Art is a powerful thing. From the moment that humankind could, we started thinking creatively. Explaining and depicting the world around us. From the earliest cave drawings in South Africa which date back 164 thousand years to the well-known cave paintings in Europe that date 40 thousand years, humans have always been moved to art. The question of what art is, is old and tested. Art is fascinating precisely because it is subjective and contested. Art has the power to move individuals to social action, manipulate and influence, entertain, and educate. Many are afraid to approach art, viewing it from afar as an elite subject and esoteric.
I recently had the pleasure to talk to my colleague, Logan Renfrow, about an exhibit he’s been preparing since December 2017. What unfolded was a thought-provoking discussion centering around culture and art.
Logan, what have you been preparing the last ten months?
“The Middle Kingdom Meets the Lone Star State: A Cultural Conversation” is a collaboration between the Dallas Chinese Art Association, local artists, and the Artists Showplace Gallery to create a space in the DFW area for people to learn about Chinese and US American culture through art. I partnered with 40 local artists, half of them have a cultural connection to China. My motivation was to provide a learning opportunity and space for people who might not know much about China or might not think a lot about China to have a chance to explore some of these themes through art.”
What does culture mean to you?
“Culture is very complex and nuanced. It’s tangible and intangible. We interact with it daily but what I wanted to do is look at the big C of culture and the little c of culture, both the micro and the macro, look at both personal culture and national culture. What does it mean to be a US American? What does it mean to be Chinese? What does it mean to be Chinese American? These were a few questions that framed my approach to this exhibit.”
In a business setting, art is not usually a traditional aspect of teaching or understanding culture in a cross-cultural sense, what interested you about art in particular?
“I believe art gives us a different perspective. It is like a snapshot of history and anthropology; it contextualizes things that happen in a society. I also enjoy the fact that it is in front of the viewer that’s a desirable component because it’s up to the viewer to interpret and analyze and understand what that piece art is or what it can be. It is really up to them. It’s versatile and has multiple answers.”
That’s interesting Logan as I reflect on my time abroad I think I failed to consider the role of art in understanding my host culture. I attempted to understand the language, history, and traditions but I never once considered the nexus of artwork and culture. What was it about Chinese art and your time living and working in China that gave you a greater perspective, an additional layer of understanding such a rich and ancient culture?
“Chinese culture goes back 5000 years. Art allows one to visualize, learn, and understand the breadth of Chinese culture. How different aspects came into play, and it allows one to appreciate the longevity of such an old culture by having a visual creation in front of them in a way that a history book that doesn’t allow. It’s one way to understand a culture that we don’t always promote, but it provides a snapshot of where that country was at a certain place and time in a longer timeline .”
What are your hopes for this exhibit?
“I want people to come out and enjoy the show. I want them to see how amazing these local artists are, to ask questions, and have the opportunity to learn about a different culture.”
If you are in the DFW area, come out and support!
When: Artists Showplace Gallery
Where: 15615 Coit Rd., Suite #230 Dallas, TX 75248
Who: General public
Reception: Friday, September 7
Cultural Awareness International, Inc. (CAI) has 29 years of remarkable history working with HR and Business Leaders to create unique, personalized solutions that develop their employee talent to perform skillfully in the global marketplace. A woman and minority, privately owned and operated company, we holistically address organizational needs for global competency development, diversity and inclusion training, intercultural communication and global leadership with flexibility and innovation.
Additionally, we provide comprehensive destination services that assist both assignees and their families in relocating to a new home and settling into their new community. Our experience collaborating with global companies across all industries and scope gives us invaluable insight to anticipate and address our clients’ needs. Our solutions target not only the needs of globally mobile individuals and their families but also that of teams and senior leadership. CAI’s expertise, creativity, and agility deliver the best sustainable solutions to hone and enhance the skills of your globally mobile talent.