World-Renowned Painter Makoto Fujimura Appointed Director of Fuller Seminary’s Brehm Center

“I hope to be a catalyst for innovation in the future of seminary education, integrating the best of the arts into the church, seeing cities as classrooms for that integration, and helping the church to become the leading practitioner of culture care.” —Mako Fujimura

by Fuller Theological Seminary

Fuller-Theological-Seminary-New-Brehm-Center-for-Worship-Theology-and-the-Arts-Driector-Makoto-FujimuraFuller Theological Seminary is pleased to announce that Makoto (“Mako”) Fujimura will join the seminary as director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts. Fujimura’s appointment, effective September 1, 2015, follows a yearlong international search process. Master painter Mako Fujimura is a respected leader in the conversation between Christian faith and art. A devoted believer, world-renowned artist, and cultural influencer, his leadership has had a profound impact around the world.

Fujimura is the craftsperson of a movement toward renewal called “culture care.” This magnum opus work, his alternative to “culture wars,” is born from the integration of his work as an artist and his commitment to his Christian faith. He says it is worship that integrates all of his endeavors, acting as the heartbeat of a legacy that dovetails beautifully with the task before Fuller and with the original vision of the Brehm Center.

“I am filled with gratitude and joy at the rich opportunity I have to welcome Mako as the new director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts,” says Fuller President Mark Labberton. “This role ‘shaping culture shapers,’ as Bill and Dee Brehm noted in the early days of their vision, is key for Fuller, and Mako beautifully fulfills our commitment to innovation, collaboration, faithfulness, fruitful risk-taking, and courageous creativity. Bill has always said of the brainstorming process: ‘start with the universe!’ The appointment of Makoto Fujimura to the directorship of the center that bears the Brehm name lives up to that robust challenge.”

Fuller-Theological-Seminary-New-Brehm-Center-for-Worship-Theology-and-the-Arts-Driector-Makoto-Fujimura-speaking“Our relationship with Mako,” says Nate Risdon, Brehm Center program director, “has been one of mutual admiration for nearly 10 years: his lectures, work, and writings have inspired much of our work to date. To have Mako serve as our director brings an amazing convergence that will energize and magnify the movement of ‘culture care.’”

Fujimura will be a “vision director” for Fuller’s Brehm Center, working directly with President Labberton toward a “robust, imaginative experience for Fuller students,” says Fujimura. “My goal for all of us is to experience our God as the author of beauty. My studio is where I experience the presence of my calling the most, and is also where I can offer an integrated experience to others.” Through his studio practice he has mentored many, written several books, and had significant conversation with the church and the world. Fujimura says, “This Fuller appointment is intended to amplify those connections to share with many more.”

Culture Shaper

Fujimura argues for the importance of creating and conserving beauty as antidote to cultural brokenness by asserting a need for cultural “generativity” in public life. Beauty is vital to “soul care,” he believes, offering a vision of the power of artistic generosity to inspire, edify, and heal the church and culture. (See his speech on culture care at the National Press Club.) Fujimura’s book Culture Care is a support volume to the personal gatherings and international speaking engagements in which he shares that vision with like-minded artists, supporters, and creatives…

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The Soul Killing Problem of Bad Art, by Ashley Ariel

From the Wild/RestlessA 50-Car Pile Up at the Corner of Faith, Film and Theology

As artists and theologians we need to be less sure of being “right” and more secure in taking the risk to say, “I don’t know. Let’s explore this.”

by Ashley Ariel

scan-131340001One of my theology professors, or perhaps many of them, (sometimes my entire seminary experience simply flows together as one great river) once said that bad art is bad theology. Think about that for a moment. Bad art is bad theology. Good art reflects the world around it. Good art unveils a deeper theme or emotion undergirding its story and truly great art oh-so-subtly transforms the worldview of its audience by making them question things they once thought stable. By breaking out the keen prophetic edge of a good story well told and using it to deftly peel back the layers of an unexamined life.

So what does bad art do? It reinforces preconceived notions about the world and about ourselves. It encourages the mundane and allows its audience to wallow in self-validating sense of security. All of which helps no one and leaves both outsiders and those insiders who are striving for something more scratching their heads and wondering at the inept mangling of something once called beautiful.

God is a vast and wildly wondrous thing that no human can ever hope to fully grasp. And so it disappoints me to no end that so much energy of the American church and particularly the American Evangelical church has been set to pearl clutching in an attempt to confine God, theology and by extension, art to a terribly tiny box whose corners have all been painstakingly mapped. The good news is that neither art nor theology nor God can be trapped in such a suffocating box. It is sheer hubris to believe that this might be so.

So where does this leave us if we want a living, breathing theology that is reflected in our art?

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Ashley Ariel studied screenwriting at a college you’ve never heard of and got an advanced degree in theology (in theology! why?!?) at a school you might have. She’s attended several writing programs of fairly vague importance and has blithely put aside any attempt at snobbery, fully embracing her bizarre, hybrid love of the summer tent pole action flick and the soulful indie that inexorably crushes your feelings into dust.
She’s taught workshops on story in the wilds of Kansas City and once, accidentally, ran into Colin Farrell while stocking shelves at Borders. She’s worked on lots, on sets and has read a slew of very bad scripts for several teeny tiny production companies. She currently lives in somewhere in NH and is constantly asking herself how she found herself in this tree.

Next: Why Beauty Matters in a Broken World, by Catherine Hart Weber, PhD

Art as a Mode of Knowing: Four Psychological Aspects, by Maria Popova

The universal aspects of what we find beautiful and moving

Bruner outlines four psychological aspects of the art experience —connectednesseffort, conversion of impulse, and generality.

by   Brain Pickings

Maria Popova. (Photograph by Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times)
Maria Popova. (Photograph by Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times)

The question of what art is has been asked and answered at least since we dwelled in caves. Every era has produced a crop of memorable answers from its greatest minds. Oscar Wilde pointed to the “temperament of receptivity” as the secret of art, Leo Tolstoy championed its“emotional infectiousness,” Susan Sontag saw it as “a form of consciousness,” and Alain de Botton considers it therapy of the soul. But one of the most insightful and dimensional explorations of the function of art in human culture comes from legendary Harvard psychologist Jerome Bruner (b. October 1, 1915), whose influential and enduring contributions to cognitive psychology and learning theory remain unparalleled…

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Madness and the Muse: The Secrets of the Creative Brain, by Tom Bartlett

We’re captivated by the idea of the troubled genius. But is it a fiction?

When Andreasen began her research into creativity and mental illness, she assumed she’d prove there’s a relationship between creativity and schizophrenia such as in John Nash, the brilliant mathematician and game-theory pioneer whose battle with schizophrenia was the basis for the movie A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001).

by Tom Bartlett • The Chronicle of Higher Education

Illustration of Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, and Kurt Cobain by Meen Choi for The Chronicle Review
Illustration of Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, and Kurt Cobain by Meen Choi for The Chronicle Review

Nancy Andreasen is not a smooth performer-of-ideas in the TED vein, the sort who roams the stage wirelessly mic’d, dispensing wisdom with Broadway-caliber aplomb. She does it old school, podium and PowerPoint, describing her research as she clicks through slides. The 400 or so people gathered for a midafternoon session of this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival were drawn by the promise of learning “The Secrets of the Creative Brain” from Andreasen, a literary scholar turned psychiatrist and neuroscientist, winner of the National Science Medal, and author of a landmark study that found that eight out of 10 writers had experienced some form of mental illness during their lives. When the study was published in 1987, it was taken as scientific confirmation that there is indeed a link between creativity and mental illness, that most of our geniuses are fragile, moody, and perhaps a bit mad.

Her presentation concluded with a flourish as photographs of famous and famously troubled artists like Hemingway, Beethoven, and Kurt Cobain flashed on the screen to the strains of Don McLean’s “Vincent,” as in van Gogh, the ear-carving archetype of suffering for your art. McLean’s most memorable line could serve as a kind of musical epigraph for Andreasen’s research: “This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”

The song ended. Applause.

I sat in the very back row of the crowded room, squinting at the screen and scribbling notes. Afterward I ran into a couple of creativity researchers, Keith Sawyer and Scott Barry Kaufman, and asked them, casually, what they thought of Andreasen’s talk. While I can’t swear they rolled their eyes simultaneously, I can’t swear they didn’t.

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There are Artists in the Church??! by Pamela Reynoso

Part of ongoing series: Faith and Art

“Oh….you are an artist. How interesting…” And then…an awkward change of topic generally ensues. Immediately.

by Pamela Reynoso • Faith on View

To be honest, the title of this blog post pretty much describes how I feel being an artist within the evangelical church. In my experience artists tend to live on the fringes of societal norms due in part to seeing the world in a different way but when you add faith into the mix it can further cause the artist of faith to feel further isolated and without a community that really understands or appreciates their often unique vision and ‘take’ on the world. Interestingly, the first person in scripture to have the Holy Spirit bestowed upon them was Bezalel, the head artisan of the Tabernacle.

This topic has been an ongoing conversation between my husband and me for a number of years. Over time, I have observed what happens when my husband has been asked what he does and the responses typically go like this “Oh….you are an artist. How interesting…” And then…an awkward change of topic generally ensues. Immediately.

I’ve watched my very laid-back husband just roll with the conversation without getting perturbed about the perceived lack of comfort when the essence of his being is dismissed, albeit unintentionally. Over the years, he’s even stopped saying he’s an artist (which I chide him about), I think because he’s been around long enough to have learned that it’s a ticket to “no-wheres-ville” in most conversations. Now, he says he’s a Professor of Art, or a PhD student. People seem to identify a little more with those descriptors. If people hang around over time and discuss much with my husband they can’t help but be drawn into a conversation about art at some point. It’s his life. He lives and breathes art, and to ‘get’ him, one must have an understanding of what is important to him at his core and the top two things are matters of art and faith.

In recent years, I’ve found myself joining him in the vocation of artist. Now it’s not just about watching my husband navigate the question of “What do you do?”, now I have to navigate it as well. I sort of preferred him being in the ‘hot seat’, to be honest; it was more fun being an observer. : )

Why do people seem to be so uncomfortable around art and artists?

Photo: Love's Embrace ©2014 Pamela Reynoso

I have a few suspicions. Among them I think the genesis, in the evangelical church at least, may have roots as far back as the era of the Reformation Iconoclasts. I think there came to be a fear of esteeming created work too highly, and due to the destruction of so many religious works of art there came to be a dissonance, or dissociation, with art and therefore with the creators of art. I also think that as a part of that heritage and other factors we have come to de-value beauty in its various forms perhaps because we have simply forgotten how important participating in and receiving beauty is to our overall sense of well-being. There is a reason why home renovation and décor shows are a hit these days – people crave beauty and want to surround themselves with it. In my opinion, it’s an unconscious nod to something people can’t quite put their finger on…

I have seen several articles lately that discuss how the church can support artists and I’ll link a few at the bottom of this post. In my opinion, two of the best ways the church can support artists is to have art be a topic of conversation by bringing in those knowledgeable on the subject who can facilitate conversation, but also for the church to actually purchase a few competently done pieces of artwork and have them permanently displayed on-site. Providing shows for artists and their work in properly lit spaces is also nice and very much appreciated and can be a great outreach to the community. As an artist searching for a church, I can get a fairly immediate sense of whether or not a church values art (and therefore me, as an artist) through a short tour of their lobby and sanctuary. Churches that are void of elements of beauty do not hold much appeal for me in a very physical sense; they feel uncomfortable and more like stopovers on the way to…somewhere else. I don’t think I am alone in this feeling, nor do I think it is only artists who might feel this way. The more a place feels like “home” by acknowledging beauty and the creative process which are a large part of who I am,  the more I am able to participate not just in body, but at my core, the place where I live deep down inside. The places people don’t ask about.

Over the years we have lamented conversed about the lack of beauty that is present in many churches we have attended. They tend to have a somewhat sterile feel, almost as if they are E.R.s for the spiritually minded, certainly not a place to worship the very Creator of all that is beautiful. I think values have shifted towards the more pragmatic and with it a very utilitarian look in architecture and church décor has been adopted. Beauty has been killed. Life is messy and we bring that mess to the altar, but beauty dwelling around that altar lifts the spirits and helps to impart peace which can open the door for hope.

It’s ok if one doesn’t ‘get’ art, but I think there are many more appreciators of art in the world than detractors. I think many feel in some respect that they are not qualified to speak about art, in one way or another, which results in the seeming unintended dismissal of the very subject and through that the dismissal of a whole segment of society. Let us artists know if our work evokes any emotion within you, let us know what you see, what you like, and even what you don’t ‘get’. In doing so, you will learn a little about us, and we might, too. : )

Remember, what we create is a reflection of us and often a form of personal worship for the artist of faith, not worship of the object or the thoughts behind its creation, but of the One who willed all things, even the beautiful, into being.


Pamela and Rondall Reynoso established Faith on View to encourage the arts within the church community. Pamela is a photographer and Rondall an artist and art historian. Read more on their blog.

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