Unveiling the Vision: Behind the Scenes of VisionRevision

Student filming another student who is playing the guitar

Once a semester, chapel becomes a platform for art in action. Dancers jump and twirl, poets bring life to their verses, and artists sketch out their testimonies. Lights dim in the auditorium as musicians strum their guitars and sing out lyrics of praise. VisionRevision is not a typical chapel performance; it is an outlet for expression.

In her sophomore year, Payton Lantz was inspired to contribute her own artistic talent to the performance as part of the worship band. Two years later, as student leader of VisionRevision, she is continuing to encourage other students to lead chapel in a time of creative worship and reflection. “I have gained such an appreciation for different forms of art,” Lantz said. “It has been so awesome to meet with people and hear how they use their unique gifts and talents to glorify the Lord.”

Starting in 1980, VisionRevision is one of the longest-running ministries on AU's campus. However, the program is continuously changing and adapting as new artistic talents join the team each year. “It has definitely evolved over the years,” said Director of Spiritual Formation Becca Palmer. “It all depends on the students, professors, and different passions and needs on campus.”

In past years, VisionRevision planning involved a committee of faculty, staff, and students. Traditionally, the committee would invite a guest speaker to present during VisionRevision week. Students were also encouraged to submit artwork in the forms of songs, paintings, poetry, photography, and more to be showcased during that week, much like a gallery exhibit.

Today, VisionRevision has shifted its focus primarily to student-led chapel performances. However, the students involved in the ministry are constantly working hard throughout the semester to bring their artistic vision to the Reardon Auditorium stage. Creating a chapel performance with so many components requires an extensive planning process and many different talented minds coming together to reach a common goal.

The process of planning a chapel performance for VisionRevision Week typically begins with a brainstorming session drawing inspiration from open conversations with students, asking questions such as “What would you like to see in chapel?” and “What inspires you?” VisionRevision also makes an effort to connect and converse together in a formal brainstorming session. Discussions revolve around what topics each member is passionate about and what theme they see emerging on campus. Once a theme has been decided upon, the student leader assigns responsibilities and discusses how to make that theme come alive on stage in the different art forms represented by the group.

In recent years, VisionRevision chose to illuminate the theme “Stations of Jesus’ Life.” The theme involved a display of artwork in Reardon Auditorium that represented the different stages of Christ’s ministry on Earth. These various types of artwork help to promote viewing Jesus’ life from new angles and perspectives. Past themes have touched on various aspects of scripture and current events prevalent in conversation and debates on campus.

Often, this kind of presentation calls for networking with other students on campus and recruiting those with artistic gifts that could help exemplify and contribute to the chosen theme. “From there, I appoint people for each art form—a lead choreographer, artists, band leaders—and I meet with them separately to cast my vision, swap ideas, and assist with planning their portion of the service to make it the best that it can be,” said Lantz.

This year, senior exercise science and dance major Mackenzie McDaniel is serving as VisionRevision’s lead choreographer. Her responsibilities include searching scripture for the message chosen for the current theme and using it as inspiration for the movements that will be incorporated into dance numbers.

Student drills into wood, building a prop for VisionRevision chapel“In this year’s VisionRevision, it's been the book of Hosea that God has really spoken to me through for this piece,” said McDaniel. “I usually write my choreography notes down in a notebook of what I want the formations to be and the specific movements that go with each part.”

Each of the groups meets with the student leader a few more times before entering rehearsal and show preparation during VisionRevision Week. The resulting show includes multiple artists: dance numbers, musicians, videographers, and spoken-word poets, who take turns to present their perceptions of the chosen theme to the audience.

Mitchell Stacy, a senior psychology major, has been intrigued by the diversity of the artistic displays that take turns in the spotlight. “It gives students a chance to participate and take leadership in worship, and also gives me a chance to experience different forms of worship,” said Stacy. “I’m not always used to their methods, and I’m not always comfortable, but I love getting to see new forms and expressions of worship.”

Each VisionRevision performance is unique, reflecting the diverse talents and viewpoints of the students involved. This year, VisionRevision is composed of students in various majors and of different strengths and interests, which helps to represent the diversity of AU’s campus. “A few of the talents represented include videography, poetry, graphic design, dancing, lighting designers, sculpting, painting, playing an instrument, and singing,” said Lantz. “The list could go on and on.”

Although most of VisionRevision’s performers are interested in some aspect of the arts, creating a successfully engaging chapel requires volunteers from technical backgrounds as well. “I love to have people to bounce ideas off of or have extra hands with set design and stage managing,” said Lantz. “Anything and everything helps.”

When they are not planning a chapel performance, the members of VisionRevision also invest time in organizing other campus events. Inspired by the efforts of the VisionRevision founders of the 1980s, they hope to spread their ministry outside of chapel as well.

“We want to see if we can do gallery showings during VisionRevision Week or have an artistic display outside of chapel,” said Palmer. “We’re in the process of figuring out what that will look like for this year.” VisionRevision is also working to organize a night of worship that will occur in Reardon Auditorium in the coming months. Although the VisionRevision ministry involves an incredible amount of planning, networking and rehearsal, Lantz said that the challenge of orchestrating chapel performances is rewarding. “To see the members of VisionRevision put their talents to action is such a beautiful thing,” said Lantz.

McDaniel said that although sharing art with an audience is the most challenging part of VisionRevision, it is also the most rewarding. “Creating anything puts you in a vulnerable position,” said McDaniel. “You're being transparent and sharing your heart, and anything you put out in the open is free for people to critique. However, God has really challenged me through this experience to listen to His voice and not seek an approval of an audience. Rather than doing it for my own glory or to showcase my own talent or the dance department's, I am hushed by God to do it solely for his glory.”

Noel Marquis is a senior majoring in English and journalism. She is writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of Marketing and Communication, through the Advanced Feature and Magazine Writing class.

Anderson University is a private, liberal arts institution in Anderson, Indiana with a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service in the church and society. Anderson University is recognized among top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Colleges of Distinction, and The Princeton Review. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university now offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music education, and theology.

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