My mom always liked sketching and doing Chinese Paint brushing. Thinking back, she was actually really good at it. She could capture a face much quicker than I, and I suppose I owe the fact that I know anything at all about paints or drawing to her. I haven't thought much about the fact that art is not a big a deal in my household until interviewing Rod Gao, founder of Mr. Gao's studio in Chinatown.
Mr. Gao learned art in China going to design school there and also in the U.S. at Wentworth. He continued on to business school at Northeastern University. Having been in Chinatown for ten or more years he did notice that a lot of art schools charge a very high fee hear and tat for many Chinese families there may be a language barrier between the teacher and the student's parents.
I asked him if he knew about the stereotype that most Chinese parents (at least on the west coast) are really against allowing their children to pursue art. Honestly this is something I only encountered in recent years, again because my exposure to art was through the Chinese Community mostly. Ironically, I was the one that nipped any "artsy" type career in the bud myself... looking for something more practical (or what I thought was practical at the time).... but then I guess by the time I was in college I did not have parents at all, so that whole, "you have to study something more practical" lecture is something foreign to me.
But Mr. Gao immediately was like "yep yep I know exactly what you are talking about."
"My friends" (in China) "gave up art to learn accounting, and many parents want their children to focus on STEM," which stands for Science, technology, English and Math, "art is secondary, even in Public Schools."
He went on to explain that recently people have started to put art into that category of important things children should learn however. and call it STEAM. Why?
""Art is important in personality and creative development. It is important for critical thinking. In art there isn't one way. There are multiple ways to get to one result. So the child can think, 'Everyone is doing it that way... but is there another way' Also kids can express what they think. Art is a good indication of what is going on in their minds. Are they upset? Are they frustrated? It plays a critical role in growing up."
He talked about the three ways that people can express themselves. Music, Words and art.
Being a Martial artist I will add a few things to that list. Of course there is also dance. But more dangerously... there is violence. Children and teens who do not have a means to express themselves through words, art, and music may very well choose fists, knives and guns. Being stuck between languages and cultures can complicate and magnify this problem. I mentioned Amber Torres in a previous post and the fact that she had worked on Urban Galas. But yes I agree that Art is something that we definitely need more of in the Chinese Community, to express what is going on in all of our minds. And the first step is to foster the love of art in the next generation with the guidance of someone who has dedicated their life not only to art, but to the teaching of art, like Mr. Gao.
But anyone can pick up a brush, even if they are old. In fact the interview got me thinking more about the fact that I have ignored art for arts sake for a long time. Yes I made some lion heads and my little monkey king statue.... but always I feel like I need it to serve a purpose and maybe I have been neglecting this aspect of my own children's development.
Well luckily there is an Art school in Chinatown. So after all the Chinese New Year parades and craziness is over, perhaps we will check it out. You should too.
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