Weaving a Life
By France Griggs Sloat
Christina Blust’s first contact with the Sisters of Providence was in her freshman year when she joined the annual protest of the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga. Returning each year as a member of Xavier’s Voices of Solidarity, she kept noticing how the Sisters were able to celebrate life in a positive way amidst the negativity of what they were protesting. Only later did she realize the experience in Georgia was the beginning of a career path that’s focused on the arts and culture and peaceful pursuits, and that the Sisters of Providence played a large role.
After graduating in 2006 with a degree in art, she learned about an internship working at the Sisters’ White Violet Center for Eco-Justice about 80 miles west of Indianapolis. The job offered room, board, a small stipend—and alpacas. She took it.
For the next 10 months, Blust worked at the farm, tending the organic garden and caring for the alpacas—sweet-faced and fuzzy with fur that’s soft and warm. One of her jobs was to vacuum the alpacas, literally, before shearing. She would then help process the fur into yarn and create hats, scarves, shawls and other products to sell in the Sisters’ shop.
“There was some creativity in the origination of the project, and I enjoyed the handiwork,” she says. “Later I made flyers and packaging for the yarn, and my degree got put more to use. I really enjoyed it there. I could look out my window through the trees and see the alpacas. It was peaceful, and I needed it after college. But it was an experience being 20-something in a place of older women. Their average age is 76.”
Blust stayed on when a job opened up as her internship ended. Now she’s a graphic designer and photography coordinator for the Sisters, and she makes flyers, hosts fiber workshops and trains people to raise alpacas.
“I like how I’m using what I learned in a way that has meaning,” she says. “Working with their eco-justice ministries and the smaller health clinics makes me feel like I’m using my graphic design skills in a way that’s not like corporate advertising.”
She also gets a kick out of how her Xavier past follows her. “I wrote a song for my final in [Professor Art] Dewey’s Jesus Seminar. I used it on my album, and the Sisters got a hold of it. Now they use it in their prayer groups. I think it’s funny the way things like that happen. It makes me happy.”