Last month, when I was asked to take part of the Lifelong Learning Project’s Suminagashi Workshop at ODU, I figured, ‘What the Hell. I like learning new art techniques and maybe I can impress my sister-in-law, who is a Japanese artist in Tokyo.’
I expected to spend a few hours having fun learning something new with other members of the community. What I didn’t expect was how incredibly impressed I’d be by the program.
The Lifelong Learning Program is devoted to the continuous learning of the community. Its third year is coming to a close this week with a dance workshop. The workshops are usually free and in various locations around town, making them accessible to anyone who is interested in experiencing and learning new things.
Because this season coincided with the rise of the NEON district, Lifelong Learning focused on the fine arts: learning the art of European gardens, teaching the ancient Japanese technique of suminagashi, and later this week, on April 14th, a dance program at ODU. The Art of Dance will take place this Thursday from 12:30-1:30 at the University Theatre. Like most of the Lifelong Learning’s events it is free, open to everyone, and no ticket is necessary. The Art of Dance will feature work by ODU’s artist in residence, Danish dance guest performer Ann Sofie Clemmensen, and various staff and students of ODU. The program will be set to sonnets and work by Shakespeare.
Before I participated in the Suminagashi workshop last month, I was unfamiliar with the program. When I entered the Hixon Art Studio, I quickly realized the program is full of enthusiastic, welcoming people… many who are regulars of the programs, and others, like me, experiencing for the first time. I felt like I was in a modern day Breakfast Club, with an eclectic but synergistic mix of people from all backgrounds: retired teachers, artists, moms, scientists, professors, students.
After helping ourselves to drinks and cookies, we learned a bit the ancient Japanese art technique of suminagashi. Although similar to Western marbling, Suminagashi has a deeper connection to the elements in an almost spiritual way. In fact, I learned, only Shinto priests and nobility were allowed to use the technique. Until 1585, it was forbidden for anyone else to. Definitely adds an air of rebellion to spending the afternoon painting at ODU. After a quick and interesting intro, we then actually got to work on our own creations. Sumingashi literally means ‘floating ink.’ By tapping ink from brushes lightly on to the water, we created our own organic designs, which we then dipped paper into.
While the workshop was interesting and fun, what really stood out to me was the camaraderie in the program. Everyone was excited to learn, to share their knowledge, and to see what you were creating, too. The program is run by an incredibly welcoming and dedicated staff. I’m excited to see what is in store for the Lifelong Learning’s upcoming 4th year.
Please click on the link to see more info about this Thursday’s free event, The Art of Dance. While RSVP’ing is not necessary, you will receive a free parking pass for the event if you do!