Colby-Sawyer’s studio art program recently hosted a group of 10 students and two instructors from the Tokyo University of the Arts (TUA). At Colby-Sawyer, they collaborated with six students and faculty members.

During their visit, the group designed and installed a major exhibit, “Unearthed Expression,” featuring their own work and the work of Colby-Sawyer students and faculty, in the William H. and Sonja Carlson Davidow '56 Fine Art Gallery. They also built a small kiln, conducted ceramic workshops and demonstrations, fired work using the American Raku firing method, collaborated with Colby-Sawyer students and visited cultural sites, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Harvard University, and Dartmouth’s Baker Library and Hood Museum of Art.

The series of events celebrating the Colby-Sawyer exhibit commenced with a live demonstration of TUA Professor Ryo Mikami’s technique of ceramic mask making in the Deborah. L. Coffin ‘’76 Family Ceramics Studio. Mikami showed an interested crowd of students, faculty and community members the steps of his process, first rolling out slabs of clay, then using a cutting edge to create the shape of features, and finally, stretching the clay into a dome that gave the face a three-dimensional shape. Mikami created one mask based on the features of a young girl sitting in the front row, explaining that it wouldn’t be a realistic likeness, but, rather, one inspired by her appearance.

The demonstration was followed by a slideshow lecture by TUA Technical Instructor Mari Iwabuchi,, translated by Jon Keenan, Sonja C. Davidow ’56 Endowed Chair of Fine Arts and Joyce J. Kolligian Distinguished Professor in the Fine and Performing Arts, titled “Expanding Ceramic Art Expression,” and then a gallery opening reception with refreshments for a standing- room-only crowd. The works displayed in the gallery are a selection of functional and sculptural ceramic pieces created by students and faculty from both Colby-Sawyer and TUA.

Keenan first formed a relationship with the Tokyo University of the Arts seven years ago through a visiting professorship as a Fulbright Scholar, and has returned several times as a visiting artist.

“I am very grateful to the colleagues and students at Tokyo University of the Arts, Colby-Sawyer College and the Friends of Fenollosa at Colby-Sawyer for all their support in making this extraordinary residency possible,” Keenan said. “I look forward to our ongoing friendship, partnership and collaboration in the arts.”

Keenan has spent much time working and studying in Japan over the past forty years and considers Japan to be an area of expertise. He has been invited to return to TUA in 2024 and hopes to bring a small group of Colby-Sawyer students and supporters with him.

The visitors departed on Sept. 28, but the exhibition will remain open at the William H. and Sonja Carlson Davidow ‘56 Fine Art Gallery until Oct. 6.