« Previous | 1 - 3 of 3 | Next »
Exploring the Intersection of National and Cultural Identities; Considering the Contributions of Marginalized Populations in the United States and Thailand.
East Meets West creates opportunities for artistic collaboration, while focusing on diverse educational experiences around the world. While having a close-knit relationship with Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University (SSRU) in Thailand for five years, we wanted to focus this year’s hosting of SSRU on exploring how KSU and SSRU students perceive the influence that art and culture have on national identity. When we have travelled to Thailand during previous years, we were blessed to learn about their culture and physically visit sacred landmarks. We participated in being blessed by monks and joined along in classic Thai rituals. When the Thai students visited this past November, we felt that travelling to Washington, D.C. was a fitting way to explore our nation’s capital together. We were presented with specific ways that national identity in Thailand is linked to Thai history and culture. In visiting Washington, we wanted to ask ourselves and also our Thai guests to explore the contributions to African Americans and Native Americans on American identity and culture. Before we left for this trip, we conducted a survey that was to be filled out by each participant. The survey asked the students to describe the environment they grew up in and its diversity in terms of demographics (religious, racial, sexual organizations, socio-economic, etc.) and to give at least two examples of populations they perceived as being marginalized within the society they come from. Though Kent students had perceived Thailand to be a predominantly homogeneous country, what we learned about our guests from the survey and our visit to Washington completely shattered this illusion. As we continue our work toward making the world a better place by collaborations in the arts, we will take our new realizations of how national identity and culture, while imperfect and evolving, is a reflection of the struggles and contributions of all people.
In the fall of 2017, East Meets West hosted 10 Thai guests, including students and professors from Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University (SSRU) in Thailand. Kent students were eager to unite art and culture, to share, learn and create in their own space just as they had done in Thailand.
Our question/problem: East Meets West wanted to create an experience that the Thai students wouldn’t forget. How would East Meets West create a successful, collaboration for our guests who were all coming from Bangkok (a city of five million) at Kent State?
Our 2018 submission at the Undergraduate Research Symposium presents the activities, creative work and learning outcomes of hosting this international event. From fundraising and planning meaningful activities, to creating opportunities for collaboration and cultural immersion, East Meets West students, under the tutelage of our Faculty Advisor, Associate Professor Rockland, created a diverse, and successful international exchange where we served as the hosts.
SSRU guests were able to participate in a variety of classes within the college of the arts such as lighting design, costume design, theatre, dance and music. They collaborated with the Thai Music Ensemble in performances of 2017 Mosaic and the KSU World Music Concert, and they experienced American culture through social events, visits to Cleveland museums and a performance of the holiday classic The Nutcracker Ballet. One major highlight was a master class in Thai Classical Dance that was open to the entire Kent campus and included live music.
East Meets West
Presenters: SadieAnn Strouse, Nicole Crowl, Bridget Langguth, Kelsey Lanese, Taylor Parker, Artisha Walker, Kazimir Klein, and Sydney Weiss
In the Fall of 2018/2019, East Meets West (EMW) sponsored a program (The Thailand Dance Experience) that took 10 Kent State Dance students to Bangkok, Thailand for a 2-week program with students from Suan Sunandha Rajabhat Univeristy (SSRU). While this was the third East Meets West program in Thailand, it included some first-time events including a collaborative experience in a face/body painting videography project. Further, members of the KSU Thai Music Ensemble travelled to Thailand in order to join with Music professors from SSRU to accompany a new work of choreography made for dancers from both SSRU and KSU by choreographer Suwatana Rockland. Having participated in a pre-travel course titled “Introduction to Thai Culture,” this year’s KSU students felt more confident in making new friendships, and were each prepared to contribute as cultural ambassadors while completing their own creative research. These individual contributions included: teaching technique and composition classes; organizing group activities; handling the responsibilities of a travelling nurse, a costume-wardrobe director, a social media correspondent and documenting events for future reference and sharing with the greater KSU community. One EMW dancer, who is both a Dance Minor and an Early Education Major, was able to visit a Thai pre-school/elementary school and learned about a unique curriculum that incorporates methods and influences from around the world.
In order to gain the needed support, we began by presenting to KSU campus organizations, such as the Undergraduate Student Government, the School of Theatre and Dance, the School of Music, Undergraduate Student Research and the University Research Council. Faculty Advisor and Artistic Director, Rockland, also applied for and was awarded a grant by the Ohio Arts Council that enabled East Meets West to bring in a guest choreographer for the first time in our history as a student organization. Because of this outside recognition and sponsorship, the Kent State Foundation chose our organization and our planned trip to Thailand as a featured fund for the annual Giving Tuesday Campaign. If we include the sponsorships and in-kind gifts shared by our collaborators in Thailand, East Meets West generated more than $25,000 that went toward creating unique opportunities for our students that broaden their skills, and their view of the arts and the world at large.
For the Fall 2019 semester, we have invited SSRU students and faculty back to Kent State University, as we did in the Fall of 2017. The students and professors from SSRU will be able to both take and instruct classes, and will perform in two Kent State productions. It will be the crowning program produced under the Five-Year Memorandum of Agreement signed by Kent State and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat in 2015. During this culminating visit, we plan to work with the administrations of both universities in order to either renew our Memorandum of Agreement or establish a long-term Memorandum of Understanding.