the nature of art at longheu

On November 17, 2018 the “Rediscovering the Longheu Girls’ School” concluded with three programs that offered over 60 people the opportunity to think about the connections between history, environmental protection, and art.

The highlight of the day was an exhibition of sketches that children and adults had done of the school. We displayed the sketches throughout the compound, inviting guests to both explore the compound and appreciate how others’ have experienced the site. In turn, these drawings inspired guests to sketch or write a poem about the compound. We provided paper, markers, and pencils so that every visitor could express their vision of this historic site.

Beginning at 2 p.m., we offered two tours of the restored girls’ school. During the tour, visitors learned about how Chinese and Western encounters in southern China led to the founding of the school. They listened to stories about the Swiss and German teachers who came from Europe to teach Hakka girls math and science, music and literature. They also saw viewed historic photographs of Hakka life before 1949.

At 3:00, we hosted “The Nature of Art,” a cross-cultural conversation about the art that nature inspires. Romanian artist, Cristina Sussu shared with us how the Shenzhen Natural Notebook by Nan Zhaoxu has not only introduced her to Shenzhen’s ecological history, but also motivated her to create artwork about the city’s wildlife. She is particularly concerned about our endangered neighbors such as the “pink” (Indo-Pacific humpback) dolphin and the spoon-billed sandpiper.

Chinese artist, Zhang Kaiqing spoke about the process of creating art at “Nature is the Art we are Part of” residency at the Tsukuba Art Center. She emphasized two important characteristics of nature art: first, the art is a response to one’s immediate environment and second, the goal of the process is to create artwork that does not harm the environment. Audience members then engaged in a bi-lingual Q&A that revealed a shared desire to use art to deepen environmental awareness and to develop more environmentally aware art practices.

It was a relaxed, yet inspiring day. The compound provide a tranquil setting, where we slowed down enough to listen to each other and rediscover alternative forms of art, environmental thinking, and cross-cultural dialogue.

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