Visiting Japanese Students Find Support at UArts During Earthquake, Tsunami Crisis

Work created for 'Mapping Experience: A Japan and UArts Exchange' helps ease pain of devastating news from their home country

Updated April 4, 2011

While 15 visiting fine arts students from Kinki University in Osaka, Japan, were busy creating collaborative art installations with their University of the Arts hosts, a massive earthquake and devastating tsunami struck their home country.  

Here as part of an innovative international exchange, the Japanese students spent an adventurous 10 days working and living with a group of 18 University of the Arts students from a variety of majors in a collaboration coordinated by Sculpture Professor Jeanne Jaffe

Their assignment: exploring the city of Philadelphia together and working in teams to create four installation artworks drawing on contemporary and traditional concepts of  "mapping." The result was the exhibit "Mapping Experience: A Japan and UArts Exchange," a cross-cultural collaboration that transcended linguistic barriers, producing installations that illustrated the breaking of stereotypes and the creating of personal human bonds across geographic and cultural distances.
Though fortunately none of the students was personally affected by the disaster, the news and images coming out of Japan shook both the visitors and their hosts. Heightened emotions reinforced the bonds the students had already been forging. Visiting student Shuto Arimasa said, "It was hard for me to hear the news so far away…but being together with friends was a tremendous support."
To distract themselves from the bleak news, the young artists threw themselves into their work with even greater enthusiasm. "Our piece was very emotional," said Fumi Miyamoto of her team's installation, "Go Big or Go Home." "We got caught up in our emotions, but in our friendship we were able to pull through and make beautiful work together."

Local Philadelphia affiliates NBC10 News and CBS3 were on hand at the exhibit's March 14 opening reception to talk to the students about the disaster, their artwork and collaborating with University of the Arts students:

"Japanese Students Get by With Help From UArts Friends" >>

Local NPR affiliate WHYY also featured the visiting Japanese students during its morning news program and on its NewsWorks portal:

"In Time of Trouble, Japanese Students Create Art, Forge Bonds" >>

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