Students in New York City for the Brehm Center's one-week immersion course had a packed schedule on July 9 that included a morning visit to the Cloisters museum and gardens and a meeting with world-renowned artist Makoto Fujimura.
At the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that features medieval art and architecture, students were given time to wander around and explore the exhibits, many of which had religious subject matter.
"Imagine the number of hours and the number of artists it took to make these intricate pieces," Professor Todd Johnson said as he gathered the group in the Cloisters' chapel. "Imagine how many artists had a role in the church."
Back at the International Arts Movement(IAM), which lent its space to the Brehm Center to hold its classes, students were treated with a talk from artist and IAM founder Makoto Fujimura.
Fujimura, who is an elder at Manhattan's Redeemer Presbyterian Church, formed IAM to help provide a space for artists to wrestle with integrating their art, faith, and humanity.
He told the class that his goal is to help prepare the way for the gospel of Jesus Christ by advocating for culture, something that he knows may sound incongruous.
"Culture, just like nature, is an ecosystem we need to steward and take care of," Fujimura explained, adding that we now live in an over-commoditized culture that is dehumanizing.
The antidote needed to restore culture is what Fujimura calls "culture care."
"It's culture care as opposed to culture war," he said. "No one wins in culture wars."
Culture care starts first by artists and Christians looking at what it is people consume, and reflecting on what it is that feeds the human soul, he said. A central question to artists in the church is whether beauty is something superfluous to human existence or something fundamentally engrained in humanity.
Fujimura explored the Biblical importance of art and creation in the story of Adam naming the animals in Genesis 2. He noted that Adam was given ultimate freedom to be creative and imaginative, and in the process Adam discovered that there was no creature suitable to be his mate.
"God creates a situation in which Adam is forced to use his creativity to discover his need," Fujimura said. "The reason why the arts and creativity are important in the church is not just to embellish it with beautiful things, it's so we discover a need and discover God."
He added that when he creates his own art he becomes more aware of where he is, and his need for God in the moment.
"The experience is a way to nurture our souls," he said.
Fujimura concluded his talk with a question and answer session. He said he believes a caring church would create a space for dialogue that integrates artists and people on the margins, because artists can help serve to nourish the church.
"It's a theology of the margins where Jesus tended to dwell," he said. "It's where I find the Holy Spirit at work."
The students will be taking a tour of galleries in the Chelsea neighborhood on Wednesday that includes a gallery that features the artwork of Fujimura.
To get live updates and photos of the students' experiences in New York City, visittwitter.com/fullerseminary and instagram.com/fullerseminary.
To read about the first day of class in NYC, go here.
To learn more about the Brehm Center, go here.