The future of IAM & Fuller Seminary's Brehm Center

The following note from Makoto Fujimura was sent to subscribers of the Culture Care monthly newsletter. To subscribe and support IAM, click here. 

Dear IAM Newsletter Subscribers:

I want to personally share with you big news that you will soon be hearing about publicly. A month or so ago, I got a call from President Mark Labberton of Fuller Theological Seminary.  He wanted to discuss a “crazy idea” of appointing me to direct Fuller’s Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts.

My first inclination was to turn him down: I know that the next ten years of my life are critical in the studio to paint and to write. To my surprise, his response was to agree wholeheartedly, suggestinga role that would also fulfill my goals and passions as well as IAM’s goals for Culture Care. After prayerful, careful consideration with my wife, Judy, and a meeting with the couple who endowed the position—Bill and Dee Brehm—I decided to consider that this new role might strengthen all of our goals. After a long visit at Fuller a few weeks ago, Judy and I felt confirmed in the call to accept this new position. President Labberton will be announcing this appointment soon to their community.

Perhaps you are wondering why I would accept a position such as this, as important as it is?  I want to outline my thoughts in this letter, explaining what it means for the IAM community and our Culture Care movement.  First, two things it does not mean. It does not mean that Judy and I will be moving to Los Angeles. We will stay in Princeton for most of the year, while the Brehm Center will provide housing and studio for the winter school quarter (Jan-March). It also does not mean that I will cease to paint:  my primary condition of this appointment is that I lead everything out of my art practice. This will mean an expansion of my studio practice, rather than a reduction of it.

What it does mean: I will be a “vision director” for Fuller’s Brehm Center, working directly with President Labberton to be a catalyst for Fuller education toward a robust, imaginative experience for the students and Fuller and the Pasadena community.  My goal is for all of us to experience our God as an Artist, the Author of Beauty. This God I worship is first and foremost the Creator who gave me the gift and calling to be an artist. In my studio is where I experience the Presence of this Call the most and also where I can offer this integrated experience to others. Through my studio practice I have mentored many, written several books, and had significant conversation with the church and the world.

This Fuller appointment is intended to amplify this connection with the divine to share with more people than I could hope to otherwise, and to provide a solid administrative support system. I hope to be a catalyst for innovating the future of seminary education, and also helping Christians to be nourished by the “cultural grass” outside of the pen (John 10) of the church (see the chapter “Opening the Gates” in Culture Care). That means that we will be leading in programming to integrate 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. My role is to provide an integration point for worship, theology, and the arts by practice, mentoring, and modeling.

What happens to IAM?

IAM will be working with Fuller’s Brehm Center, as our board directs, and Fuller will expand its reach toward New York City, offering programming in the current IAM space (Space 38|39, on 38 West 39th St). I believe that IAM will be stronger with this connection with Fuller. The IAM newsletter will continue to be a key way for IAMers to connect and be updated. Fujimura Institute will expand to Los Angeles as an interdependent institution.

In short, this is a major alignment to expand Culture Care implementation in the church toward the world, and further to see Fuller’s Brehm Center as the heart of such a missional expansion. We will continue to see culture at large as the good “common grace” gift of God (Matthew 5) to learn from, and a path toward exercise of Christian love toward our neighbors. There are many outside of the church who practice Culture Care, and we all need to learn from them.

Almost every lecture, exhibit, and project I have already planned will overlap with the above role as the Director of the Brehm Center, so I will be helping to expand the role of Brehm Center into the global culture as well. The remainder of the year when I am not traveling or in Pasadena will continue to be spent in Princeton, painting, writing, and taking care of Fuji farm chickens.

The details of this appointment will be fine-tuned later, as we are still working on some parameters, but I wanted you to hear this from me personally, as Fuller’s announcements may reach you as well. I anticipate this to be a significant season for our movement, with Fuller’s added structural, visionary, and influence capacity, as well as the effect it will have on missions and culture at large. Fuller’s global reach includes 50,000 alumni, friends, and leaders in the church, many of whom are readymade collaborators with Culture Care. As our goals are so remarkably aligned, Dr. Labberton and I trust that both of our endeavors—united as one under the banner of the Brehm Center—will benefit profoundly.

Yours sincerely,