“In the post-resurrection reality, we can learn to create backwards, not out of our wretched humanity, but out of our full humanity to come. Christians have this to offer the world.”

So argued internationally renowned artist Makoto Fujimura in an essay for the John Jay Institute. It’s therefore not enough to preserve culture, added Travis LaCouter. Conservatives have to remember that the second half of the job is building upon what they’ve inherited: creating culture and telling stories that shape ideas and souls.

The John Jay Institute global network, inspired by these truths, has been a fountain of creative energy. 2014 marked the launch of the reborn John Jay Institute Center for a Just Society, which kicked off the 2014-15 academic year with a month-long symposium on the Christian Imagination, organized by editors Zac Gappa, Anna Smith ’08, Lauren Bobbitt ’09, and Laurel Robinson ’01. In close collaboration, other alumni are running and supporting successful publications, writing stories, building up the church’s relationship with the arts, and working in film.

What We've Achieved

Providing creative leadership

“Every journey begins with identifying a problem, listening to solutions and seeking others who share a common vision,” says Mattias Caro ’04’s organization, the Center for Morality in Public Life. Its publication Ethika Politika has collaborated with Jace Yarbrough ’09 and the dozens of alumni who have written for the alumni-founded Humane Pursuits in its five years of existence. Both publications seek to explore how to live meaningful lives in modern contexts; they have attracted some of the best creative writing talent in the country, and their editors have been involved in the growth and launch of half a dozen sister publications, journals, and arts-incubating organizations. The John Jay Institute actively seeks to put its Fellows in the path of such inspiration, through lectures, architecture and art field studies, and more. Sarah Miracle ‘02’s work as a news producer shapes ideas for millions through the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Adam Propeck’s as an architect and for Firm Foundation Consulting helps clients lead extraordinary lives.

Singing songs

Writer and singer-songwriter Stephen Herreid ’13 fears we are losing an ability to recognize and be impacted by what is truly great—but that reinforces his belief that great stories and songs must be written, and written well. (Watch Stephen’s video, The Thief.) Lyric tenor Brandon Showalter ‘07, who released his first solo recording in 2014, additionally fulfilled a dream of singing in an Icelandic cathedral! Joel Clarkson '15, already prolific on the national music scene as a composer and orchestrator of film scores and sacred choral music, joined his sister Joy in releasing their own EP, Sun of Man, under their band name Two Benedictions, in 2015.

Telling stories

"Whoever tells the biggest story wins," observed Nathan Hitchen '07 in his sweepingly influential primer You've Been Framed, which represented a sea change in the marriage movement. He didn't mean simply that stories are weapons, but that politics is downstream from culture--shaping imaginations shapes the future. Hundreds of Institute alumni writers are published in dozens of publications every year, lending their words to new arguments, new images, and new inspiration. Our September 2014 conversation on the Christian imagination featured dozens of writers, including alumnus Joshua de Gastyne ‘13’s piece on how humans’ brains work when it comes to heaven. Laura Waters Hinson '03, a filmmaker with Image Bearer Pictures, was the driving force behind and director of As We Forgive, a Mia Farrow-narrated documentary about reconciliation after genocide in Rwanda. Paul Padgett ’04, who started his career as a freelance writer and film director, today serves as an executive producer telling stories through film and advertising (he has won numerous awards). Ryan Hipps '01 is a producer at Stress Free Productions, and video producer Derek Knight ‘07 helps introduce people worldwide to the best ideas in his work for The Great Courses.

Incubating artists

Several Colorado alumni including Julia Kiewit ’09, Elizabeth Schalchlin ’08, and Brian Brown ’07 have been involved in the launch of the Anselm Society, a network that seeks a renaissance of the Christian imagination through church support for artists. The Society has drawn national attention and international support from people like Philip Bess, Michael Ward, Malcolm Guite, and others. Carolyn McKinney ’01 is the founder and creative director of Perceptions Studio, which brings creativity and design to a plethora of projects.

John Lennon was right: if you try hard enough to imagine there’s no heaven, there will also be no religion and nothing worth dying for—but that is not a world where humans can thrive.
— Joshua de Gastyne '13, Excellence in Giving