The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Dot Bardarson
Seward Mural Society 

Obihiro mural is underway


Seward Mural Society

Seward muralists and Obihiro artists start the painting of the “Friendship Across the Water” murual on Friday in Obihiro, Japan. The mural, a gift from Seward to Obihiro will be installed at Obihio’s zoo.

The time has come. After four years of planning, Seward’s gift of a mural to its sister city, Obihiro is finally happening. I am writing from Seward, with daily e-mails and Skyping with the other art delegates who have arrived in Japan. (I stayed behind to be here for my dear husband, whose emphysema has reared its ugly head. Love trumps trips, adventure and even art.)

A welcoming committee greeted the Seward Mural Society group at the Obihiro airport with flowers and a big sign. The president of the exchange program welcomed them to the “best air in Japan” and told everyone to breathe deep.

“We have received an incredibly warm reception here in Obihiro from a crowd that seems genuinely interested in our project,” wrote Sheila Morrow.

This will be Obihiro’s first mural. The delegates have visited the zoo where the mounting platform stands ready to receive the “Friendship Across the Water” mural. “It is beautiful,” said Jennifer Headtke.“ I can see why it cost Obihiro $3,000 to build.”

They have been herded off to the mayor’s office where handcrafted gifts were presented from each art delegate to various dignitaries there. The group saw a poster which was advertising for designs for a reciprocal mural for Seward with Tom Missel’s Fishermen mural on it.

“The most amazing experience was the welcoming party – Fabulous Taiko Drummers, music performed on traditional Japanese instruments, Ainu dancers and a seemingly endless presentation of delicious Japanese dishes. Next, Al and I were center stage as two very efficient women dressed us in traditional wedding kimonos.” Morrow continued. Then they drew names, and Linnea (Hollingsworth) and Bethany (Waggoner) donned silk kimonos (that one would wear if she was trying to attract a man), in time for speeches and toasts to a successful project.

“It was sensory overload,” remarked Linnea Hollingsworth.

Keith and Jackie Campbell were there with their son, David and his wife, Noriko who will work with promoting the mural project in Obihiro.

Some delegates went shopping for supplies. Others began the process of transferring the mural design in the expansive garage-type space provided to them. This took two days. Radio and TV cameras recorded the process.

“We’re eager to paint and finally ready to begin now that we have come to know a bit about the choreography of Japan – the bowing and smiling, the strict schedule and speeches, the business card trading and gifting – the dance of Obihiro,” said Morrow. “We are herded about by Josh Neta (an American working there as a translator and go-between with international folks.) He drives us around and basically does our bidding yet remains in charge. Timing is critical in Japan. We are picked up precisely on time and the day unfolds in an orderly manner.”

Friday was the first day of painting with Japanese artists.

Morrow reported that it is a disciplined group of Japanese artists. Justine Pechusal and Bethany Waggoner gave a demonstration of painting techniques.

Mural T-shirts were passed out for everyone. The Seward delegates were introduced as “supers.”

By the end of the first day of painting, the mural was further along than anticipated. The second day was eagerly anticipated.


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