“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things,” wrote novelist Henry Miller, who was also a travel writer and a painter.
In China I experienced a strong support for the arts. Evelyn and I were invited to join ten other Canadian artists on a cultural exchange to Guiyang in April 2014. Guiyang is the capital of Guizhou Province, located in southwest China.
China is a land of contrasts. Farmers continue their annual cycle of planting and harvesting by hand in terraced rice paddies. Meanwhile massive super-highways and bullet trains are being built in straight lines right across (or through) the rugged terrain. Industry is booming with people at all levels keen to make money. Yet, even in the frenetic pace, many Chinese take time to appreciate the arts. Perhaps it is the legacy of a long-established civilization that has always thought of art as being an integral part of life?
Our group was invited to exhibit our paintings and photographs in the Art Museum of Guiyang. We were allotted half of an entire floor of the gallery with Chinese artists exhibiting their works in the other half. Gallery staff and artists worked together to mount the exhibit. The Vice-Mayor of Guiyang, a city of more than four million, attended the opening ceremony, which also included large-screen AV presentations, live music and elaborately costumed models.
We met with instructors and their talented students from the local Art College, from the Fine Arts Department of Guiyang University and from the Fifth Middle School. In every case our visits were a chance to learn from each other and to share ideas about art. The excitement and camaraderie were electric.
The Guiyang Foreign Affairs Office, which promotes friendship between the City and foreign countries, sponsored accommodations for the exchange and organized outings for plein air painting and photography. Artists from both Canada and China participated in the outings, which included the Guiyang Karst Park, a visit to Anshun Village, and a full day along scenic Qing Long River.
Hospitality was warm and gracious. Food is central to Chinese hospitality. The City of Guiyang hosted a dinner, and lunch or dinner was provided by each educational institution or park that we visited. Local businessmen who are keen patrons of the arts sponsored dinners too, at times bringing musicians into the festivities. A famous Chinese singer hosted one dinner and on another evening we were treated to an ethnic minority extravaganza at the new performing arts centre.
We went to China. We saw a culture that holds art in high esteem.
posted by Ted Nodwell
Jiaxiu Tower, Guiyang. Ted Nodwell
Exhibit Opening Ceremony. Ron Sangha
Welcome Burnaby Artists. Evelyn Nodwell
Fifth Middle School. Nick Fong