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Riverside artistic exchanges light up twin cities

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-08-01 08:16

Jan Brown Checco has been busily showing a group of Chinese artists around the Midwestern US city of Cincinnati, to present the beauty of its architecture to inspire the group to create artworks ahead of a joint exhibition with their American counterparts.

This was just the latest effort by Checco to promote artistic exchanges between China and the United States. An artist herself, she has enjoyed the process of sharing artistic viewpoints and discussing techniques with her Chinese peers over the past two decades.

The outdoor painting program involved 11 artists from Liuzhou city in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, who were joined by seven local artists. Together they created around 50 paintings and drawings using different methods and materials, depicting the landmarks and iconic scenery of Cincinnati.

"This is the first time that we have had artists come and work and then stage an exhibition of the pieces we created together," says Checco.

She says the interaction between the groups of artists was both informative and inspirational.

The Chinese artists set up a demonstration of how they would paint an image based on a photograph on the first day of the program. The American artists were then able to compare and contrast the artistic approaches the two sides took.

"There has been a lot of mutual learning going on," she says.

Huang Chaocheng, a professor at Guangxi Arts University, was one of the Chinese artists participating in the program. "Art is without borders. Whenever one of these exchanges takes place, our understanding of each another deepens," he says.

He adds that the charm of art lies in the possibility of building on common ground to create something new.

The program was sponsored and organized by the Cincinnati-Liuzhou Sister City Committee.

The two cities, which are not yet connected by direct flights, established their sister-city status 31 years ago.

Since then, artists from the two cities have been working hard to enhance their shared aesthetic experiences and bring people from the two places closer together.

One of the highlights of the trip was a sketching excursions to the Cincinnati's Smale Riverfront Park. Completed just eight years ago, the park has become the "front yard" for the entire city. Checco, who took part in its design, says some of the features were inspired by her visits to Liuzhou.

"In Liuzhou, we had trips on the river, saw the city lit up at night and appreciated the beautiful gardens in Longtan Park. We wanted to bring some of that beauty back to our own hometown," she says.

In the Smale Riverfront Park, there are staircases that resemble waterfalls and curtains of water. At night, they are illuminated to reveal a rainbow of light and water in a nighttime show.

Now in her 60s, Checco has been volunteering to work with Cincinnati's network of 10 sister cities for the past 20 years. When asked what motivated her to keep working hard to promote cultural exchanges with China, she says the partnerships between the distant cities have helped people feel more connected.

She aspired to learn more about China and enhance understanding between Chinese and American people from an early age.

"My uncle was a professor at Ohio State University who had many doctoral students from East Asia. He would travel there and bring back gifts," says Checco.

Under her uncle's influence, she developed a desire to visit the region at the age of just 4 or 5.

"Having family members or friends traveling abroad and returning to share their stories is a really important thing for a child," says Checco. This is perhaps one of the main reasons that she continues to put so much effort into planning these exchanges.

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