Fuller Theological Students Connect God and Art in Chelsea

Published : Wednesday, July 10, 2013 | 6:35 PM

Students observe a painting in Chelsea 

It was a day of reflection as the Fuller Theological Seminary students from Brehm’s New York City Immersion Course took in the colorful, thought-provoking, and sometimes somber works displayed in the galleries of the vibrant Chelsea neighborhood known for its thriving art scene.

From the colorful portrait collages by John Morse to the subtly textured and nuanced abstract art of Makoto Fujimura, students observed, pondered, and discussed their reactions to each piece.

During an evening conversation about their experience in Chelsea, student Ian Martin, who traveled from Britain to take the class, said he noticed a religious aspect to the art.

“Even though not all art is religious, artists are dealing with matters of consequence like death and life, and there was a very strong sense of that through all the rooms we were going through,” he said. “There was a very clear sense that there was an essential brokenness to the way life is now. It reinforced to me that this is the connecting point [of art to religion], and whereas not everyone is aware of that, artists seem to be very aware of it.”

Professor Todd Johnson, theological director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts and leader of the immersion courses, noted that spiritual issues are not far from artistic issues because both are intensely personal.

“When we’re talking about art and faith, we’re talking about two things that, although they are thoughtful categories, at some point become emotional,” he said. Johnson noted that this sometimes makes it difficult for audiences to receive a message, because it may be a challenge to what they believe or feel.

Students were left with this charge: to decide how to move their discussion of the intermingling of art, creativity, and faith to people around them, and how to introduce things to people in ways they might find powerful.

“What do Chelsea galleries have to do with Jesus?” Johnson asked. “That’s the question you have to answer for yourself. What does this have to do with you and the Lord? That question relates to the answer you then give to the world.”

In their next class session, the students will learn and discuss theater and film, with an evening trip to a Broadway play.

To get live updates and photos of the students’ experiences in New York City, visit twitter.com/fullerseminary and instagram.com/fullerseminary.

To read about the first two days of class in NYC, go here and here.

To read one student’s reflection on their experience in the class, go here.


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