This afternoon I spent a lovely couple of hours folding paper with people I barely know. I had organized an origami workshop at the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden today as part of the garden’s last Open Day of the year. The idea was to offer a relaxing afternoon to people who might be a little overwhelmed by the Holiday season. Very few people attended the origami workshop – about five kids and maybe ten adults – but one group stayed for almost two hours, folding foxes, rabbits and cat faces. The workshop was surprisingly therapeutic.
The teacher was a Japanese artist and educator called Nori who teaches various aspects of Japanese art at local museums. I had met him a few years ago when I was still at Pacific Asia Museum, when he taught some classes to school kids there. Nori left Japan about 20 years ago looking for a life of art and dance here in the United States, and since then has had a colorful career in dance, music, acting, art teaching and performance art, much of it after he starting teaching Japanese art at museums. One teaching gig led to another and then to some performances involving mime, dance and Japanese calligraphy all over the country. Today, watching Nori share his enthusiasm for art, his warmth and his great sense of humor with two little boys from Colombia while I helped teach a man from Mexico how to fold a lotus, I was reminded of what a powerful tool art can be for bringing people from different cultures and diverse lives together.
To express my gratitude to Nori for coming to teach at the garden, I gave him a Japanese book on origami, which I hope he will use to continue his work bringing people closer together through the magic of art.