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

By Dot Bardarson

Art of connection best achieved by gift-giving



There are many ways to connect with another country. Many are so serious, such as through economics, politics, and even war. Travel and the arts sometimes come together with exchange programs that promote sharing and education, entertainment and pure joy.

We have such an exchange going on right now between Seward and its sister city, Obihiro and it makes me smile to think how we will communicate through a shared project.

Last year Seward sent 7 art delegates to Japan to collaborate on a mural for Obihiro. During the process, the Japanese learned form the Mural Society how to bring a design to life in a large way. But we also learned the way they live, work and play, how they educate their children, and their wonderful sense of humor despite rigid cultural controls.

Obihiro was thrilled with the mural that they helped to paint. Now, one year later, they are bringing a mural design to us, along with 6 Japanese artists and 3 dignitaries. The artists will arrive on Friday, Sept. 5.

We looked at their design, expecting colorful kimonos or delicate nature scenes. Instead the design concentrates on the things that make Obihiro what it is today - their agriculture, their mountains, their draft-horse racing. It includes their city flower – Chocolate Lily, their bird – Skylark, and their trees – White Birch. It could have been a scene from Ohio farmland.

So we cocked our heads and decided that Obihiro and Seward are really not that different after all, with all our cultural anomalies. Our spoken language is so different but the language, expressed through the arts is shared.

And there is nothing like gift-giving to bring people close together, and that’s what we will be doing when the Japanese come here and let us help them paint their gift of a mural.


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