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April 2024 Culture Care Newsletter

  • Posted: April 15, 2024

Contributors: Jacob Beaird, Makoto Fujimura & Elliott Blackwell

Heading Image: Claude Monet (1840−1926), Impression, soleil levant, 1872. Oil on canvas. 50 x 65 cm. Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons (accessed April 15, 2024).

A Note from IAMCultureCare

I’ve been thinking lately about the power of art manifested in social engagement. Nick Wolterstorff’s book Art Rethought: The Social Practices of Art admirably makes the case for how art creates meaning precisely through its social settings, but I’ve also seen that theme broadly evident in a number of essays and articles included in this month’s Web Links section. With the rise of AI we are increasingly forced to ask what it means to be truly human, and increasingly it seems that it is in community — and through creative media — that we see hints at a possible answer. Here are some examples:

Today, April 15, 2024, marks the 150th anniversary of the Impressionist movement. Our heading image (Claude Monet’s Impression, soleil levant, or Impression, Sunrise) pays tribute to that, as it was this painting that gave rise to the Impressionism’ name. On this day in 1874, a group of 30 artists put on a radical exhibition. It was a critical failure and controversy at the time, but it would become globally-beloved artistic style that fundamentally changed the art world. It was this community of artists that defied the classical salons of Paris (perhaps too reacting to the new technology of photography) and these artists continue to transform viewers through a shared sense of wonder. 

This April also marks the 10-year anniversary of composer James MacMillan’s setting of the St. Luke Passion. A decade later, one distinctive aspect of that piece remains MacMillan’s choice to use a children’s choir for the voice of Christ, a role historically sung by a bass. This move toward a corporate rather than individual embodiment of suffering is startling (and was somewhat controversial at the time), but in hindsight is incredibly moving for that. 

I also consider another recent suffering in the loss of composer James Whitbourn to cancer a few weeks ago. Grammy-winning conductor James Jordan gave a poignant tribute to his friend via a radio broadcast of Whitbourn’s music. Whitbourn’s final composition was ironically a Requiem setting, and it was just premiered in orchestral form by Jordan and the Westminster Choir in Carnegie Hall. This too is corporate, communal: a requiem by (and now for) a great musician, to be shared in a collective cathartic experience and outlasting any one individual involved.

Mark Gaynell writes for Rabbit Room on Music in Times of Crisis”, and argues that it is precisely the social nature of great art that can make sense of great suffering. Across time and culture, music — and art more broadly — is somehow communally transformative. This can never be explained logically though; it needs an artist’s intuition. The Marginalian recently featured a poem by Maria Howe, entitled Hymn.” The framing explication from The Marginalian’s Maria Popova is insightful as always, but the poem itself — a short read on music, the universe, and our collective place in it — is piercing.

The mission of this newsletter is to consider how art can nourish and care for our culture, and thus is fundamentally a mission with community-formation and care at its heart. A great example of this was the recent Ekstasis Inkwell event that Makoto Fujimura (founder of IAMCC) was recently a part of in NYC. It was a wonderful evening of community, music, poetry, and essay reading, including excerpts from Makoto’s book Culture Care. This isn’t an isolated example though: IAMCC’s partner Embers International’s Artist Advocate program is also one (stay tuned for news about how you can be involved in Embers’ virtual Gala in May!), and many of you are similarly involved in small artistic communities committed to seeing art in action that transforms communities. We welcome updates and contributions from your corners of our cultural garden.

I hope this newsletter issue offers you the same encouragement and food for thought it has for me,

Jacob Beaird, IAMCultureCare Newsletter Editor

A Note from Makoto Fujimura, Founder of IAMCultureCare

An ethos of culture care is attuned to God’s kairos.” — Jared Stacy

Thank you to all of you who attended my two major exhibits, one at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University and the other at Bradford Gallery at Saint George’s Church in Nashville. My major exhibit at the Galleries at First Pres (Greenville, SC) continues through July (see my report from last month’s newsletter, and Culture Care Events section below). Many of you have responded in social media and in emails, and I am grateful for the ongoing conversation and generative growth of Culture Care communities.

I just gave a reading from my Culture Care book (IVPress, 2017) at an Inkwell event by Ekstasis Magazine (an arts and letters effort of Christianity Today) in New York City. The room was brimming with young talent and it was an honor to participate in what hopefully will turn out to be a Culture Care hub/partner in New York City.

Jared Stacy’s three-part essay series on our past newsletters confirm that we have lively and serious scholarship behind our movement as well. His assessment of the kairic moment” — what the late Dr. Tim Keller called Time-full” moments, and Jared defines as a time of opportunity, of fullness, of possibility” — is indeed the ethos of our movement. We are to create kairic experiences in the world as artists and Culture Care-ers. This is a particularly important call as we are immersed with art and culture that are assumed to only inhabit chronos time, a time that is linear and ephemeral, a time that Jared defines as standard, quantitative time”. Andy Warhol correctly predicted that in the future … we can all be famous for fifteen minutes”, but that does not mean any of our endeavors will last beyond that brief instant. Creating kairic experiences, as outlined in these three important essays, will be key for our Culture Care communities. 

How do we do that? I would like to ask you to ponder, reflect and gather to ask each other how do we create kairic art and experiences?” I encourage you to find a way to capture your discussion, and email us with some of your observations to jacob@​internationalartsmovement.​org. We will post them in a future newsletter issue as a response to Jared’s important effort in helping us to frame the Culture Care movement’s future activities and our making.

Yours for Culture Care,

Mako Fujimura

Essay Feature: Philokalia, Culture Care & Social Media

By Elliott Blackwell

Philokalia. Not a word one tends to think of when one considers social media. In a medium that is too often associated with divisiveness, cynicism, vitriol and harsh opinions, I decided to create a space that was rooted in philokalia (a love of the good and the beautiful). When I started on what was once Twitter, I chose the profile name of Into the Forest Dark”. Many have inquired why that name. My answer is rooted in fairy tales, in that we must all pass through the dark forest to reach hope and that trauma can often lead to transformation.

There’s a quote by one of my favorite authors, George Eliot, that shaped how I approached social media, It seems to me we can never give up longing or wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.” When the Pandemic struck and there were lockdowns, people were forced to be at home. I discovered there was a sense of not only fear but hopelessness. I found my role as someone who was there to remind them that there was still beauty, was still good and that we must hunger for them.” As someone of faith, I believe, as Julian of Norwich wrote, that All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” This is not a naive, rose-colored-glasses kind of hope but one that understands there is darkness, there is sorrow, there is pain but that none of these things will have the final word.

Unlike many, I had no interest in algorithms or going viral. I was focused less on creating reactions and more on forming connections. My account was born of the hope that as Dostoevsky wrote, Beauty will save the world.” Beauty born of creativity and compassion. As I posted, I hoped it would be a balm to soothe those who have been wounded by the sharp edge of reality and provide a place for one to dream, imagine and wonder. It’s a wardrobe door that, when opened, magically allows one to be child-like again.”

It was during this period that I began to view social media not just as a way to share what I loved in terms of art and books, but as a form of ministry. Not in the dogmatic sense, I was not going to try to argue my belief but to share beauty, wonder, awe, delight, joy, and hope. I wanted to inspire people with the best elements of childhood. The ones C.S. Lewis described it as that tireless curiosity, that intensity of imagination… that readiness to wonder…”

What I quickly discovered was that people were deeply hungering for this. Their souls longed for their spirits to be re-enchanted. They found a Sabbath space in my account where they knew they could breathe, find compassion and kindness, wonder and hope. People messaged me that I helped them to dream again and to see goodness and beauty in the world. I helped folks through tough times, bad days, sorrows, and hardships. I made them feel less alone. This to me is at the heart of culture care. It’s being a messenger of hope,” as Makoto Fujimura writes in his book Art + Faith: A Theology of Making. And this weary world, post-Pandemic but in the midst of turmoil and wars, desperately needs hope.

Elliott Blackwell is a curator of wonder who likes to explore the connection between curiosity and spirituality. He views both curiosity and wonder as sacred practices. Elliott is active on both social media and with his Substack.

Culture Care Events

  • Mysterion” Makoto Fujimura Exhibit at The Galleries at First Pres — Greenville, SC, Now — July 25. Mini-retrospective of Makoto Fujimura’s works.
  • Tuesdays with Morrie — Seadog Theater, NYC, EXTENDED TO APRIL 20. This limited run production of a poignant (& culture care) story has a number of IAMCC connections, including Board Member Bruce Shaw’s daughter Sally Shaw, who is company manager at Seadog and is featured as a vocalist. Newsletter readers who attended IAMCC Partner Embers International​’s 2022 Virtual Gala may remember Sally’s beautiful musical performance during that event.
  • On that note, Embers International is looking for watch party hosts for its upcoming May Virtual Gala. If you are interested in sharing this incredible work of justice and beauty with your community, please fill out this survey for more information.
  • Beyond the Veil: Exploring the Tensions Between” Bianca Valencia Criscuolo Exhibit at The Knowlton — Bridgeport, CT, Now May 1. Solo exhibit by last month’s newsletter artist feature continues. Read a recent interview with Bianca here.

Do you have a news item or upcoming culture care event? Consider sharing it with us for a possible feature here in the newsletter! Email jacob@​internationalartsmovement.​org.

Web Links

  • New Belonging Conversation from Makoto Fujimura and IAMCC board member Julia Hendrickson on artful play’ and Holy Saturday.
  • Interview with poet Luci Shaw on imagination, from Ekstasis.
  • It’s been 150 years since the Impressionist movement burst onto the stage in a controversial Paris exhibition, celebrated today with an exhibit Paris 1874” at the Musée d’Orsay through July. The historic exhibit travels to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. in September.
  • Pope Francis on open-access medical research.
  • This map of 1550 France and various languages/dialects spoken is a fun comparison to the present-day.
  • Friend of Fujimura Institute Pete Candler has a new book out in May: A Deeper South: The Beauty, Mystery, and Sorrow of the Southern Road.
  • Ted Gioia asks Seven Heretical Questions about Progress.
  • The nature of tragedy, AI, and the human soul, from Martha Bayles.
  • Conor Sweetman makes the case for art communities in the church.
  • From Gramophone, an interview with Klaus Mäkelä, the 28-year old Finnish conductor whose metoric’ rise includes recent music director appointments to both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.

All content in this newsletter belongs to the respective creators, as noted, and is used with permission.