Art Students League's "Scroll for Japan" to Benefit Tsunami Disaster

Art Students League's "Scroll for Japan" to Benefit Tsunami Disaster
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The Art Students League of New York, one of America's premier art schools, will be unveiling Baptism of Concrete Estuary, an amazing and historic 30-foot-long scroll by Jave Yoshimoto, painted in the Japanese style of ukiyo-e woodblock prints -- think 36 scenes of Mt. Fuji meets Dante's Inferno.

Jave Yoshimoto's "Baptism of Concrete Estuary" is an amazing and historic 30-foot-long scroll. Photo courtesy of Tom Artin.

The unveiling event will benefit the Music & Art Without Borders program of the Japanese Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi (Miyagi Fukko Shien Center) - which will partner to bring programs to its neighboring town of Fukushima -- and the Art Students League's international scholarship residency program. Having lived in North East Japan in college (Tohoku), having been on the ground post-Tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and heading a foundation here in New York, I knew I had to help.

Detail of Jave Yoshimoto's 30-foot-long scroll. Note Godzilla's cameo role to right. Photo courtesy of Tom Artin.

The unveiling will take place May 20 at the Art Student League's Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery, 215 West 57th Street in New York. A private preview will be held from noon to 2:00 p.m., followed by a public opening from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Prints of the scroll in various formats will be available for purchase at prices ranging from $100 to $1,000 (also online).

Detail of Jave Yoshimoto's 30-foot-long scroll. Photo courtesy of Tom Artin.

The event is supported by The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation; The Stewardship Report; Friends of the United Nations, headed by its president and CEO Dr. Noel Brown; and Dr. Judy Kuriansky, noted psychologist, author, speaker and global humanitarian actively working with Tsunami survivors. I presented Dr. Judy with our humanitarian award following her work in post-earthquake Haiti, and Dr. Brown and I presented awards together at the U.N. last December. Small world indeed. I first met the artist, Jave (rhymes with 'Dave') when he attended the launch of our Afghan Fund -- he cares deeply about the world.

Jave Yoshimoto's 30-foot-long scroll shown during the artist's graduate exhibition
at Syracuse University. Photo: the artist.

Jave describes the origin of the ten-month project: "To combat social amnesia in the Internet age, I wanted to create a lasting memorial that would long honor the victims and survivors of the earthquake. I wanted to honor the triumph of the human spirit over catastrophic tragedy." The scroll depicts the incredible devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami and the human tragedy and heroism of the time.

Detail of Jave Yoshimoto's 30-foot-long scroll. Photo courtesy of Tom Artin.

The artist did much of the work on the scroll during several months of residency at the Art Student League's Vytlacil Campus Artist-in-Residence program. The campus, up the Hudson River Valley, is inn Sparkill, N.Y. -- less than thirty minutes northwest of the iconic 57th Street beaux arts mansion.

"Jave's art is a powerful example of using the arts to heal," Dr. Judy Kuriansky told me. She certainly knows, since she just returned from the disaster zone in Japan on the one year anniversary of the tragic event, where she gave presentations of music, drawings and healing exercises at various schools and resettlement housing.

This noted international psychologist and humanitarian will give an inspirational keynote address at the benefit, describing the partnership between the Recovery Assistance Center in Miyagi and the U.N.-accredited International Association of Applied Psychology. Dr. Judy will also present traditional origami cranes with messages of hope drawn by the Japanese children. The cranes, which can be viewed online, will be on display at the event and then be brought to children in earthquake-stricken Haiti. "Connecting children recovering from trauma lets them know that they are not alone and that others around the world care," Dr. Judy told me.

Dr. Judy with Japanese children making the cranes to be on display at The Art Students League of New York. Photo courtesy of Dr. Judy Kuriansky.

International composer Russell Daisey, a partner in Dr. Judy's Japan and Haiti missions, will perform original music written specifically for Japan.

I was able to interview Ira Goldberg, the League's executive director and the Vytlacil Artist-in-Residence program, in his spacious office inside the historic 57th Street shrine to art.

Detail of Jave Yoshimoto's 30-foot-long scroll. Photo courtesy of Tom Artin.

Ira told me:

When the earthquake hit in Japan last year our Japanese students -- and there are many here -- expressed grave concern about their families and homes and country. We provided an empty studio for those students to convene to talk about their feelings; their fears and frustrations over the difficulty in communicating with their loved ones.

With the knowledge that something terrible had happened in their homeland, our students from Japan, safe and secure halfway around the world, had difficulty reconciling with that fact even those whose families were not directly affected. But the gathering did serve to help heal the emotional wounds felt by their absence from their families, friends and fellow citizens who were suffering.

Photo: Japanese Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi (Miyagi Fukko Shien Center).

I am grateful that the League and the Vytlacil Artist-in-Residency program served as a vehicle for Jave Yoshimoto's goal to create a work commemorating last year's devastating earthquake. Events like this inspire artists to create and sometimes draw on a creative energy and talent that some artists themselves are not even aware of until they undertake the project.

With the advice of Vytlacil Campus Director, Gary Sussman, Jave was able to realize that goal and create something lasting that honored his inspiration those it was meant to commemorate. The Art Students League's enduring model of art education still serves to give anyone with the drive and need to learn the language of art, the ability to realize the potential that many discover the more they devote their time, energy and perseverance to art.

Detail of Jave Yoshimoto's 30-foot-long scroll. Photo courtesy of Tom Artin.

"With the generous donations made possible by the artist and the Art Students League of New York and partners, we will be able to fund arts programs in a new children's center, for drawing and painting supplies for children living in temporary housing, and to fund children's attendance at the NYC Orpheus Orchestra's performance in Sendai on May 31," said Hideki Mogi, president of the recovery assistance center. "We are grateful and honored to be selected as the recipient of monies raised through this inspiring art and movement."


Art Student League of New York | Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery
215 West 57th Street between Seventh & Broadway, New York City

The majority of funds raised -- 80 percent of proceeds -- will go towards on-the-ground support of survivors in the areas hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( is the umbrella organization under which The International University Center Haiti (Uni Haiti) and Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) are organized. If supporting young global leadership is important to you, subscribe to J. Luce Foundation updates here.

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