MVA graduate selected for a remarkable arts experience in US
Journey of New Haven
Parry Ling (2014 MVA Graduate, AVA Technician/Demonstrator)
The Yale-China HKETO NY Fellowship provided an impressive six months’ residence for me to explore and study New Haven and Yale with my view and arts.
In the fellowship programme, my major research focuses on the life cycle of sculpture, and I studied global food systems in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. I was interested in the topic of food waste caused by misshapen and unattractive fruit and vegetables, because it involved aesthetic and human perception. Compared to my classmates, I had much more time for field research in New Haven since I was an arts fellow instead of a regular student. I began by visiting a variety of local farms, community farms, farm markets, grocery stores, schools and NGOs related to food. In the course of my field research, I was not only able to get local and current information from the residents, but also to explore and understand the neighbourhoods of New Haven such as Hills, Fair Haven, Westville and Dixwell. Each neighbourhood is not large – their sizes are similar to Shatin or Fotan – but there is a strong and vivid community.
For example, in Dixwell, the most impressive neighbourhood for me, there is an African–American community. Kidz Kook Association is an NGO based in Dixwell in which the volunteers teach and guide the kids to eat and cook nutritious food. The director of Kidz Kook, Tennille Murphy, not only showed me her vision and programme for health food but also guided me to understand and study the African-American community. She told me about the history and culture of soul food (an African-American food style) and explained how it related to the slave history of America. Nowadays, it not only still affects their perception of food, but also damages public health in the US and even worldwide. In May, she invited me to make a sculpture of her community leader, Diane Brown, in appreciation of her many years of contribution to the community, during the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Eventually, I carved an African-style wooden likeness of her within two days. Producing the sculpture built up trust between, Diane, Tennille and I, so that they shared their friendship, culture, dance, music and food with me as a family. Even though Dixwell is one of the poorest places in New Haven, where crimes and violence are common, the people never give up and try their best to change their lives and help the next generation. I saw the efforts made by Tennille and Diane. To engage the community in African culture, we may even plan to create a collaborative performance for next year’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
You may wonder what the International Festival of Arts and Ideas is. Actually, it is positive evidence that the “town and gown” relationship is mutually beneficial. It is a 15-day festival of performing arts, lectures, and conversations that celebrates the greatest artists and thinkers from around the world. A lot of lectures, theatre and programmes were supported by Yale University. Many Yale students had an opportunity to get involved in the preparation and execution of the festival too. Annually, it creates a great economic impact and job opportunities for the city. From my point of view, the stronger impact is that it not only relaxed and delighted the local people, but also provided a platform for a variety of communities in New Haven to introduce their culture and concerns through the arts and events. For example, 80 per cent of the events are free for the public, and everyone can attend the classes and workshops held by different organisations. I attended a few of the dance classes about African-style dance and dance therapy for Parkinson’s patients. They not only demonstrated and taught the participants how to dance, but also showcased their work and encouraged cultural dissemination in their community. It helped the public to understand the New Haven neighbourhoods. In New Haven Green, during this festival, there are daily concerts and performances to engage the people, encourage them to put their character and race aside, to have fun together and let them sense the good of neighbourhood. I feel honoured that I was invited to hold the workshop and exhibit my six months’ research in the School of Arts gallery during the festival. In my workshop, I demonstrated and taught the public how to make a Chinese scale to show their concern about their lunch boxes. I not only earned their smiles and appreciation, but also learned more about their daily lives and concerns about the US via our chats.
You may desire to find everything you want in schools; however, truth and reality is outside the school gate. As a sculptor, my profession is to create a new form and structure for what I am concerned about. Carving, modelling and casting are only techniques used in the studio part of my profession. If I want to know more what I am concerned about, the studio has to be put aside, but keeping the sculptor’s mind will help to explore the new world outside. By understanding how to make friends and cooperating, the sculptor will gain the best tools and studio. By sensing the ecology and systems of the city and country, the sculptor will have the best idea of a jointing technique. In Hong Kong, I know people lack the time and space to appreciate and understand artwork in community. However, everyone needs and desires to be cared and loved. Try to be friends with them and care about what they are concerned about; it may help to find your own alternative studio and structure of artwork. Next year I will participate in the International Festival of Arts and Ideas again for a collaborative project.