Q&A with Makoto Fujimura

Q&A with Makoto Fujimura


Makoto Fujimura is an artist, writer and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural shaper. A presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003–2009, Fujimura served as an international advocate for the arts, speaking with decision makers and advising governmental policies on the arts. In 2014, the American Academy of Religion named Fujimura as its Religion and the Arts award recipient. He has had numerous exhibits at museums including Tikotin Museum in Israel and Gonzaga Jundt Museum. New York’s Waterfall Mansion & Gallery and Asia’s Artrue Gallery represent his works. New York Times columnist David Brooks recently featured Fujimura’s work and described his book Culture Care as “a small rebellion against the quickening of time.”

Q: Some would say that art is a skillset as key elements of church growth.
that perhaps doesn’t have a natural place in service toward others. How would you combat that statement? How can creative individuals use their skillsets serve others or enact change within a community?

Art is more than a “skillset” in that it moves beyond the utilitarian. The reason why this is important, as Lewis Hyde notes in his seminal work The Gift, is because art moves beyond the industrial utility, and therefore captures the most important essence of humanity. In other words, art captures what is human, beyond our role as mechanistic, or part of a closed mechanism of nature, into the transcendent future.

Q: Have you yourself been a part of or seen a community group form in which the participants used art or other creative skillsets to serve their neighborhood? What were some of the challenges they faced? What were some of the outcomes from this group’s action, whether positive or negative? 02

My church, All Saints Church in Princeton, dedicated the entire fall season to culture care based on my book Culture Care. It was a remarkable fall, from empowering congregants to see themselves as artists of the Kingdom to having a choir director combine Jewish congregation singers with the All Saints choir. The challenge is always to make sure everyone sees themselves as part of culture care, whether they are an artist or not.

Q: Data show that pastors believe that churches with lay-led initiatives are healthier than those without, however, pastors often feel inadequate when it comes to empowering the leaders of these initiatives. How can churches specifically make space for and empower creative individuals to serve others?

Artists can be essential leaders to the Church, as they are, in Dr. Howard Gardner’s words from Multiple Intelligences, “in the enterprise of persuasion” and therefore key leaders. My next book, Theology of Making, outlines how making or creating is central to theology, which therefore designates artists Q: Some would say that art is a skillset as key elements of church growth.

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