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UWRF strives towards building exchange program with China

November 19, 2009

After Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Terry Brown and Art Department Chair Randy Johnston’s recent trip to Beijing, China, UW-River Falls is currently in the process of beginning an exchange program with Chinese artists in the future.

Brown and Johnston’s trip was organized by Anne Kao, the wife of former professor Charles Kao at UWRF. The trip lasted a week, and was primarily meant to work towards a partnership between UWRF and the Shangyuan Modern Art Museum.

The museum houses around 20 artists at a time, Johnston said, who would be compared to a graduate level student at UWRF, and has a one-year residency at the museum.

One of the purposes of the museum is “organizing communication among different art fields: to recover the tradition of Chinese intellectuals in which regular communication was held among poets, printers, calligraphers and musicians. We want to improve the situation in present China in which artists are addicted to their own art fields and often have little communication with people from other art areas,” according to the Web site.

“What Anne [Kao] is trying to coordinate is to get one or two of them [the artists] to come to our department and work in their respective studio for a semester, just to get in contact with American culture,” Johnston said.

The artists would work in their studio, and possibly take a class in another form of art that they were not yet familiar with, Johnston said.

Art student Thomas Fritchen commented on the possibility of having artists from the Museum in his studio in the future.

“I think it’s great to have other cultures incorporated within an already diverse program,” Fritchen said.

On their trip, Brown and Johnston each made presentations at the museum about UWRF. Johnston’s speech was about the art department, and showed slides of some of UWRF students’ work.

“This is kind of fun because Anne Kao invited us, and nothing exists at this point,” Johnston said. “[It’s] solely a situation of building from the ground up.”

The program is still in formative stages, while UWRF and the Museum continue negotiations.

As of right now, Johnston is expecting the artists to come to UWRF in 2011 for a semester.

“It would be a recurring thing, if we could establish an endowment,” Johnston said.

As the program would recur, UWRF would also send students and faculty to the Museum, and the program would become an exchange. If the program were to grow, Johnston said there would be a potential for musicians or poets to become involved at some point.

“The music department has had more diverse students from places like Korea,” Johnston said. “They’ve set a standard for our students to aspire to.”

Another issue UWRF faces in the formation of this program is language. While the University has some students and faculty who speak Chinese and English, there is no set program for translation.

“You realize if you only speak Chinese and I only speak English,” Johnston said, “this conversation doesn’t happen.”