Feature: U.S. artist recounts two-decade efforts in promoting cultural exchanges with China
CINCINNATI, the United States, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Jan Brown Checco has been busily showing a group of Chinese artists around the midwestern U.S. city of Cincinnati lately so the latter could create art pieces inspired by the beauty the city and hold a joint exhibition with their American counterparts.
It was Checco's latest effort in promoting artistic exchanges between China and the United States. An artist herself, she has enjoyed exchanging art views and discussing techniques with her Chinese counterpart for the past two decades.
The paint out program she led this time include 11 artists from Liuzhou city in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and seven local artists. Together they created approximately 50 paintings and drawings with different methods and materials, depicting landmarks and iconic scenery of Cincinnati.
"This is the first time that we have artists come and work and then have an exhibit of the things that we create together," said Checco excitedly.
She said the interactions among the group were inspirational and informative.
The Chinese artists did a demonstration of how they make an image based on a photo on the first day they arrived in the city. The U.S. artists were able to compare and contrast the artistic approaches the two sides took.
"There's a lot of learning going on," she said.
"Art is without borders. Whenever such exchange happens, our understanding with one another deepens," said Huang Chaocheng, professor of Guangxi Arts University, who participated in the program.
He added that the enchantment of art lies in the possibility of seeking common points while reserving differences.
"The two sides have worked hard to embrace diversity and oppose hegemonism," said Huang.
The program was sponsored and organized by the Cincinnati-Liuzhou Sister City Committee.
The two cities, which do not have direct flights connecting them yet, established their sister-city relations 31 years ago.
Since then, artists from the two cities have been working closely to enhance each other's aesthetic experience and bringing people of the two sides more closely.
One of the places that the artists went sketching in Cincinnati was the Smale Riverfront Park. Built only eight years ago, the park has become the front yard of the entire city. Checco, who took part in designing the park, said some of the features were inspired by designers' trip to Liuzhou.
"In Liuzhou, we had our trips on the river, saw the city lit at night, and appreciated the beautiful gardens in Longtan Park. We like to bring the beauty back to our own hometown," she said.
In Smale Riverfront Park, there are staircases that look like waterfalls and curtains of water. At night, a rainbow of lights comes on and it creates a show of light and water. Checco said the idea was borrowed in Liuzhou, when she and other artists took a trip along a river.
Now in her 60s, Checco has volunteered to work with Cincinnati's network of 10 sister cities for 20 years. When asked what motivated her to keep working hard to promote the cultural exchanges with China, she said the partnerships among cities far apart have made people feel much connected.
"The principle that the sister cities is based on is that we cannot go to war with another country if we have friends living there," she said, adding that she felt she had done something meaningful in all her years of voluntary work that she had brought people from different background together.
"It makes us feel part of the world. It makes us feel part of their community. It's something that can heal the world," said Checco, who has made lifetime friends in the sister cities exchange program.
She cherished the memory when she took part in a friendship garden project, which involved artists from both sides.
"That was a great experience of having an idea from two places on the opposite side of the globe," said Checco. The team worked together with drawings, sending each other images, and discuss what needs to change through the internet.
She was very impressed when she visited Liuzhou with a delegation of approximately 60 people from Cincinnati and saw the garden was built just as the team had designed, drawn, and discussed.
She aspires to learn about China and enhance understandings between Chinese and American people at a very early age.
"My uncle was a professor at Ohio State University who had many doctorate students from East Asia. He would travel there and bring back slide shows and gifts. We as young kids would sit and watch the slide shows," said Checco.
Under her uncle's influence, she started to want to go to places in East Asia from the time she was only four or five years old.
"Family members and friends traveling and then sharing their travel stories is really, really important for children," said Checco. That is also one of the reasons why she has spared no efforts in making travels happen more often.