Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Greg Youtz Reports from Beijing

Tuesday, January 17, 2006,
Greg Youtz, author
China Journal Home #10- Qingyundian Town, near Beijing

SOTA places a lot of emphasis on the word community. Community is what sustains young artists through the risk-taking that is inherent in the
making of art, and it is one of the primary concerns of faculty when
selecting students for the school. But when young artists remove
themselves to a small farming village outside the city of Beijing in the
dead of winter, to serve as caregivers and teachers, community takes on
a whole new meaning.

At nightly seminars, after the day's work is done here at New Day, we
sit around the living room of our traditional Chinese courtyard house
and share experiences. There is laughter and joy, of course, for babies
who hug and play and learn new things, and for new Chinese friends who
take walks with us into our village, open their lives to us and make us
realize our shared humanity. But there is also pain- for the baby who
needs the operation that may never happen, for the street children
abandoned without parents or home, or simply for the English language
lesson that didn't work very well. During these times there are lumps in
throats that won't go away, and tears very near the surface that
sometimes leak out despite our best efforts.

It is at these times that the SOTA community really reveals itself.
When one student asks how we can return to normal life in Tacoma now,
knowing that back in China there are children who need help, there is no
easy answer. When another student reveals that talking to a homeless
teenager about his life was difficult because he had nothing to his name
to talk about, sometimes there is a painful silence. When another
student wonders if her English students will ever earn enough money to
do more than just "get by" despite all their inspiring hard work, none
of us has an answer. But we have formed a community here that supports
us as we work through these powerful experiences and, as a SOTA parent,
I feel enormously proud of these students. We are feeling some of the
weight of the world over here, and we are carrying our little piece of
it well. There is a lot of joy in these three weeks, but it is a deep
joy. It is not just the joy of seeing the Great Wall and the Forbidden
City and shopping for funky suits, weird watches and indescribable
doodads; it is a joy of doing something important, and of doing it
together in a powerful community. We will be truly sad to leave this
magical place, with its babies, caregivers, students, volunteers and
staff, and out lives are bound to be changed when we return to our
communities at home.

Greg Youtz, SOTA Parent and PLU faculty

Sunny Cairns
Tacoma School of the Arts
Humanities Department

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao-tzu


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