Marlita Hill is an author and the founder of Kingdom Artist Initiative with well over 20 years as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. Marlita Hill is the co-founder of a dance program at performing arts high school in downtown Los Angeles. In addition, she is the founder of Speak Hill Dance Project.
She resides in Los Angeles, California where she is taking the world by a storm. She inspires fellow artists through her vlogs, blog, podcast, and books which have been used in several church ministries.
Her book “Dancers! Assume the position: The What, the Why, and the Impact of the Dancer’s Ministry” is a source of clarity for dancers. She continually supports Christians in “secular” art career. She believes that the stigma associated with Christians who are in the art related field must be eradicated. The idea that one cannot be saved and be in a field considered “secular” is prevalent today.
Yet, she continues to support Christians in building harmony between their faith, art, and career. Marlita says “The position we must assume is one who continuously pursues the presence and voice of God and dances out of what we have seen and heard in his presence.”
This has become a very important area to cover as artists need counsel with the oppositions they face. Over time she has trained artists in the church to not shy away from the artistic abilities. Marlita Hill is helping artists – one at a time.
STM: Who is Marlita Hill?
MH: I am a choreographer and a dance educator. I am an author and speaker, mainly talking about the relationship between faith and art, I run a podcast called The Kingdom Art Life, I am the creator of the Kingdom Artist Initiative, a program that supports Christians in “secular” art careers.
STM: Why the KAI (Kingdom Artist Initiative)? What sparked this passion to write and help Christians in secular art careers?
MH: The Kingdom Artist Initiative was a mandate given to me by the Lord. He first spoke to me about it in 2001, but He didn’t start to flesh it out until 2014. I was teaching dance at performing arts high school in Los Angeles and running my company, Speak Hill Dance Project. I had written my first book about dancers and their ministry within the local church. In 2014, the Lord instructed me to write about my experience as a child of God working in dance outside of the church. That became the second book, “Dancers! Assume the Position series”. It was then that I began to really dig into how our relationship with God informs how we create art, manage our careers, and interact with others as Christians with “secular” art careers.
STM: What can you tell us about your book Defying Discord – A manifesto for Christians with “secular” art career?
MH: One of the things I’m most excited about with Defying Discord is that I get to speak to a group of artists to whom the church doesn’t often speak to. Even with the enormously wonderful conversation going on about faith and art, these artists are often left unaddressed. In this book, I’m speaking specifically to artists who are Christians, have art careers in “secular” culture, and do not make art about faith or the Christian walk. Their relationship with God and the word of God inform the worldview they present in their art, but it is not the topic or focus of their art.
Defying Discord addresses the question – how can God be glorified through art that is considered “secular”? How does an artist serve God with that kind of career? Many times, we are told or led to believe, that our art only has value if it can be used in our faith life. And it only can be used if it’s useful in evangelism or leading people in worship, or to lead people in worship, and in discussing doctrinal subjects. So where does that leave Christians making R&B music, playing in chamber ensembles, making action films, writing science fiction, leading modern dance companies? As Christians, we are supposed to worship God with our lives and our gifts. How does an artist worship Him with an art life that doesn’t talk about Him?
Furthermore, this book is the first part of a discipleship and mentorship conversation all of us as artists have wanted to have that looks at genuine issues that we face as artists or in other careers.
STM: Do you think Christians should opt for secular art careers? What informs your stand regarding this?
MH: The Kingdom Artist Initiative is borne out of what God has taught me and led me to do as an artist. I never wanted to be a dancer. It was the Lord who led me to go watch a dance ministry, join that ministry, go to school for dance, and start a pure art dance company that presents dances solely for entertainment. He led me to start dancing and to take that dance into a “secular” context. He is a part of every piece of art that I create.
So, no, I do not think that Christians should opt out of a “secular” art career. In fact, I do not believe there is any such thing as “secular” for the child of God, whose Dad owns everything.
I know there exists a way of life that is outside of the Kingdom way. However, when the child of God is the temple and dwelling place of the living God and walks with God into every situation, how can an environment be “secular” where God is present? I use the word “secular” only as a term for identification, which is why it is in quotations throughout the book.
Besides my life’s experience, my stance is informed by the word of God. In various places, Jesus talks about the design of the people of God being in culture. I do not believe it is God’s desire for Christians to try to dominate culture, but I believe we are to engage in relational influence, demonstrating the Kingdom way, and contributing the Kingdom perspective to cultural dialogue. Again, many wonder how can you do that if you aren’t using your art for evangelism? In the book, I show the diverse ways we can do this beyond what our art is about.
STM: How has the journey been so far? Did you receive any backlash or resistance from the Church (Christian community) seeing as this is an unfriendly territory?
MH: So far, my experience has been great. I speak directly to artists who have been longing for these kinds of conversations, as such the material has always been welcomed. My book has not come out yet, and people still don’t really know I’m here, so we’ll see what happens after the book comes out. Come what may, I know what God said and I know that I am only for a very specific group of artists.
STM: How can the church better equip Christians in secular art careers?
MH: To equip them, you first have to acknowledge that they have value in the Kingdom even if they don’t directly serve the local church. The church has to speak to artists about life in God beyond salvation and show how faith is lived out and applied in their everyday career life and artistic choices. They would have to speak with artists through the belief that God would actually lead them in that context and artistic expression, and from there, show them how to partner with God in their career life.
STM: Within the space of 2 months you have been to Spain, Berlin, and Sweden. How would you describe your international experience so far?
MH: Honestly, I think it should be mandatory for every human being to travel. I have been humbled in many ways and inspired in many others. I’ve seen how other people live. What it looks like to love God and serve Him in a different cultural expression.
Moreover, I am particularly interested in how this subject is talked about in other parts of the world. Do Christians in other places talk about this topic? Are they concerned about? Is it a given? It has been great to speak to artists outside of America and hear what they think and how they address this issue. I look forward to many more conversations.
STM: What would your advice be to Christians in secular art careers?
MH: My first piece of advice is to read Defying Discord. Haha! I know it’s an audacious statement, but I’m serious. It will encourage you and give you a language for things you sensed but didn’t know how to articulate. It will also give you a firm biblical foundation for the reality that God made you an artist. He’s with you as an artist. He’s proud of you as an artist – even with where you work and in the kind of art you make.
My second piece of advice would be to invite God into your art career. He gave you the gift, He led you to pursue a career, and He drew you into “secular” culture. His hand is in every part of your experience as an artist in Christ working in “secular” culture. Therefore, there is no need to hide your career or be ashamed of where it exists or what your art is about. He is worshipped and glorified when you partner with Him in your art life, not just when you talk about Him in your art.
Video: Marlita dancing to an excerpt from her book “Dancers! Assume the Position”
To follow up and see all of Marlita Hill’s works, visit her website.