I had the opportunity to spend Saturday evening at an Artoner event in Hikone, getting to know a bunch of the active artists in Shiga prefecture. This was Artoner’s second “Tomos” event, but my first time attending.
Tomos is designed to bring the artists working in Shiga together to get to know one another and draw inspiration from each others’ works. It also helps give us “aspiring artists” some motivation. I am one of those aspiring novelist types, so getting to see artists that are active and producing work, whilst also holding down a “real job” or two, was a great kick in the pants for me to get working. But, instead, I’m blogging about the party.
You know those parties where everyone forms into cliques with their friends, and it’s almost impossible for a new person to make inroads? Well, this was not like that at all. Everyone I talked to was open and talkative. They were receptive to my questions, and more than a few were, like me, actively trying to meet as many new people as they could. And, if I stood still too long (five minutes or so), one of the Artoner event staff would introduce me to another group. I couldn’t help but meet new people!
Sawa and I had met with the Artoner lead staff before, but this was my first chance to get to know a lot of the members, as well as non-members in the area who had an interest in art. I had a chance to talk to everyone from painters, to jewelry designers, composers, sculptors, novelists, and photographers. It’s one thing to have read through their profiles on Artoner’s site, but to get a chance to talk to them and really feel their passion for their work and, since some of them had items on display at the event, to see it first hand, was really exciting. I only got a chance to chat individually with about a dozen of the artists present, but that’s a dozen more than I knew before!
Most everyone seems to be active in Northern Shiga, out towards Hikone and Nagahama. I had assumed that more people would be involved as we got closer to Kyoto, because of that city’s status as the center of the arts in Japan, but it seemed to be the opposite. Approaching the rural areas, it seems, you find people less pressured by the urban economic centers and more in touch with what’s important. Still, a lot of the artists I talked to were interested in participating in international shows and in expanding their audience overseas. We’re really looking forward to working with some of them to develop an English profile and help expand access to some of the neat things going on in Shiga! Here are a few of the folks I talked to:
Terumasa Kawasaki – Photographer
I have to put Kawasaki-san first because he’s from Chuzu, which is one of the places I lived as an exchange student! From the portfolio he brought to the party and the images on his website, he seems to focus on black and white, although there are some color shots, too. The great thing about a photography website, is that language ability is really unnecessary to enjoy his work!
Sae Hirao – Beadwork
Hirao-san was one of the artists with a display at Tomos. Typically, I hear “beads” and think someone is just stringing cheap plastic baubles together, but her work was rather more complex and interesting, including some really cute figurines. You can see some of her work at her mini gallery, but most of her site is in Japanese, only. If you’re interested in her work, we’d be happy to serve as a connection!
Ryo Takahashi – Oil Painter
The works listed on his site aren’t nearly as impressive as the “Catch” series of paintings he had displayed at Tomos. They ranged in size from about 1 foot square to “wouldn’t-fit-in-my-house,” although none were as large as the picture here. His site is a little confusing, but the paintings are stunning!
I’m ashamed to say that I have lost the artist’s name here. My assumption was that her name would be on her business card, so I didn’t try as hard to memorize it as I otherwise would have. Her variety of colorful, scented candles offer a local alternative to the ubiquitous Yankee candles, and she kindly lists estimates of how much burn time you should get out of each one. I don’t know why I’d never seen that sort of critical information on a candle, before! Her gallery/ catalog requires no language skill to enjoy, and a few of the products have English names, too.
Shinichi Sakamoto – Sound Creator
Because Sawa is also a composer, I made an effort to seek out the musical types in attendance. Sakamoto-san was actually giving out demo CDs but, since Nina is asleep next to me as I write this, I haven’t listened to it yet. His site is only in Japanese, but it looks like they do custom productions!
And Many Others!
Not everyone there had meishi or a website, so I can’t introduce all of them here, but I also got to chat with a rice farmer about TPP; a Japanese English teacher about ways to teach unaccented English; a baker about bagels; and to a variety of other open, friendly people about everything from Shiga vegetables, to international art shows, to webpage design, to bilingual children. It was an excellent night, and I can’t wait for the next event!
The International Atmosphere
I was excited to see that I was not the only foreign resident in attendance. I met two ALT Language teachers, one of whom is also raising in International family in Shiga! Among the artists and guests, I met a couple Japanese teachers of English as well. Even among the folks who weren’t necessarily fluent in English, there were a quite a few people willing to try a few words. One of our hopes, here at TranSenz, is to increase the international awareness of and participation in Artoner. We can’t take credit for any of the people there that evening, but having that base of people with language ability and the eagerness to reach out across language barriers makes it even easier for new international members to join!
The Next Event
At the moment, I don’t know when Artoner’s next event will be, but TranSenz will be standing by this time to publicize it in English, as soon as we can. No matter your language ability, if you’re in the Shiga area (Osaka counts), it’s definitely worth checking out if you have any interest in the arts or in meeting a new group of interesting, very friendly people!