My first experience teaching clay hand-building to adults with special needs (blindness, early stages of dementia, hemiplegia, and MS) was so rewarding that it helped me see the direction I wanted to go as an art instructor. The students' drivers were also allowed to participate in the class. In other words, people from different age groups and abilities jumbled in the class and had fun together, dirtying hands in mud. At the completion reception, the class participants' pieces were showcased. Better yet, they had fun, using them drinking and eating out of the functional-ware they had created.
The students' positive reactions to this first endeavor are now encouraging me to further my teaching skills to guide people like them. Immense thanks to the SD Arts Council and the Rapid City Arts Council for their generous support.
I just completed a 10-day teaching residency at the Suzie Cappa Art Center, where adults with all abilities come to create art. Teaching there has been my dream ever since I joined the Artists in Schools and Communities Program in 2019. As expected, it was extremly fun to work with the special artists. We had no slab roller or fancy glazes, but the outcome of their first attempt in ceramic hand-building amazed me. There are still more than 10 pieces that need to finish coloring, but I shall show you photos of their work I took this afternoon. These pieces will be placed for sale at the art center soon.
Carpentry work is not my favorite thing to do, but rotten floor forced me to renovate my bathroom this summer. I felt dreaded to face the project as I feared it would cost me thousands of dollars. I usually try to fix problems by myself, but it would be beyond what I can manage. Besides I could not find any handyman, who would show up reliably. The headache was solved when my friend Bjo introduced me to a handy lady, Danielle. She would be able to take care of all the plumbing and electrical work. Not only that, she was willing to work with me and several friends of mine, who stepped up to help me. My new bathroom is really a work constructed with friendships, generosity, and love. I would like to share some of the process with you.
I could not have done this 1-week teaching residency at South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired without help from many people. Before my departure, a few of my friends in blindfold took my mock lessons. Based on their advice, I was able to make my lesson plans. At the school, staff made time to assist me whenever it was needed. For example, when I asked for someone to hold a bowl for a blind boy with left side paralysis, a math teacher and a science teacher came in. On my last day, 6 people including the principal helped me pack the students' pieces and transport them to an arts center, where a kiln was located. Such readily available assist made my experience with the students so delightful. Thank you very much.
Year 2020 began with a new challenge for me. In a rural school in Eastern South Dakota, I taught clay hand-building to high school students for one month. These are some of their work. That first teaching residency was demanding, but extremely rewarding. Digesting the experience, I am now thinking, "How can art-making encourage collaboration and improvisation?"
Teaching teenagers was something I did not think an introvert like me could do well. The challenge made me work harder, and the students seemed to have responded to it. Recalling interactions with them, I am curious how this new journey as an art teacher may help me grow.
There is one more thing I would like to mention to you. It is about the Michinoku (Northern Japan) Coastal Trail, which opened officially this year. The 600-mile trail runs through the regions devastated by tsunami in 2011. When Mrs. Nakazato (a tsunami survivor) related to me about it, I thought that the municipal governments and tourism associations must have worked hard to make this massive project possible. Northern Japan including my home prefecture Akita have been suffering from depopulation. It is sad to see that once prosperous shopping streets are now lined with permanently closed stores. We even have words "shutter town" for this. Trekking is a boom right now in Japan. If the trend is used well, tourism may bring back the economy in these regions.
Mrs. Nakazato and her friend, Mr. Watanabe, took me to a part of the trail. Walking with them, I wished to journey through the entire trail. Rather than backpacking and trying to save money, I would find affordable accommodations and enjoy local foods. It will be my personal pilgrimage to discover something that have been always there, but I have never noticed. I feel the experience may open a new chapter in my life.
More about the Michinoku Coastal Trail: www.michinokutrail.com
My home country is well-known for the custom of gift exchanges. Getting something meaningful and useful for my family and friends in Japan is always a headache for me. This year, my souvenirs were handmade items made by my American friends. In addition, we reciprocated seasonal or local foods.
Mrs. Nakazato and Mrs. Tamura (in the photos) are survivors of the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Eight years have passed, and millions of volunteers, who stormed into the region after the disaster, have already moved onto something else. Our occasional visits to the region indicate to the local that they have not been forgotten. Their appreciation reminds me how important it is to keep in touch. They will welcome me openheartedly even if I have no gift.
I generally do not post private matters, but some of you have met my sister and her daughter. I've told many of you about my mother and step-father. As you see in these photos, they are doing well. Before my departure, my sister suggested that I spend most of my time with mother, as she was getting older and tired easily. That was what I did. Well, she fed me so well and so much it was like a torture. Both my step-father and I would say, "That's enough," but she kept serving us.
My second figure sculpting class was just completed. The students at first learned hollow building techniques and made upright figures, which are listed toward the end of this slideshow. They expanded the techniques further in the latter two-thirds of the class, by making whatever they wanted. That is why you see varieties of styles here. I think each piece demonstrates its creator's unique artistry. I shall proudly present their sculptures to you in this blog.
This slideshow gives you a quick tour of my side of the joint exhibit called "Life Dimensions / Life Lines." It looks simple, but the curator and I spent 2 days laying out this show. Our efforts paid off. Correct heights of the pedestals, spaciousness around each piece, and lighting seem to have transformed my work. You will be able to see this show at the Dahl Arts Center until August 18.
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