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Matter and Spirit

University of Dayton educator and artist Suki Kwon will collaborate with North American and Chinese artists this summer on an international art project to explore how Christianity interacts with visual arts in China today.

Kwon, an associate professor of art and design, was selected to participate in “Matter & Spirit: A Seminar on Contemporary Chinese Art and Society.” The two-week creative seminar and studio project in China will be followed by an international traveling exhibition of the resulting works of art.

The cohort of 11 art professors and working artists from Christian colleges and universities in North America will travel in June to Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing, China, to engage with Chinese Christian artists and discover how the latter’s art, culture and religion might inspire and inform new directions for their own work.

“The core of this seminar is the cross-cultural pollination,” Kwon said. “North Americans go to China, and Chinese scholars interact with North American artists and art educators, inspiring each other’s work.”

The excursion is the third in a series of international art projects sponsored by the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin College, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and the Lilly Network of Church-Related Colleges and Universities. A 2008 seminar in Indonesia resulted in the “Charis” traveling exhibit and a 2013 seminar in South Africa resulted in the exhibit “Between the Shadow and the Light.”

Kwon said the seminar combines many of her interests related to art and religion. In addition to teaching graphic design and Common Academic Program courses full time, she is pursuing a master’s degree in theological studies at the University of Dayton.

In addition, Kwon and assistant professor of art education Darden Bradshaw were commissioned by University of Dayton Campus Ministry to create liturgical banners for the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception for six seasons during the Christian year. The textile banners measure 26-feet-high by 5-feet-wide and hang in pairs beside the altar. The materials and dyes used to create each set have symbolic meaning related to the season — for example, the Lent banners are made from hemp fabric, which is used as burial cloth in some Asian and other cultures.

Working with students and community members during the past two years, Kwon and Bradshaw have completed banners for three seasons to date.

“This banner work, my theological studies master’s work and my artistic, creative research is all merging together in this seminar,” Kwon said. “That is why I am so excited about this opportunity. I am going to forge a new body of work that is going to have the opportunity to show internationally.”

For the seminar, Kwon anticipates creating either a textile installation or a documentary film, similar to Fire, Rain, Wind, Snow and Fire: The Story of a Prairie, which she produced under a 2015 faculty research grant award from the University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute. She will have six months to complete her project after the seminar, before the traveling exhibition opens in January 2019.

The seminar will mark Kwon’s seventh visit to China. She has participated in four trips through the University, and has gone twice at the invitation of Chinese institutions for a conference presentation, as well as research and teaching.

Born in Korea, Kwon came to the U.S. in 1997 as part of an exchange program through the University of Iowa, where she received both a master’s degree and a master’s of fine arts degree in design. She is trilingual in Korean, English and Japanese. She joined the University of Dayton faculty in 2004.

“Her knowledge of diverse social customs, global religious perspectives and varied learning styles make her a valued educator and scholar,” said Judith Huacuja, professor and department of art and design chair. “It is a great honor for the department of art and design to have Suki participate in the international seminar and exhibitions.”

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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