From the Director's Desk

May 10, 2018

Martin Jean

“Befores and Afters”

I recently came across an article noting the blessings and banes of “Before and After” pictures in social media. You’ve no doubt seen these juxtapositions of two photos side-by-side of a person before and after some major transition in their life: weight loss, plastic surgery, life passages, to name a few. These images may celebrate transformation or acknowledge adversities overcome – and sometimes their only purpose is to market face creams.

The ISM’s new home of Miller Hall will, doubtless, have a gallery of its own “before and after” images on display one day. There have certainly been setbacks along our road to this transformation. With each phase of demolition, workers peeled back plaster and removed walls and floor covering only to reveal termite damage, water decay, dry rot, and building fatigue. They have even uncovered a tunnel made by some critters boring holes laterally through a series of cross beams in the first-floor ceiling.

Leave it to a closet Medievalist like me to find allegories around every corner, but as we now see signs of new purpose taking shape in the space (offices being formed, our common area expanding), we begin to see how our new home will function, and its potential for enriching our program.

Our twentieth-century alums will recall the old and well-used student lounge in the back buildings of the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle. That intimate space was home to midnight theological debates that brought students together in meaningful ways. Miller Hall has been designed with just such a purpose in mind, not only to bring our own students together, but also to welcome students, staff, faculty, and fellows from all parts of campus.

Programs shape space, to be sure, but the reverse is perhaps even more true. Miller Hall will truly be a crossroads for ministers and musicians; for scholars and practitioners – a lively place where we collaborate across the borders of discipline, methodology, practice, and faith.

We are proud of the work we do at the ISM. Our students leave here to make major contributions in churches, the academy, in the concert halls, and in public life. If this is the “before” of the Institute, I am confident it is a good “before”. I am equally confident that the Institute “after” this transition will be even more vibrant, reaching out to communities we have yet to meet, and giving Yale students access to knowledge and practices that are available nowhere else at Yale.

Buildings seem static compared to the streams of people that live in and visit them, but the talented architects of Apicella + Bunton, working with a team from Yale Facilities, are giving us a space that can animate new and expanding interdisciplinary ideas and outreach. We look forward to realizing our new potential as we say to our community and to colleagues old and new, “Welcome home!” A hopeful “after” picture indeed!