When Worlds Collide: A KCAD Connection in China Enlivens Community At Home
If you wandered into The B.O.B. during ArtPrize 2014, you saw Qing Men’s painting, “A Question About Philosophy” hung wide on a wall inside the building’s ground floor. What you probably didn’t realize, however, is that Men is one of the most respected and accomplished oil painters in China, and he just so happens to have a very special connection to KCAD.
It all started when a group of Chinese high school students visited KACD in 2012. When KCAD Coordinator of International Students David Du learned that one of the visitors was a student of Men’s at Wenlai High School in Shanghai, he knew he needed to make a deeper connection.
“In China, everything is ranked – from schools to hospitals to food to artists,” said Du. “The government has an oil painters association that recognizes the top 50 oils painters in the nation, and Qing Men is one of them. The high school he teaches at is also one of the best in the nation.”
Qing Men's "A Question About Philosophy"
Usually, when Du makes contact with a Chinese school for the first time, the initial visit entails little more than shaking hands and meeting people. It’s not until the second visit that he’s able to begin engaging directly with students, and even then it can take another year or two for the visit to bear fruit in terms of new international applicants.
But visiting Men’s class was different. “He made it so easy for me to start connecting with the students right away,” Du recalled. “He was very happy with everything I had to say about KCAD, so much so that he recommended four of his students to apply here.”
Three of the students were accepted, and among them – Men’s daughter and only child, Patti.
“The first impression was really good,” said Patti. “We had dinner with David and talked about Kendall and I was very excited. He told us that there are not so many international students at KCAD that I’d be in a class with just Chinese students, so I would actually feel like I’m studying in the United States. He also said the professors are really patient and helpful, and told us about all of the resources that support international students. By the end of dinner, my father really wanted me to come here.”
Now, as a student in the Furniture Design program, Patti has embraced KCAD’s nurturing and exploratory approach to learning and creating.
“My teachers inspire me a lot to do research and help me with my work,” she said. “In China, teachers will tell you exactly what you’re supposed to do, but here we get to try out a lot of new things on our own, which I really like.”
Rendering of a credenza Patti designed as a class project at KCAD
Rendering of a cocktail table Patti designed in the KCAD Furniture Design program
Du’s relationship with Men has introduced some of China’s most talented art and design students to KCAD’s thriving international community. Including Patti, four of Men’s students have now made the transition.
“The diversity and richness of the cultural backgrounds that international students bring to our campus enrich the lives of all of our students, faculty and staff,” said Dean of Student Success Sandy Britton. “The students bring fresh perspectives, different experiences, and new ideas about art and design that help us grow together as a community.”
And students aren’t all Men wants to send out from China into the world. His entry into ArtPrize 2014, which marked the first time he’s exhibited work in America, is a part of his efforts to engage in international dialogues about the identity of modern China and the country’s shifting cultural landscape.
As for Patti and the other Chinese students at KCAD, they’re aware that things are changing everywhere. But they also understand that their experiences in here West Michigan are preparing them for an increasingly global future that their creativity will help to shape.