Chinese artists visit the community: Seeking and celebrating diversity through art

Courtney Gardner, left, Pfac’s executive director, worked alongside Baylee Wang, CEO of Landmark Art and Cultural Exchange, to present the Art of Asia Exhibition, including “Transposition” featuring six prominent Chinese artists not usually shown in the United States. Photo by Cathy Welch.

Art celebrates both the differences and similarities found in the human spirit across the globe. It transcends language and creates a cross-cultural appreciation and understanding.

Landmark Art & Culture Exchange (LACE) in Newport News, Peninsula Fine Arts Center (Pfac) in Newport News and Linda Matney Gallery in Williamsburg are teaming up to celebrate that fact by bringing Chinese and American artists together and introducing more Asian art into the community.

Chunsheng Yang, Three uniforms

Pfac is hosting an exhibition called Art of Asia through most of February and March. LACE members realized it was the perfect time to collaborate with the center and invite Chinese artists to the United States to exhibit their art. About eight Chinese artists will have their work displayed at Pfac or the Linda Matney Gallery, and six of them will visit the United States.

“This is a good opportunity for American and Chinese artists to learn from each other,” LACE Chief Executive Officer Baylee Wang says. “We also invited local American artists to participate. In art, we can learn about each other and how our lives are different and similar.”

Xuemin Yu, Broken Mirror 2

Wang describes herself as more of a businesswoman than an artist. Originally from China, she has called Williamsburg home for the past 18 years. Wang says the population of Asian immigrants is continuously growing—at the College of William & Mary and Christopher Newport University and in the area as a whole.

“There is a need for the arts—the community needs to express its culture,” she says. “If the local American neighbors have a chance to see that art and culture, this can only make everybody have a better understanding of each other.”

Wang says art is a way for immigrants to express their culture, what they hope to achieve and more. Wang is excited to serve as a bridge—someone who can speak both languages and connect the artists. She traveled to China for three weeks this summer to visit art studios. She took lots of photos and videos and told the artists abroad about the galleries back home. She says the response—from the Chinese artists and local artists—was great.

According to Wang, every-
one said, “This is something we’ve never done. why don’t we try this?”

Xiaofei Gao, Three of us

The goal is to interact with all aspects of the community through the exhibit. Many local businesses are sponsoring the project, and everyone is invited to the opening ceremony, where there will be a band, wine and food supplied by the Asian community.

There will also be two evening artist lectures at Pfac, one on February 8 and one on February 15, which happens to be the Chinese
New Year.

“We want to continue to educate the public about art from various cultures and art in general,” Courtney Gardner, Pfac executive director, says. “We want to be a part of what is happening in the contemporary art world. We’re happy anytime we have the opportunity to bring artists to the community. It’s interesting for artists who live and work in Virginia to see what their counterparts across the world are creating.”

John Lee Matney, director of the Linda Matney Gallery and curator of the special visiting exhibit, says he’s also excited about the partnership. He said the concept is interesting and the art is intriguing.

“The fact the artists will be here is outstanding,” he adds. “These collaborations are something that is the newest trend in the arts. I love the idea that it’s a cultural exchange project. We (at the Matney Gallery) like to have a meaningful cause we’re working toward.”

Matney and his assistant Kenlontae Turner, a recent Christopher Newport graduate, designed the galleries and composed the catalogs and information. Matney says the project is important because it’s bringing in art and artists who wouldn’t normally be seen in the area. He says it is bringing many organizations—galleries, universities, businesses and more—together.

“The project is engaging various people and various cultures,” he says. “It’s celebrating diversity.”

Peninsula Fine Arts Center
Address: 101 Museum Dr., Newport News, VA 23606
Phone: 757-596-8175
Contact: Courtney Gardner

Landmark Art & Culture Exchange
Phone: 757-303-6881
Contact: Baylee Wang

Linda Matney Gallery
Address: 5435 Richmond Rd., Ste. A, Williamsburg, VA 23188
Phone: 757-675-6627
Contact: John Lee Matney

About Sally Grace Holtgrieve 6 Articles
Sally Grace Holtgrieve is a full-time freelance writer for newspapers and magazines. Growing up, Sally Grace always checked out the maximum number of library books permitted. One week she would read everything on phytoplankton, and the next it would be Pakistan, Panama or veterinary science. When she got to college, she found it absurd that she was required to choose which subject was the most interesting, so she pursued a career in journalism. Now she learns new things every day and actually gets paid to ask too many questions. When she’s not writing, Sally Grace prefers to be traveling. Recently she went on a trip to Provence, France and on another to Big Bend National Park, Texas. She loved both because they were new and different. In fact, she likes everywhere as long as she’s never been there before.

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