Listening to Artists: A Stimulus to Transformation


The artist has among other responsibilities that of questioning our values, of leading us to new insights that release our potential for growth, of illuminating our humanity, or renewing our authenticity by putting us in touch with our inner selves and of creating works of art that challenge us -- as Rilke says -- to change our lives. They are a stimulus to transformation. In the Bahá’í Order the artists will find their home at the center of their community, free to interact constructively with the people who are served by their art; free to give and to receive strength and inspiration. It is my hope that you will be in the vanguard of this reconciliation between artists and their world. As Baha'u'llah foretells, the artists are coming home to claim their place. I urge you: Be there! Welcome them! Bring chocolate! (Excerpt from an Address to Bahá’í World Centre Youth Group, 31 October 1990 by poet Roger White, Advice from a Poet: Bring Chocolate)

After experiencing a series of transformative events through the arts over some years I came to understand a little of their purposes and power, especially how important they are to learning, healing and spiritual development. Several of those experiences involved work with the Wings to the Spirit Foundation. Gatherings sponsored by that Foundation made clear that we as individuals and communities could learn about the challenges and the wisdom of Bahá’ís who are artists by deeply listening to their language. I became inspired to undertake a qualitative research study with twelve Bahá’í artists about many topics, including the relationship between the sacred and the arts. I learned so much from each of them…by listening.

This breakout session will include a video glimpse of these artists and their work, a presentation on some of ideas that were generated, followed by a panel discussion with two of the artists who were a part of the research, well known sculptor Shaughnessy Johnson and visual artist Dr. Lisa Puzon. Lisa and Shaughnessy are a powerhouse of a married couple, devoting most of their time using their passion and talents in creating arts-related experiences to youth who live in underserved communities. There will be time for questions, comments and ideas from the session participants.

  • Kim MacQueen

    Kim MacQueen holds a master’s degree in psychology from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, and a PhD in Transformative Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Through work with the Wings to the Spirit Foundation and her research resulting in Visions of the Sacred: Conversations with Bahá’í Artists (Bahá’í Studies Publications, 2024), she has become primarily interested in the purpose and power of the arts.

  • Lisa Puzon

    Lisa’s experience in art began as a youth through the encouragement of her grandmother and an uncle who taught her the importance of the Asian culture and its warmth reflected in history and customs. She began working as art director for a K-4th day camp and there developed an interest and love for inspiring children through the arts. She has taken part in many socioeconomic projects using visual arts as a means to uplift and educate the underprivileged and presented workshops that celebrate the creative and scientific contributions of people of color. Ms. Puzon now holds a doctorate degree in Transpersonal Psychology. She integrates art and psychology to counsel, educate, and empower children, adults, couples and families of diverse cultural, social and religious backgrounds. She recognizes the potential that art unleashes in the human spirit and appreciates the power of human stories and deep emotions most ably expressed through the arts.

  • Shaughnessy Johnson

    Shaughnessy studied art at The Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, IL and architecture and design in Tuskegee, AL. Although he explored many mediums, he favored wood, stand stone, metal and marble for his sculptures. His artwork has been shown in many galleries and museums such as Avisca Gallery in GA, Satori Fine Arts Gallery and Dusable Museum in Chicago, IL, and Munster Museum in Indiana. He exhibited at the “Color” Art Expo by Oprah Winfrey and “The Palm Springs International Art Invitation” by Wesley Snipes.


48th Annual Conference

The views expressed in this recording are those of the presenters and do not necessarily represent the views of the Association for Bahá’í Studies, nor the authoritative explications of Bahá’í writings.