Dividing their time among five locations over four weeks, a group of four KU art students were immersed in the history and culture of Japan. The students participated in the two major artist residency programs in Japan, MI-LAB and Awagami Factory, where they received hands-on demonstrations from Japanese masters and had time to make their own Japanese paper and prints.
Visual art associate professor Yoonmi Nam arranged the trip. She wanted students to interact with and learn from local craftspeople who are working to continue, preserve and appreciate traditional arts and crafts in contemporary Japan.
“Because of the nature of this class, we all traveled together and immersed ourselves in Japanese culture and lifestyle, so every moment became a teaching moment,” Nam said. “Even the most mundane experiences can become profound, and everyone we meet and spend time with can become a teacher.”
The students examined subject matter and themes in the traditional Ukiyo-e prints such as the city of Edo, Kabuki theatre and Mt. Fuji. Nam wanted students to experience firsthand how other people around the world share universal and fundamental values, but perhaps think differently about who we are and how we do things.
“Being away from home, completely submerged within another culture, where the only thing required of me was to absorb was amazing,” said Audrey Hughes, study abroad participant. “In Japan, it felt like time was given to me. It reaffirmed how much I love to make art, and it inspired me to search out moments to just think and create.”
“It is not uncommon for a student in Kansas to have never been abroad, and being away in a new country for an extended period of time can be intimidating and uncomfortable at times,” Nam said. “But all of the effort and hard work becomes completely worth it when you see a student at ease and effortlessly interacting with the locals.”
“A study abroad trip is a great way to experience culture and grow as an artist,” said Jaime David, graduate study abroad participant. “This program was far more enriching than something I would have been able to achieve by just traveling on my own.”