Renew the Arts, Inc. is a non-profit public charity devoted to supporting believing artists in their calling, and clarifying what a calling to the arts should look like in the church and in the world. Located in Atlanta, Georgia, but already exerting international influence, Renew the Arts believes that a crucial aspect of preaching the whole counsel of God to a broken world, involves the arts in all their variety and power.
Renew the Arts emerged as a public charity in 2017, but it already had a ten-year pedigree as the unofficial sister organization of The Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal, Inc.—an important think-tank and artist collective included in the first waves of organizations dedicated to resolving the desperate crisis in American Christian arts and culture.
The Nehemiah Foundation had small beginnings with a poor carpenter and singer-songwriter who found no honor or support in his home town. His name was Micah Stout.
Micah learned to play the guitar in high school and slowly started to build a collection of original songs. The music and lyrics were crafted in an understated simplicity. His voice was not strong, but it was honest, and his music received comparisons to Bob Dylan, both in praise and not.
Feeling called to the ministry of music, Micah eagerly pursued platforms for his vocation and support in his ministry. It was a long road, with almost no tangible successes to encourage him. Nonetheless, Micah’s music was steadily making its way into the world, and though he never reached far, he reached deep.
Then, in the bitterly cold January of 2010, Micah died at the age of 32 after losing his battle against cancer.
Despite Micah’s ability to write music that moved his listeners, Micah never could find a system of support or a platform for his ministry within the church. The sad truth is, there is a very narrow scope for supported music (and art in general) within the western church. Artist positions in the church are almost exclusively limited to “worship leader.” This position, referred to as “Christian karaoke” by many of its expatriots, is not typically a position of creativity or leadership, but rather an endless loop of Christian music covers.
There is a multitude of artists like Micah that want to serve the church, but are unwavering in their dedication to honesty and depth, as well as creativity. This dedication is inexplicably at odds with what churches are looking for in their artists today.
Renew the Arts was founded on the belief that the Bible calls for artists to have roles of leadership in the church—for the sake of the church and the sake of the lost. When these roles are removed or reduced, the church loses visionaries, the world loses missionaries, and artists are pushed to the fringes of Christian communities. We would like to reform this. Not by abandoning the church. Not by abandoning the arts. But by striving to bring the excellence of the arts and the life of the church back together again.
Justus Stout: President and CEO
Justus graduated from Bryan College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Government and a minor in Koine and Classical Greek. He was awarded the Outstanding Senior Award in Politics and Government, as well as the Sanctity of Human Life Award for his work with Students for Life for three years.
After graduation, Justus was hired by publishing house Tolle Lege Press for proofreading and copywriting. From there, Justus joined the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal as their Vice President of Operations, and helped grow their programs and support to the point of a needed expansion into Renew the Arts, where he was placed as President/CEO.
Justus has dedicated his life to the support of believing artists, and is constantly refreshed and energized by excellent art that is good, true, and beautiful—full of honesty, creativity, and depth. To better understand why Justus transitioned to a life of culture care from politics, read his blog post Why I Gave Up Politics for the Arts.
Michael Minkoff: Co-Founder
In 2007, Michael and his father founded the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal, the originating sister organization of Renew the Arts. He has been involved in the promotion and production of underserved Christian art ever since, working variously as a multi-instrumentalist, producer, writer, editor, typesetter, graphic designer, and cheerleader.
Michael serves as an advisor and fill-in-the-gaps laborer for Renew the Arts while he continues to preside over the Nehemiah Foundation, narrowing its focus to the creation and collection of useful resources for Christian artists. He has written numerous articles and reviews featured on Renew the Arts, as well as a compact book on biblical aesthetics called According to His Excellent Greatness.
He is currently completing an M. Div. degree at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He blogs at MichaelMinkoff.com. He lives in the Buford area with his wife, Vanessa, and his five children: Selah, Amity, Miles, Ephrem, and Benedict.
Rusty Hein: Creative Director
Rusty met Michael at a Blockbuster in suburban Atlanta back in 2005 (ask them the story sometime; it’s a good one), right before moving away to get his BFA from the University of Central Florida. While in school, Rusty made occasional trips back to Atlanta to visit family, and would occasionally look Michael up when he was in town. On these infrequent visits, Rusty caught onto Michael’s vision for liberating Christian creativity, and became passionate about changing the culture for the Kingdom by raising the standard of excellence in art made by Christians. After graduating, Rusty moved back to suburban Atlanta, and began working with us as our Creative Director.
We like to consider Rusty our resident artist who has provided drawings, paintings, photos, videos, animations, websites, and friendship to us. Despite looking like a rockstar with his ridiculously long hair, he does not play in any bands; nor are the ladies particularly fond of him.
EJ Olsen: Communications Assistant
EJ Olsen is a writer and communications student from Everett, WA. EJ remotely joined the ranks of the Renew the Arts in the spring of 2016 as a communications assistant. He specializes in networking and publicity communications and also assists in managing the organization’s social media pages.
EJ came to know Renew the Arts through his music blog, We Are Mirrors, where he still writes about independent artists. He graduated with high distinction from Everett Community College in 2016 and will transfer to Washington State University North Puget Sound at Everett in fall 2017 to study Integrated Strategic Communications though the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
EJ also dabbles in fiction writing and has a passion for drinking fine coffee, living in the city of Everett, and seeing Christ and his kingdom glorified through the promotion and production of excellent art.