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Exhibit to shed light on Chinese scholars

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An exciting and illuminating new exhibit will be on display in St. Olaf’s very own Groot Gallery, located in Dittman Center. St. Olaf Professor of Art History and Department Chair of Asian Studies Karil Kucera and Carleton Professor of International Understanding and Art History Kathleen Ryor have been working for over a year to produce the insightful and thought-provoking exhibition, “Elegant Simplicity: A Scholar’s Studio.”

The purpose of the exhibit is to display the tools and objects that would have surrounded a traditional Chinese scholar. Every item, from the ink they wrote with to the artwork that hung on the walls in their studies, holds historical and cultural significance. This project gives the modern world personal insight to the evolution of Chinese scholars.

The objects on display existed over the course of centuries. This exhibit does not encapsulate a specific time period, but crosses many in order to show the evolution of Chinese scholarship. The audience will be able to examine what changed and what remained the same for these individuals.

Many of the objects are very small, so this exhibit has been designed to allow the audience to see the pieces up close. This exhibition will allow individuals to examine and appreciate the artistic value behind each of the pieces.

Not only is it a learning experience for the audience, but this was also an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience with curation. 40 students from Kucera and Ryor’s classes contributed to the preparation of this exhibit. Each student had the opportunity to work on a piece individually. Additionally, they gained valuable insight into what goes into the making of a successful art exhibition.

“All in all, the goal of the show is to allow students some chances to work with actual objects as well as get an opportunity to talk through the mechanics of exhibiting,” Kucera said.

This project has been in progress for over a year, since the summer of 2015. Together, Kucera and Ryor spent an entire month cataloging over 200 objects to be used in the collection.

“We decided on a joint exhibition as a way to try out team-teaching across the Cannon River,” Kucera said.

This collection allowed for Carleton and St. Olaf students to collaborate for a central goal: creating the “Elegant Simplicity: The Scholar’s Studio” exhibition.

The collection is made up of various generous donations from the public. The donors include Sophie and Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell, who in particular contributed Chinese ceramics and lacquerware, and Richard and Hongyuan Bodman.

The exhibition is also supported in part by a 2016 Broadening the Bridge grant. The Broadening the Bridge project is seeking to encourage curricular collaboration between St. Olaf and Carleton as well as investigate, suggest and introduce far-reaching and sustainable changes in the colleges’ curriculum.

The project itself operates from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which works to strengthen and promote the humanities and arts.

The opening reception for the exhibition will take place on Friday, Oct. 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Dittman 205 and the exhibit will be open through Dec. 12, with the exceptions of Nov. 23 until Nov. 27 for Thanksgiving Break. Student led tours will begin Nov. 3. and run through Dec. 8 on Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. – during community time – and Saturday, Dec. 3 at 4:00 p.m.

meyer11@stolaf.edu