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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 37.4 (2003) 114-121
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Art as Part of Daily Life - A Cross-cultural Dialogue between Art and People
If encounters with art and artists become part of daily life in a small rural community, and if aesthetic experiences are perceived by its local residents as part of their daily lives, what kinds of humanistic, cultural, and social change take place in the community and in the people involved? By living together in a residential community, and by showing and sharing the process of art making, to what extent can aesthetic, cultural, and social issues and concerns expressed by artists be interpreted by local residents? These are the main issues addressed in this essay. 1 The artistic and aesthetic education provided in the community gradually opened up a dialogue not only between foreign artists as guests and Japanese spectators as hosts, but also between art and people, culture and culture, and people and people within the local community.
Outline of the Project
The Cultural Exchange House, situated in Yamaguchi prefecture, has accommodated about forty artists-in-residence from abroad for over ten years. The forty artists who have stayed there include painters, potters, sculptors, photographers, pianists, musicians, composers, poets, and writers. Artists are responsible for their travel and living expenses. The use of the house is provided without charge and the needs of the artists are met by volunteers. About half of the artists have been German and the rest from Britain, Belgium, United States, Holland, and Australia. Male and female artists have been nearly equally represented.
Beginning with three, there are now sixteen volunteers who felt that the creation of a cultural environment, or more specifically the creation of access to the world of art was important for the community. They saw the need for the local community to provide children and adults with aesthetic experiences that could enrich their internal and external worlds. Increasing numbers of children were leaving the community to attend schools and get jobs, with little possibility of returning. The volunteers felt that one of their roles was to educate children and their parents so that they could encounter values different from their own, develop self-confidence, and take pride in the local community which had such cultural opportunities. They assumed that art could open people's minds to the world outside their existing cultural framework, and that it would be valuable to have artists from the outside world as their neighbors and friends. [End Page 114]
Benefits of the Project
There are already extensive formal grants available to foreign artists in cities such as Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. However, the people who came to Yamaguchi said that they were especially attracted to life in a rural community; they hoped to experience the "real life" of the Japanese. Since the projectcould offer no grants for travel and other daily expenses, the communitydecided that they had little hope of attracting well-known artists. Instead, they invited younger lesser-known artists with potential, who did not mind the limited conditions and who welcomed a new cultural experience which might stimulate or broaden their approach to art. The contract stated that the artists should participate in cultural exchange programs, such as visiting schools and community centers to hold art workshops, and also, at the end of their stay, to share their experiences of the residency in the form of an exhibition or a concert. The degree to which this contract was kept varied. In general, the artists fulfilled the local people's expectations by holding workshops with children and adults, and did not mind having concerts in the town gymnasium or exhibitions at the community center. Foreign artists had an opportunity to reflect in a quiet environment and further their art. They were also stimulated by the encounter with the culture and people, and felt at home in the Cultural Exchange House.
The house is relatively large with more than ten rooms; a dining room,kitchen, toilet, an outside bathroom, a separate studio space, and a...