Innovation on Earth

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Archive for the tag “Art”

Guest Blog from Portugal: Lisbon Art

Art can be found all over the world, and our fabulous art teacher, Jennifer Shaby, wrote today’s post from her trip to Portugal this summer.  Ooh! Ah!  She found art everywhere, even where you might not expect it…


I always like to check out art museums when I travel. While in Lisbon, Portugal, I visited two fantastic museums: the Berardo Collection & the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. I saw everything from Ancient Greek coins, illuminated manuscripts, Impressionist, Surrealist and Pop Art pieces by artists whose names you would recognize (or else I have failed as a teacher….), and works by Portuguese artists. Check out this painting by Portuguese painter Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso called The Life of Instruments. 

I feel pretty confident that you can identify the movement that this piece represents. But, the most surprising, and perhaps the most interesting, art I saw was not in a museum. During my taxi ride from the airport to my hostel, I noticed tons of graffiti tags lining the walls on either side of the highway and asked the driver about it. He told me that there is, indeed, a lot of graffiti around Lisbon. On Friday evening I joined up with a group going on an urban art walk, which was led by a guide from my hostel. He explained that there is a lot of street art in Lisbon that has been commissioned by the municipal government, and so the illegal element that we often think of when we see “graffiti” does not necessarily hold true here in Lisbon. There are plenty of tags and stencils around, too, and we wandered around the dilapidated walls of an old building that have been covered in graffiti. While this particular “collection” is not supported by the city, they don´t seem to be actively getting rid of it, either. One mural we saw covered the sides of a couple of buildings and was inspired by Fado, a style of Portuguese singing.

We ended our tour in a parking garage, where several artists were each given a floor of the structure to work on. While I don´t typically enjoy my time spent in parking garages, it was very cool to discover the colorful and whimsical  paintings covering the walls and posts as we spiraled down the ramp. I love that the city is supporting these artists and that the government appreciates the value that this work provides to the community and to its visitors. Wandering the streets in search of the next historic site listed in my guidebooks, the pleasure of being surprised by quirky, humorous art on the city’s walls only increased my enjoyment of the city. Don´t get me wrong – I´m not suggesting that you go out and start painting the walls of the parking garage in your downtown, or spray paint the sides of abandoned buildings – it is illegal. But, I do think it’s worthwhile for us to reconsider what we think of as “art” sometimes, and keep an open mind about the ways that art can enrich our public spaces and create some unexpected joy.

~ Ms. Shaby


Did you like Ms. Shaby’s post? Add your comments and questions here, and you might feel like you are sitting in art class. Do you know which art movement she is writing about?

Vote in our Contest!

We have arrived in Shanghai: a modern, Cosmopolitan metropolis (where unfortunately our hotel also has much slower internet access). It’s great to be here, and last night we went up to the 100th floor of the World Financial Center and had clear weather.  Photos coming soon!

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Back in Beijing, our students and staff participated in a photo contest, and we need your help.  At the Summer Palace, we all picked a category out of a hat, and set off to take a photograph showing that theme. Which is the best? Vote here by August 9th so our winner can get a prize!

Faces of Beijing

Who are the people of Beijing? It’s hard to trust official statistics, but there are definitely more than 20 million people who live here.  Some are modern independent businessmen, and others are struggling to make it on less than $200 per month.  Some embrace traditional Chinese values and Communism, while others choose a Capitalistic approach.  Many are only children, having grown up with China’s “One Child Policy.”  Even though most people in Beijing look “Chinese” in race, there are a lot of other ways that they are a diverse population. I’m no expert, but I can share some of my observations about the people that make up this huge city.

Everyone has a cell phone. Today, I saw this little girl crying over cell phone time.

The subway is always packed, and always a fun place to people watch. This guy had a shirt giving facts about Elvis, which he probably doesn’t understand.

There are many older people who collect bottles and get little amounts of money to recycle them.

It’s always fun to see all of the unique artists who sell their crafts on the street. Some are traditional, like Chinese knotting, but some are more modern, like this guy selling wire sculpture.

It’s always a treat to see street musicians, and it’s even more sweet to see that they often aren’t asking for money. They just want to share their talents.

There’s poverty everywhere, and it can be hard to walk by and see this.

It’s very common for men to lift their shirts here and walk around in the hot weather with bare bellies.

Smiles are universal. There are some ways to connect without any language at all.

Some of the fashion that I’ve seen here is pretty amazing. The arm bands are popular, maybe for sun protection? And Chinese people are not afraid of color.

Want to buy a kite? Haggling here is an art. They say 40 kwai, and you should say 10 kwai. In China, building relationships is important, so bargaining is a process of building trust between the salesman and the customer. It’s rare to start haggling with one person and end up buying from someone different.

Most people in China say they are non-religious, but many still go to Buddhist temples and pay their respects with incense and bowing down to statues of Buddha.



The Art of Paper and Pen

Over the past month since I arrived in China, I’ve had the opportunity to try out several forms of Chinese art: seal carving, calligraphy, knotting, and paper cutting.  Interestingly, they all have to do with paper and/or pen, and they all date back hundreds of years in China.  I encourage all of you readers to look these up and try them yourselves at home! They are all beautiful forms of art.

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Acrobatics and Circus Arts

Chinese acrobats are legendary, but have you heard of Chinese balloon twisters?  Apparently, there aren’t that many.  That’s why one of my balloon twisting friends, Paul, decided to set up a branch of his business in Beijing. He’s working to bring more balloon art to China, and we met up today for lunch and a trip to a local market. It was fun to catch up and chat about his local work as a balloon artist.  Afterwards, I decided to check out a show of Chinese acrobatics.  While a lot of these tricks look very modern, they are based on Chinese arts that are hundreds of years old. I was very impressed with the tricks that are possible with just the human body. Here’s a little taste of the amazing feats that they make look so easy. Think how much cooler this art could be with giant balloon sculptures incorporated into their tricks? Maybe that’s the future of Chinese acrobatics!

Service That is Fun and Useful

Today is departure day for our students.  Some are already flying off to their next destination, while others are resting up before they take off soon.  It’s been an amazing three weeks, and our staff team here at GLA China is gearing up for another group of students who arrive Tuesday.

As students leave, we’ve all been reflecting about our favorite experiences in China. For many of us, the community service was most meaningful. One of the best projects was painting the walls of a school building in the Fangshan region of Beijing, along with the students, who are children of migrant workers. It was such a powerful experience because we built relationships with the kids, had a great time, AND felt like we made some real contributions.  We were really proud of the results and will remember these children very fondly:

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