Friday, March 12, 2010

Seeing Old Friends & Meeting New Ones...

My wonderful friend Peter, now has his haori (kimono jacket) and it looks like something he has been wearing forever! What a treat it was to see him slip into it and beam! He wore it the entire day that I visited my old middle school where I taught with Peter for many years. I finished the haori just in time to take with me on my trip to Albany, NY to meet and escort my Japanese friend Kenji, fellow art teacher from Tokyo and his two co-workers Keiko, a high school English teacher who I met in 2005 and Rieko, Kenji's young replacement at Gakugei International School. Kenji now teaches art education at the college level to future teachers at Yokahama National University.

Who knew 4 years ago, that the art exchange between our students would be so successful and that it would continue to a new generation of students and teachers?

I met Keiko in 2005 and spoke with her for about 5 minutes before boarding a bus about to leave the high school where she taught English in a suburb of Tokyo. I had traveled to Japan with a group of 20 American teachers as guest of the Japanese government for the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund scholarship program. I told Keiko how disappointed I was that I would not have time to meet a middle school art teacher with whom I could develop an art exchange. She gave me her business card and said, "If you have any trouble, please let me know and I will help." This was in November and over February break,when I had time to sort through the memorabilia from my journey I found her card and wondered if it could actually work. I wrote her a note and within a week she had emailed me back with the wonderful news that she had found a teacher in her school who would enjoy creating an art exchange between our students. A few days later Kenji and I were communicating by email discussing our first exchange.

The rest is history -- over the next three years (before I retired in Jan. 2009 and Kenji went on to teach future teachers) we created experiences for our students, their families and our communities. This trip of theirs to Albany was in hopes of continuing the exchange even though both Kenji and I had moved on. Peter and Rieko are now working together and Keiko still is extremely helpful as translator to make the communication work well. An article was written for the Bethlehem Central website.

Rieko, Keiko and Peter discussing pop-up books created by Rieko's students illustrating Japanese myths and fables written in English.

Kenji, Keiko, and Rieko outside of Bethlehem Central Middle School with their huge suitcase full of Rieko's students' pop-up books and art teaching materials they brought to share with the teachers.

Video of an interview of Peter and art supervisor Melanie about the value of the art exchange with Gakugui International School.

Peter and Rieko with the projects their exchanging... prints from Peter's 6th grade students and pop-up books from Rieko's 8th grade students. The prints will be on display in Tokyo during their Annual Art Show at the school.

Peter and Rieko present a DVD of her students reading their pop-up books during a BCMS faculty meeting.
Rieko and Keiko visiting Traci's 8th grade art class.

Our Japanese visitors getting a special tour of the New York State
art collection of NY artists in the Empire State Plaza including
Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline.
Kenji and Keiko enjoying a special tour of the New York State Senate Chambers in Albany's Capital Building.

What a wonderful time we all had and what a special treat it was to see old friends and meet new ones. It was a melancholy time when I had to leave my three special friends at the bus station so they could continue their journey to Boston and then on to New York City, each for a few days visiting with museum personnel about museum education, before flying back to Tokyo after a very busy week!

A wonderful bonus to flying up to Albany from Savannah was having the chance to stay with my daughter Kristin and her husband, Bobby and my two adorable grand-daughters Abby (just 5) and Chelsea (3 1/2). I even got to have them all to myself for a night to make cookies, read stories and play with Groovie Girls and My Little Ponies!! HEAVEN!

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