During my Fulbright stay in Taiwan, I offered a few activities besides university teaching to engage the public with my project about human-bird imagery and to connect it with environmental concerns. At Chi-Nan University in Nantou I gave a slide talk about my artwork and my Taiwan research to students and professors, including ideas for how to get more involved in the community. And at two wonderful nearby institutions, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts and Guandu Nature Park, I led hands-on workshops for volunteers to make sculptures from common recycled materials. This kind of creative “upcycling” brings the realization that art can be made from anything and that it can carry important messages. While my graduate art students explored skills for making large-scale collaborative environmental sculpture about fantasy bird-figures, these workshop participants—generally non-artists or members of the Wild Bird Society of Taipei—used their appreciative eye for real birds to experiment with making small linear sculptures using wire and mixed media.
In these settings I was happy to share my ideas about how contemplation of the ancient tradition of human-bird connection can bring joy as well as needed focus on today’s environmental issues. Through my own image discoveries and sculpture experiments in Taiwan, I want to encourage the public to use observation, empathy, curiosity, and imagination to connect with the avian world and our mutual surroundings.
In my guest room at Taipei University of the Arts, I made myself a small workspace, in order to draw and play with materials parallel to my students and workshop participants. In my role as an artist, I have much more work ahead of me to absorb and synthesize the archetypal images and stories I’ve gathered, and to propose sculptural installations to share with the public both in Taiwan and at home in the US. I will continue to look for inventive partners as I envision ways to express my findings visually!
Meanwhile, you’re invited to visit two sites: to follow the flight of my Fulbright adventure, see my newly launched blog, www.becomingabird.com, and to view future creative results and related events, visit my website, www.sarahhaviland.com.