An internationally renowned writer and artist and a poet and playwright from the prairie are co-headlining the Christianity and Literature Eastern Regional Conference March 30 to April 1 on the campus of Grove City College.
With the theme “Beauty and Exile: Negotiating, Exchanging, and Redeeming the Challenges,” the conference will focus on the ways faith and literature interact to make sense of the suffering that plagues the world. “Issues of beauty and exile are not limited to literature and the arts; they also touch on theology, history, politics and beyond,” Dr. Eric Potter, professor of English and one of the organizers, said.
This year’s event features two keynote speakers: writer/artist Makoto Fujimura and poet and playwright Jeanne Murray Walker.
Since 2001, Grove City College’s Department of English has hosted its annual Christian Writers Conference each spring, drawing regional and national interest. The conference brings together writers, scholars and students to explore and discuss the nature of writing and the role faith plays in it. Along with faculty from around the country, undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to submit their work for discussion in panels scheduled throughout the three-day event.
Organizers of the conference are hopeful that it will be a rich time of scholarship and growth. “The conference has a rich history here at Grove City College,” Dr. Collin Messer, chair of the English Department, said. “This year, we are excited to hear from our speakers and panelists as we learn more about what it means to produce art while living in a broken world. As conference speaker Mako Fujimura has said, ‘It is precisely in encountering and transforming our suffering into terrifying beauty that we know there is grace at the base of the universe.’”
Fujimura speaks at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 30, in Ketler Auditorium of the Pew Fine Arts Center on campus. Born in Boston to Japanese parents, Fujimura is an artist, writer and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a shaper of culture.
“It’s an honor to be able to host someone of the caliber of Fujimura. We are deeply honored by his presence,” Messer said.
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 presented him with its Religion and the Arts Award, recognizing his contributions to the understanding of the relationship between art and religion.
He is the author of numerous books, including “Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture” and “Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering.” Fujimura’s artwork, a unique fusion between fine art and abstract expressionism, has been exhibited worldwide. His style dates back to 15th century, blending a traditional Japanese art of Nihonga and Kacho-ga. He provided illuminations for “The Four Holy Gospels,” published in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of The King James Bible.
He has lectured at numerous conferences, universities and museums, including the Aspen Institute, Yale and Princeton universities, Sato Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum. Fujimura currently serves as director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
Walker will address the conference at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 31 in Sticht Lecture Hall in the Hall of Arts and Letters on campus. A writer and teacher, Walker was born in Parkers Prairie, a village of a thousand people in Minnesota and won the Atlantic Monthly Award for both fiction and poetry while still an undergraduate at Wheaton College in Illinois.
“I’m looking forward to the college hosting Jeanne Murray Walker. She is not only an award-winning poet and playwright, but also an excellent teacher and a generous spirit,” said Potter said.
Walker has written eight volumes of poetry, including “Helping the Morning: New and Selected Poems,” “A Deed to the Light” and “New Tracks, Night Falling.” Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals. Her scripts have been performed in theaters across the United States and in London. Her memoir, “The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer’s,” recalls the decade she and her sister cared for their mother.
Walker recently retired as a professor of English at The University of Delaware, where she headed the creative writing concentration. She serves as a mentor in the Seattle Pacific University Master of Fine Arts program. For 20 years she was the poetry editor of Christianity and Literature. She currently serves on the editorial board of Image and Shenandoah magazines.
The Conference on Christianity and Literature is an interdisciplinary society dedicated to exploring the relationships between Christianity and literature. Organized formally in 1956, CCL is dedicated to both scholarly excellence and collegial exchange and includes hundreds of members from a variety of academic institutions and religious traditions from the United States, Canada, and more than a dozen other countries.
For more, visit: www.gcc.edu/christianwriters