The article, Art and Spirituality on Second Life: A Participant Observation and Digital Quest for Meaning by Stokrocki put a twist on my original research focus. I am researching art engagement in a spiritual center within a physical building. This article’s spiritual setting occurs in the online game, Second Life (SL). Inside SL, there are a variety of places and groups for participation. The chosen group observed is the Spiritual Art Group, which observes art as a spiritual path and has 394 members.
Stokrocki (2010) asks the questions, “What is art?” and “What is spirituality?” (p.184).
Thematically, this article relates back to my research on multiple levels. Although only two participants were observed, themes of personal identity and community emerged. Creation is the core requirement in the Spiritual Art Group and from this place, people practice their spirituality by making art, interacting with others in this space, and creating spin-off groups.
A major affordance of the Spiritual Art Group is that it offers a communal space to artistically grow. Hermes Kondor, founder of the Spiritual Art Group and photojournalist in real life (RL), initially joined SL because he wanted to explore new artistic possibilities (Stokrocki, 2010, p. 186). As the participants create art to share and potentially sell to the larger community, they learn about themselves. Cre8tivefemme Chemistry, a participant in the group, explained that this community has helped her recover from the death of her life partner and find her artistic voice again (Stokrocki, 2010, p. 189). The group helps people express themselves creatively and in the process redefine their creative identity.
The act of creating art is the members’ spiritual practice. Cre8tivefemme Chemistry said, “I think all voices expressed in art are spiritual,” (Stokrocki, 2010, p.191). A couple spin-off groups within the Spiritual Art Group, are Ex6 Foundation and The Healing Pool. Ex6 Foundation helps suicidal people by providing a hotline, interactive website, forum, and chat in times of need. The Healing Pool is a magazine that highlights stories about the larger SL community (Stokrocki, 2010, p.191). As members of the community strengthen their artistic expression, so does the breadth of their communal reach.
Stokrocki mentioned her first impression of Spirit Mountain was that it was a marketplace of cosmic kitsch (2010, p. 185). She came to Spirit Mountain to observe and report on what art and spirituality entailed, but initially found random offerings ranging from sexy skins to healing circles for purchase (2010, p. 185). One could question how truly spiritual a group might be if a major focus is selling items.
Another limitation that is not explicitly mentioned in the article is my personal opinion. It is much easier to be spiritual, compassionate, or peaceful online than it is in real life. Real life presents you with awkward resolutions and not-so-spiritual conversations that cannot be avoided when engaging in life. Second Life allows participants to have a layer of protection from reality.
Art engagement within an online community allows participants to develop their artistic identity and create groups that benefit the greater good. A potential limitation to this study is that spiritual intentions may or may not be genuine if all artistic items are for sale.