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Kuyper Prize Recipient Sees Art As ‘Essential Part of Our Public Theology’

Makoto Fujimura
Photo by PC Windrider Productions

Makoto Fujimura, a contemporary artist focused on “slow art,” was awarded the 2023 Kuyper Prize at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ont. This is the first time Redeemer has hosted the Kuyper Conference and presented the prize, both administered by Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Kuyper Prize, named for Abraham Kuyper, was established in 1998 and is awarded to recipients demonstrating excellence in Reformed theology in public life.

“The goal of the annual Kuyper Conference is to promote a broad exploration, engagement, and development of the legacy of Dutch Reformed theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper and the tradition he helped form—commonly known as neo-Calvinism—for theology and life today across the globe,” said Shannon McBride, Redeemer University’s communications manager.

She said Calvin was looking “to bring in other institutions from the neo-Calvinist, Reformed tradition” to share in hosting the conference that originated at Princeton Theological Seminary and has run at Calvin since 2018. “Calvin plans to host every other year and then host the conference elsewhere in the alternating years to deepen engagement with the tradition,” McBride said.

Related: Princeton Theological Seminary Reverses Decision to Honor Tim Keller (March 24, 2017); CRC Scholars Among Those Who Oppose Decision to Rescind 2017 Kuyper Prize (Apr. 13, 2017); Calvin Launches Kuyper Institute for Global Faculty Development (Calvin, July 19, 2018); 2022 Kuyper Prize Awarded to Ruth Padilla DeBorst

The 2023 conference includes four plenary sessions and 40 international scholars presenting papers on the theme “Kuyper and Kintsugi: Public Theology for Repair, Reconciliation, and Restoration.” McBride said 110 participants registered for the May 9-11 event, including those from the UK, the Netherlands, Egypt, and Peru. Another 230 people registered for Fujimura’s keynote lecture May 10.

Jordan J. Ballor, Kuyper Prize coordinator with Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary, described Fujimura as “an ideal choice to receive the Kuyper Prize.” Ballor told Redeemer, “He is the first visual artist to receive the prize, and his work is informed by a deep theological understanding of God’s grace amid the reality of brokenness and sin. The Kuyper Prize is intended to recognize excellence across the entire scope of human endeavors, and Fujimura is an outstanding representative of what it means to be both an artist and a Christian." 

Fujimura said, “The Kuyper Prize affirms my calling as an artist to see art as an essential part of our public theology. Rather than seeing art only as a utilitarian ‘tool’ for evangelism and discipleship, this prize preserves the sphere of art to offer up ‘wisdom of beauty’ to the world, simply because it is an extension of God’s creation and delight.”

David Zietsma, president of Redeemer said, “Fujimura, his art, and his work present us with an opportunity to engage the intersection of art and theology from a Reformed Christian perspective, which is central to Redeemer’s mission in teaching and scholarship.”

The prize includes $10,000, which Fujimura said he will donate to IAM Culture Care and Embers International. “They are two organizations that I see as critical in the beauty and justice work that my wife, Haejin, and I do together,” he said.

Fujimura said he was grateful to Redeemer University for hosting the exhibit of his paintings along with the keynote lecture, as well as having Haejin Fujimura speak about her life-changing work in India and her generative law practice. 

Fujimura said, “As I write in my recent book Art+Faith: A Theology of Making (Yale University Press), God is the only true Artist, and we are all invited to be artists (with a small “a”) as children of God to manifest new creation into our fractured world. As the first (visual) artist to receive this award, I pray that this will open the door for many artists of all kinds to be affirmed in their callings.”

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