From the studio to Kyoto

Students work on their art pieces at a long table.

By Emilee Kyle

Students at Western don’t always have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the cultures they study in class. However, 15 art students are embarking on a journey to study abroad in Japan through the end of the quarter.

Participants in this 15-credit program have spent seven weeks taking courses at Western to prepare for their new and exciting experiences in Japan. Courses included an art history class that discussed the visual culture in Japan, two studio art courses, an advanced studio seminar and a fiber and fabrics class.

Seiko Purdue, associate professor of fibers and fabrics in the art department, is the instructor for the studio courses for this program and will be traveling with the students.

Before being hired at Western in 2001, Purdue graduated from Kyoto Seika University in Japan in 1992 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, She then moved to the U.S. and got her Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997.

Purdue said students have learned about different traditional Japanese art practices like katazome, a method of dyeing fabric after using stencils and rice paste to create designs. She said students will have the opportunity to show some of the smaller art pieces they have created throughout the quarter in Kyoto.

On Thursday, Nov. 1, the students left for Kyoto, Japan, where they will spend three weeks visiting temples, and art galleries, practicing meditation and immersing themselves in the Japanese culture, according to Purdue.

Purdue said the majority of the trip will be spent in Kyoto, but students will also spend time in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka and Mount Koya.

The art department’s study abroad program in Japan usually takes place during the summer, Purdue said. She said changing the time of year will offer a completely different experience for participating students, as the tour and itinerary were created completely from scratch.

Students work on their art pieces at a long table.

Students work on their pieces in the weeks before their trip to Kyoto, Japan. // Photo by Emilee Kyle

“Those are life-changing experiences and that’s going to affect how they see the world totally differently,” Purdue said. “You really have to see it in person to understand.”

Julia Sapin, chair of the department of art and art history, is also going abroad with the students.

Sapin said throughout her education, she spent about six years living in different parts of Japan and studied at Kyoto University while doing field research for her doctorate.

Sapin said the experiences students get from studying abroad are completely different than learning in a traditional classroom setting.

“The ability for the students to study Japanese art history and textile technique, then immediately go to Japan and see aspects of those artistic practices and art history in person binds that understanding to the core of their being the way only study abroad can,” Sapin said.

pieces of fabric lay on a red table. The fabric is white with designs printed in blocks on it.

Students learn katazome, a method of dyeing fabric by using stencils and rice paste to create designs. // Photo by Emilee Kyle

Senior art major Morgan Patten is one of the students in the program. She said the trip is about artists and students getting inspiration while being able to fully experience Japanese culture and apply their learning.

Patten said she has always wanted to study abroad, so when the program was announced she didn’t think twice about taking the opportunity. She said she was drawn to traveling to Japan specifically because of her personal and academic connection to the country, having studied Japanese for a year and her parents even living in Japan for a period of time.

Patten said she believes the art department chose Japan for the program’s study abroad opportunity because of the connection many of her professors have to the country. She said having the experience of learning from instructors who have spent time in the country is a unique privilege.

Patten said she expects to feel both homesickness and culture shock on the trip, but she is mostly excited for all of the new experiences to come. She said she hopes to have an enriching time and bond with her classmates while she’s away.

“I just want to have a spontaneous experience there and just go out and see what happens,” Patten said.

She said everyone should at least try and study abroad while they are in college because it is hard to travel and find these same opportunities when real life kicks in.

“You’re already paying money to go to Western so if you can research and find out about the programs they offer and save up money, you should,” Patten said. “If you can study abroad, go.”

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