Do Christian artists feel limited by their beliefs?


In the video above, Madeline Mace, junior fine arts major, describes her journey with art and shares insight into the inspiration behind her pieces.

By Natalia Perez

This week, I interviewed four Southern students on their backstories as creators, and how their religious affiliation or cultural/societal gender roles have affected — or not affected — their creative process and expression.

Barry Daly, senior religious studies major, is an imaginative and detailed artist. He has been creating as a photographer for seven years.

Tell me a bit about you as an artist.

B: “For the majority of my life, I’ve tried my best to create from my imagination through writing, storytelling, and filmmaking. When I was starting out I would draw [inspiration] from everywhere, and as a result, I was able to draw emotion from my subjects that many other photographers could not. At this point in my creative journey, I draw from minor details in conversations, certain body language, details in movies, music, or other forms of entertainment.”

For more on Barry’s work, visit


Audrey Fankhanel, junior international studies major, has been especially flourishing as an artist during her year abroad in Italy. She creates through writing, photography, painting, and designing.

A: “It is hard to become an artist. It’s something that is innately within you. I have been creating since before I can remember. I have a portfolio for every year of my life, each filled with short stories and paintings. However, I still struggle with calling myself an artist because by claiming the title I feel a huge responsibility and pressure to create.

I am most inspired by nature, but my works are not directly about nature. I’m fascinated by the rhythms and patterns found in every aspect of the natural world, from the orbit of an electron to the ever-expanding universe. This life is so unpredictable, but these natural laws are perfect and never changing, and if that isn’t evidence of a God then I don’t know what is.”

For more of Audrey’s work, visit


Kristen Vonnoh, senior journalism-publishing major, has a special flair in her writing that matches her personality. Her writing interests include faith, fashion, and music among other things.

K: “I guess my writer’s journey began when I made a blog in fifth grade documenting horribly written short stories. I never really considered calling myself a writer until college, and even now I typically call myself a journalist. But I suppose “writer” is all-encompassing, which I like.

I definitely tend to be the overly dramatic, overly romantic type, so I draw creativity from pretty much everything honestly. Whether it’s a super mediocre cup of coffee or a TED talk I just heard, my mind is constantly absorbing ideas for my writing. That and my journalism professors have given me the wonderful advice to always, always, always be looking out for interesting stories.”

To read Kristen’s work, visit
To read her blog, visit


Jordan Putt, Southern alum, is a soulful and heartfelt creative. On April 21, 2018, he released an EP called “Honest to God,”  available on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and all music online-streaming sites. His album is a meditation of God, humanity, imperfection, and faith; and it’s the culmination of almost four years of sporadic writing. His music reads like a love letter to a best friend.

J: “I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. Since I was old enough to pull myself up onto the piano bench, I would pretend to play music on it. I got my first guitar when I was 10, and it’s been a love affair ever since. I draw inspiration from my own experiences and feelings, as well as whatever I happen to be listening to at the moment. I think one of the things that has helped me become a better musician is listening to music from as wide a variety of musical genres and eras as I possibly can. I get a lot of inspiration from hearing what other people have done and trying to assimilate that into my own playing and writing.”

To listen to Jordan’s EP, visit

Here’s more of what the four artists had to say on this topic:

Do you feel limited by our religion or do you feel it enhances your creativity?

B: “When I was younger, I really believed that anything was possible within the confines of the church. As I have gotten older, I’ve consistently encountered judgment and opportunism. For the longest time, I had no idea why so many made the decision to leave the church. Often times, church-goers don’t take the time to really show love and support artists. Ultimately, I don’t believe that religion and belief limit me, but the people who “control” them do their best to shame creatives into fitting in the box they’ve built.”

A: “Growing up surrounded by the Adventist culture in Loma Linda, California, I absolutely have felt limited creatively. My spiritual beliefs enhance my art more than anything else, but the religious culture in which my beliefs reside creates a bubble of “appropriateness” that SDA’s are expected to operate within.”

K: “I 100% believe my relationship with God fuels my creativity. Understanding the gospel and my freedom in Christ has only allowed my creativity to flourish. And I think the key in all of that is a relationship with God—the ultimate Creator.”

photo courtesy of Jordan Putt

J: “I feel less limited by my beliefs than by what I think my audience will tolerate. My beliefs go hand in hand with my experiences and who I am as a person, so as long as I stay true to myself in my art (which has always been my goal), I won’t even think about creating something that goes against my beliefs. However, I do think that there are a lot of taboos in Adventist culture as it relates to doubts, struggles, and questioning. I have felt like there’s a lot of pressure to put on a good face and appear secure and content all the time, even when that may not be the case. This can be especially true for people who have been raised in the church.

For me, the anxiety that comes from being vulnerable and open about those questions or struggles can sometimes cause me to feel limited in what I feel comfortable talking about because of how I think it may cause my audience, especially the more conservative segment, to perceive me as a person.”

What do you think differentiates traditional feminine art from masculine art?

B: “I believe that the biggest difference is that most often it’s much easier for women to show emotion, and they are most often more willing to be vulnerable because for them art is healing.”

Madeline Mace displays dried flowers hanging from her ceiling in her art studio. A project representing traditional feminine art.

A: “Traditionally, masculine art has dominated feminine art, and this is mainly at the fault of the consumer. Male artists are given unwritten permission to be provocative and enticing. Their works tackle big ideas and complex emotions. Meanwhile, females are associated with creating “pretty” paintings or fun business logos. There are many female artists creating just as great works as males, but you will never hear about them. This goes for the Christian church as well, especially if you look at preaching as an art form. How many mega churches do you see being spearheaded by women? How often do you hear of a great female theologian outside of the context of an “inclusion” seminar?”

K: “I’ve always found this idea interesting because while there are universal feminine and masculine characteristics, much of it is also determined by culture. As a woman going into the field of journalism, I definitely recognize the “masculine” aspects of the craft (i.e. analyzing, collecting data and documents, etc.) and honestly I love it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to engage with a different aspect of my mind.”

J: “I think art that we perceive as feminine usually tends to deal with softer, more traditionally feminine themes — love, family, etc. What is generally perceived to be masculine art usually deals with things that are traditionally male themes or traits, such as aggression, strength, security, etc.”

If you're a Christian artist, do your beliefs inhibit or enhance your creative process?

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La Familia: The Latino Experience at Southern Adventist University

By Natalia Perez

The interactive map and slideshow below feature the population of Southern’s Latino students whose citizenship is outside of the U.S., along with stories from students who are second-generation immigrants. 

Last semester, I and a team of ladies from the Southern’s School of Journalism designed and assembled the content for the Latin American Club’s first magazine, “Unidad Latina” (Latino Unity). The purpose of the magazine is to both celebrate the Latin American students of Southern and connect them with Southern’s alumni and the surrounding community. Although LAC has traditionally celebrated Latino culture through LAC events and especially on LAC night, this year we’ve opened a new avenue of expression through the written word.

Throughout this first issue, as well as the map above, you’ll find that many stories hold prominent themes of strength, family, and remembering home. In light of the various struggles Latinos face in the U.S., we find joy in celebrating our cultures together, and we’d love to celebrate them with you.








Listening to my Cuban grandmother wasn’t always easy. But I loved her.

Anaelys Trochez

When I think about the Seventh-day Adventist church, one of the most important people that comes to mind is my Cuban grandmother, Nancy Mestre. She inspired me to be a better Christian.

Every morning, mi Abuelita (Spanish for “my grandmother”) would always pray for anyone who crossed her path in life. I learned most of my beliefs and values from her.

But there were times I wish I didn’t listen. Abuelita and I had different views within the church. I was struggling to see God as a loving being. She had legalistic views  and I did not agree. As a result, it shaped my views (both negatively and positively) about being a part of a church.

Here’s a challenge: Think about the people you associate with in church. Are the majority of your friends outside or within your generation?

I asked that question of myself and realized that the majority of the people I spend time with at church are youth and young adult members of the church. I only spend time with the older generations when I have to — like in Sabbath morning church services and church board meetings.

I realized that I am not intentional about speaking with someone of a different age.

Why? Because of past negative conversations with older church members, their actions (or lack of), and personal stereotypes.

In the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, Clint Jenkins and A. Allan Martin published a dialogue called Engaging Adventist Millennials: A Church Embracing Relationships in the spring of 2014.

In this article, they reviewed a study completed in 2013 by the Barna Group to investigate how congregations can be more effective in maintaining engagement with those born between 1980 and 2000.

They surveyed Millennials who were (or had been) part of an Adventist congregation to understand their collective experiences and attitudes. The study details six perceptual grievances that Millennials tend to harbor against “the church” as a cultural institution. These grievances hold that the church is (1) intolerant of doubt, (2) elitist in its relationships, (3) anti-science in its beliefs, (4) overprotective of its members, (5) shallow in its teachings and (6) repressive of differences.

Jenkins and Martin noticed that maintaining engagement among young adults is through positive experiences and relationships with older Adventist members and church leadership. They realized that intergenerational relationships are vital and can be the reason Millennials stay or leave the church.

I found this to be true. A close friend of mine does not attend church because church members disliked her bold choice of hair color. Another young church member feels discouraged about planning programs to which only a few attend and some don’t show up at all.

I remember attending a church board meeting where older church members were reluctant to participate in youth group activities because they felt out of touch with our generation.

According to the study,  establishing supportive intergenerational relationships, expressing forgiveness and acceptance and sharing experiences might be ways to build a bridge between the generational gap within the church.

Mi Abuelita, my beloved grandmother,  passed away Jan 6th  of this year, just four days after my 21st birthday. As I reflect on our relationship, there were many times that I let our differences be an excuse for us not getting along.

I wish I understood sooner that we were both broken individuals trying to be a Christlike. I miss her smile and most of all, I miss her prayers for me. She would always pray for my studies and education. I am where I am because of her early morning prayers.

I challenge young people (myself included) to establish a friendship with someone outside their generational group. Talk, pray and support them whatever way you can.

360° VR Walk Through Southern’s Promenade. Click and learn.

By Paola Mora Zepeda

Southern is a bustling school, and it happens often that life becomes too busy. If you don’t have a class with someone, it’s sometimes difficult to intentionally see them during the week.

That’s unless you’re taking a stroll on the Promenade, of course.

For those unfamiliar with that legendary stretch of campus, the Promenade is more than just a walkway. It is the location of most of Southern’s academic and administrative buildings.

It has become the location to meet all kinds of people  — art majors, biology majors and history majors, for example. You also will find students from every background — white, black, Hispanic and Asian students — all gathered in one one place.

I recently used information from Southern’s fact book to document ethnicities represented in each area of study.  To report those findings, I decided to use a 360-degree camera to show what the Promenade is like.

The video captures, from end to end, the walkway students take almost every day. Buildings are labeled with their names and departments.  Additionally, the tags show the distribution of ethnicity by department.

Southern Adventist University (Southern) is a school whose history traces back to 1892. Growing from 23 to 3009 students, it has not only increased in number but also in diversity. According to U.S. News and World Report, Southern is the third most diverse university in the South.

The demographic breakdown according to the area of study is as follows:

Moving Around

By Zailin Pena

Southern Adventist University’s very own Samir Khalil talks about how he grew up in various countries and how that allowed him to see different cultures and learn more about them. He has interesting thoughts on diversity and speaks about them. 

Humans of Southern

Southern is notorious for its large population of international students. The photos below help paint a picture of just how diverse our campus is, providing information on all of the cultures represented at our school and a list of the top 5 most common ethnicity’s on campus.

It takes courage to sell books door-to-door. These students welcome the challenge.

By Paola Mora Zepeda

As I grabbed my camera and jumped into the car, I did not know what to expect. Growing up in the Seventh-day Adventist church, I had heard of ‘canvassing,’ a practice by which students go do-to-door selling books. However,  I had never actually taken the time to learn much about it.

Now, I was ready to record the “canvassers” and their activities, not knowing how the day would unfold. But right away, I was pleasantly surprised.

First, I noticed that participants in the Literature Evangelism Adventist Discipleship (LEAD) program were students, just like me, who actually had to muster the courage to talk to strangers.  They spent hours trying to get individuals to purchase books but didn’t get discouraged. 

Canvassing, I learned that day, requires a lot of walking, smiling and getting the door shut in your face.

Why would anyone put themselves through that? There are so many other job opportunities out there, why pick one that requires you to carry heavy books, meet all kinds of people and work for long shifts? 

By working on this video project for my Interactive Journalism class, I learned the answers to many of those questions.

For a church to grow, it cannot confine itself to four walls. It needs to get out and reach the unreachable.

Canvassing, I realized,  is not for the faint at heart, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

Watch the VIDEO on YouTube here

Diversity: A gift of love

By Estefania Sanchez-Mayorquin

With February being Black History Month, I decided it would be appropriate to create a video celebrating a beautiful gift that God has given us — diversity.

We were created to show God’s love to others. We may all look, talk, think and worship differently. However, when we see past our differences and work towards one common goal, miracles can happen.


Fashion designer Kirsten Ley on Diversity: ‘I love using models of every background’

Kirsten Ley is a Canadian couture designer who recently moved her line to Paris.  In just 12 months, she has participated in seven international shows, displaying three collections.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Ley at New York Fashion Week, and she talked to me about her latest venture.

“I moved to Paris with my labels three and a half months ago,” she said. “… It’s kind of been this rebirth of my brand, and so I (titled) this collection ‘Naissance,’ which means birth in French.”

When asked about the diversity of models displayed in her line, Ley said:

“I find that my brand has a lot of dichotomy, and I love using a wide color palette. I love using models of every background and ethnicity and race and it just really speaks to me because I love having everyone a part of this.”


Ethnicity on the Runway : New York Fashion Week Designers Talk Diversity

By Hannah  D’avanzo

My media outlet, HD Access Media, has allowed me to attend international events and meet people of all backgrounds. One thing I noticed at designer shows is that diversity was often limited.

Attending Milan Fashion Week in previous years, for example, I recall not seeing a variety of ethnicities represented among designers, models or even the audience attending the shows.

So, when I recently had the opportunity to attend New York Winter Fashion Week, I decided to investigate as part of our Interactive Journalism class at Southern Adventist University.

Though most people would like to claim that diversity is important to them, how far will diversity go? Will women of ethnic backgrounds be included in this exclusive circle?

After several days of watching shows and talking to designers, my previous perspective changed.

Many designers said diversity was important to them. They not only expressed the belief but acted upon it by including models of different ethnicities to model their clothes.

I spoke with designers from all different parts of the world who came to showcase their designs and beautifully incorporated their culture into their clothes.  Present were Middle Eastern designers, Asian designers and European designers. 

Those I interviewed included Hakan Akkaya, Christian Cowan, Kirsten Ley, and Marisa P. Clark.

Along with diverse designers, we saw models of all backgrounds proudly showcasing the newest trends and embracing their ethnicities.

To summarize New York Winter Fashion Week:  It was a time where we could see, feel, and hear diversity, both on and off the runway.