Dearest EAS Family,

It is with mixed emotions that I sit to write this letter. You all have become like family to me!  You have been my cheerleaders, my co-laborers, my friends, my confidants. You have warred with me in the valleys and rejoiced with me on the mountaintops.  You have patiently endured our every change and fully embraced this incredible journey. I simply cannot imagine what EAS, or my life personally, would have been without each of you by my side these past 15 years.  

Since our inception, we have done outreaches in the community as well as other countries. We have performed in churches, schools, malls, hotels, coffee shops, homes, parks...and even Disneyland.  We have created original works and performed the classics...and pretty much everything in between. From a sixty second spot to a full-length production - Dance, Theatre, Music, Aerials, Production, Painting, Drawing, Sculpting, Videos - too many creative expressions to list.  It has been an incredible run!

I’ve seen some of our students and teachers go on to perform, lead, and create professionally... in New York, Las Vegas, LA, Australia, and beyond.  I’ve seen some of you start companies, become leaders in our communities, and use your creative gifts to bring hope and aide to the world around us. What joy it has brought to my heart watching your from the sidelines.  I wouldn’t trade one single moment!

All of this is why it has been so hard to land at this decision.  EAS has decided to shut its doors permanently. If I may, I would like to share what has brought us to this point.

In June, as we were preparing to launch our Summer Camp, I began to sense that things were changing.  God began to speak to me about Abraham and Isaac. I began having dreams. I started having thoughts that it was time to lay EAS down.  Surely, I was not hearing correctly! So, I sought Pastoral counsel as well as advice from my closest friends and intercessors. Then I was given a book, The Dream Giver.   All of this launched me into a season of deep reflection. The result, I knew the Lord was asking me to place EAS on the altar. (Interestingly, I had purchased the domain, Arts on the Altar, back in March in hopes of launching a YouTube channel at some point.  In retrospect, I believe that move was actually prophetic and it eventually became yet another confirmation that God was asking me to step away from EAS.)  

The last ‘confirmation,’ which pushed me to finally take this step of obedience, was in July  (July 10th was our 15 year anniversary), when I was studying and came across the biblical meaning of 15.  It means rest. REST! It literally felt like it was jumping off the page at me when I read it. I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to me yet again.  I knew I could not ignore Him any longer. I knew what God was asking me to do.

Telling the board was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.  And when I did, they were BEYOND gracious. At the same time, they knew the impact EAS has had on so many lives and didn’t want to see our doors close.  They began to put feelers out in hopes of finding another Christian organization(s) that might want to partner with EAS. Unfortunately, every lead led to a closed door, and it soon became apparent that there was no other choice.  EAS would need to permanently close its doors. It was a difficult decision for everyone.

I don’t always understand why things are as they are, but I do trust my Heavenly Father.  I don’t know exactly what lies ahead, or if God might not resurrect this dream down the road?  I only know that for now, I am to lay EAS on the altar. And I have chosen to obey...and trust.

As we bring closure to this season of ministry, we will be selling EAS items to ensure all of our liabilities are covered.   Then, the plan is to donate the remaining items to another non-profit organization. Our hope is that all of the remaining items will go out and resource other organizations using arts to positively impact our community.   

As for me, I am spending time settling in as a newlywed and writing resources for the arts and Church community.  I also will be launching a website and two Youtube channels, Arts on the Altar and Count It All Joy. My desire is to take all that I’ve learned these past 25 years in ministry to build up the Body of Christ and inspire artists to use their gifts for the Kingdom.   Already the Lord has opened a door for me to speak at a Women’s gathering and a church has also asked me to do some consulting. Step by step and day by day, I’m walking in faith and trusting the Lord to guide me down this new and uncharted path.   

As I take this step back from what has been my life for so many years,  I want to take a moment to say thank you to our EAS board. Thank you for your  commitment to God, the vision of EAS, and to our students and families. Thank you for graciously walking alongside me these past two years, the most challenging years since EAS’s inception.  Thank you for consistently extending patience as I have navigated these sometimes troubled waters; and for your wisdom and your courage to help me make the tough decisions. And thank you for simply being my friends.  I am forever grateful!  

I would also like to say thank you to ALL of the EAS teachers and directors, those who were with me day one til now.  There are just so many of you! Honestly, I’m overwhelmed as I think of the vast numbers of incredibly gifted teachers/directors that have served at EAS.  I want each of you to know that I could NOT have done ANY of this without EACH AND EVERY ONE of you! Your skill, your hearts, your passion, your creativity, your perseverance, your love for God, your belief in every student, your genuine concern for our families, your faithfulness to the EAS mission…there are no words that could ever describe my gratefulness nor the admiration I feel for all of you.  Each of you will forever hold a special place in my heart...a place that simply no other could ever possibly fill. Thank you for walking this journey with me. God used your loyalty, love, and longsuffering to carry me through more ‘tough days’ than you will ever know.

EAS students and Company Members:  I could NOT be more proud of you! You pressed through, worked hard, and allowed the Holy Spirit to work both in and through you!  You have eternally captured my heart and I want to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant-artists!” Additionally, I would like to encourage you to stay the course.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, continue to work your craft, and pursue your dreams. You were born for such a time as this! Step up and step out! Remember, with God, ALL things are possible!

Lastly, I would like to thank our EAS Friends and Families.  I wish there was a way to express what I feel in my heart. You have invested your time, talents, and finances into EAS.  You have put miles on your vehicles. You have sewn, taken class role, set up chairs, wrapped roses, donated goods and services, made phone calls, run errands, cleaned numerous auditoriums and backstage areas, attended countless meetings and shows, posted beautiful things about us on social media, stuck with us through every turn -  not to mention, you have endured my ‘geese story’ on more occasions than I dare count! (that alone deserves extra points in heaven! :) AND you have PRAYED both with and for us!!! You have been family...you have been MY family and because of you, my heart is full. Thank you!  

Again, thank you ALL for sooo much!.  I will forever hold you close in my heart and prayers and hope that we will stay in touch.  I want to hear your stories and what’s going on in your lives! In fact, please feel free to reach out to me at joani@experienceartsschool.com or joani.wangerin@gmail.com any time. I look forward to hearing from you!

Humbly,

Joani Wangerin