This marvelous stone lantern is in a pocket garden in our city which honors a Sister City relationship with Takarazuka , Japan. Due to a set of circumstances involving changes in government in both cities, there has been little contact between the two for several years.
During the active years of the relationship, I made four trips to Japan to deliver, install and return four exhibitions of paintings (once with an exchange of artists as well.) Each time, I was greeted, hosted and befriended by many, both officially and in friendship (my fifth trip there was private, but they filled my schedule.) I hosted their delegates in my home where my older daughter met them and was asked to come to work in their city (she was there three years.)
When opportunities come along, I tend to just do what needs to be done. And those times were no different. I just collected and crated paintings, filled out official paperwork, sent info on the artists and their work, took photos/slides of the paintings, purchased appropriate gifts to exchange, packed bags and planned local day trips. I had a check list or two. I don't think I realized what the visits and the experiences would mean for me, my attitudes, and my painting. I wish I had kept a blog and better sketchbooks.
And I know now how ill-prepared I was. I knew little about the culture, the art, the language or the region. I made some mistakes and learned a little each time I went. However, I didn't cause any international incidents and they kept asking me to return.
I have missed having that connection, so it was a delightful surprise when I received an email from an old friend in the cultural department asking about a possible renewal of the bonds between the two cities. I hope this will be possible. I hope that others can have this opportunity for participating in this people to people exchange where ideas and perceptions change.
I hope they will be better prepared than I was.