s performance ‘very impressive.’
Her first commercial recording was released in November 2011, a disc by Sono Luminus featuring solo and chamber music by Mohammed Fairouz. She is both the pianist and the Executive Producer for the disc, and she engaged artists including the Lydian String Quartet, and James Orleans, double bass player in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The disc was selected by New York’s WQXR as their Q2 Music Album of the Week, was called ‘winningly cosmopolitan’ by the San Francisco Chronicle, and noted for its ‘versatility’ by Chicago’s WFMT.
Ms. Reimer is a passionate advocate for contemporary music. She was awarded a grant by the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania to perform a series of concerts by American composers in June, 2014. She curated and performed on a concert in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in April, 2011, as a celebration concert for Pulitzer Prize winning composer Gunther Schuller’s 85th birthday, a performance that was reviewed by the New York Times. She commissioned composer Daniel Bernard Roumain to write a solo piano piece for her in 2013, titled Nine Soul Settings of a Bach Chorale, a piece she has performed extensively.
She has been invited several times to curate and perform on concerts by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center. She also performed by invitation with The German Forum, by Steve Drury to perform at The Stone, by Musicians for Harmony on their series in Merkin Hall, and by the New York City based ensemble, counter)induction to perform at Merkin Hall.
Ms. Reimer is a passionate educator with a private piano studio in New York City, and she has been invited to perform and lecture at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and the Northeastern Wisconsin Piano Teachers’ Association. She holds degrees from the Boston Conservatory, and Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music (Magna Cum Laude), and spent a semester studying in Vienna, Austria through IES Abroad.
Reimer is currently working on a M.Div. degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. http://www.mimesisensemble.org
Kent Shaw (Literature) is the author of Calenture (University of Tampa Press, 2008). His work has since appeared in The Believer, Ploughshares, Boston Review, PEN/American and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor at West Virginia State University.
Emily SoRelle Adams (Dance)
Janna Aliese (Visual Arts)
Ebitenyefa Baralaye (Visual Art)
Charis J Carmichael Braun (Visual Arts)
Rachel Carvoso (Visual Arts)
Chris Cragin-Day (Theatre)
Elizabeth Dishman (Dance)
Laura Eve Engel (Literature)
Emily Ruth Hazel (Literature)
Jeffrey Leiser (Film)
Evelyn C. Lewis (Visual Arts)
Evan Mazunik (Music)
Shann Ray (Multi-disciplinary)
Carey Wallace (Literature)
Emily Clare Zempel (Multi-disciplinary)