The History of Karitos, Part 1: An interview with Co-Founders Bob Hay and Mike Schoder

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

In this first podcast episode Susannah Francis interviews the founders of the Karitos Arts Association Bob Hay and Mike Schoder. Hay and Schoder founded the association 25 years ago. This past July marked the Karitos Worship Arts Conference 25th event.

Michael Schoder, Karitos Co-Founder

Schoder explains that he was working at a radio station that had a Christian Connection Radio Show in November of 1994 in a suburb of Chicago. That night Schoder was answering phones while Steve Carr was interviewing Marci Whitney-Schneck about arts in the church. According to Schoder, Carr interrupted the interview and said God was troubling his spirit with something like an arts fair or festival or contest. He encouraged anyone who was interested in this to call into to the radio station. Schoder then said all four of his lines lit up and stayed lit up for approximately one and a half hours with calls of people interested. Carr and Schoder were shocked at the response and even received more phone calls the next day. Schoder estimates he answered 100 to 120 phone calls of people interested in such an event. The first meeting to create this artistic gathering about 35 people attended interested in helping.

According to Schoder, during the meeting, Carr came up with the name Karitos, which was intended to mean "God in the Arts." Hay stated that Karitos refers to the Greek meaning of gifts and said the name was meant to encourage using your gifts for God. Susannah Francis agreed, stating that she had heard the name meaning Gifts from God.

Robert Hay, Karitos President & Co-Founder

Hay explained that during the meetings there were two schools of thought concerning what Karitos was meant to be, "one being the idea of a gathering together of artists and the other, well, why don’t we get artists together and do some kind of outreach on the street.”

"Let's draw the artists together for a day and quite honestly I thought, wouldn't it be great if we could get 100 Christian artists together just to spend the day together talking about what God was doing." Hay continued,

"We hoped for 100 and, if I’m not mistaken, we had around 500 the first day. We realized there was a hunger among Christian artists just to get together."

Hay and Schoder remembered that the first Karitos conference took place at the Irish American Cultural Center in the northern Chicago area. Hay remembers it was an old Junior High School that they could rent with an auditorium for approximately $300. The first Karitos conference consisted of a band showcase that became an annual band contest for about 3 years. There was a coffee house that ran the entire event. A ladies group from a local church provided fried chicken for the event and banners were a key decoration of the auditorium. Hay remembers that Natalie Lombard made two banners of angels about 20 feet high that were on either side of the stage. Additionally, a lady from Decatur, Illinois, said she could bring some banners. “I asked her how many did she have and she said would 50 be enough?" Hay said.

Susannah Francis, Karitos Acting Executive Director

"The thing most unique about Karitos is that it represents all these different art areas." Susannah Francis added.

Workshops have always been an integral part of the Karitos experience. Schoder explained that early on there was a strong interest to experience new art skills. Many of the first faculty members were involved in the planning of the first conference. Many different art forms were also represented early on. Among the first classes available were visual art, drama, music and dance.

Francis said about the open venue of the workshops, even today, “You can come with the intention to go to selected workshops, but there is so much flexibility for attending any workshop, as you are led, and many opportunities at each time slot."

Susannah continued,

"You go where the Lord is leading you and I have found myself in workshops that are not necessarily in the arts area that I align myself with most of the time. So a dancer could find him/herself in a writing workshop. I think that is so cool because there's new ministry being birthed every single year."


Did you know that you can choose Karitos as your charity of choice at Amazon Smiles? Every amazon purchase gives back to Karitos. Just got to and type in "Karitos Christian Arts Association, Inc." as your charity of choice. It's that easy!


We invite you to be a part of Karitos with us all year long. Whether it is our annual event, online workshops or social media talks, now you can be a part of the Karitos family 24/7!! Visit to see what is happening this month!

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