Camille Weisgant: Kyoto Arts Center

Because I am both a Japanese Studies and Theatre double major, it was important to me to be able to be involved in the arts community in some way while abroad to supplement my studies at KCJS. The CIP program was the perfect time to get in touch with my creative side during my time in Kyoto; for both these reasons I began volunteering at the Kyoto Arts Center, whose mission is to connect not only theatre artists, but dancers and visual artists as well, with the city, the general public, and other people involved in the arts. Furthermore, the center works hard to foster young and up and coming Japanese artists, who otherwise would not have the means to practice their art, by letting them use resources such as studio space for free, giving them platforms for readings and showing of their work, and being host to an artist in residence program. This objective in particularly is close to me, as I myself am a young artist, and realize how difficult it is to commit yourself to art when you are not being supported. The Kyoto Arts Center offers young artists the kind of support I wish I could bring back with me to New York City, if I do indeed decide to take on the big, bad performing arts world there after I graduate.

Volunteering at the Kyoto Arts Center has allowed me to be exposed to an artistic community unlike any other community I have experienced during my time in Japan. The Arts Center actually attracts over 200 volunteers, young and old, Japanese and foreign, meaning that every time I work I am interacting with a different strata of Kyoto residents. Not only that, but because I have volunteered serving various events at the center, I have also had the opportunity to meet patrons and artists. Volunteering at events as an usher, I have learned vital language with regards to communicate with the public, such as how to properly welcome visitors, how to give directions, and how to enforce rules in the building. Additionally, I have offered my English skills in order to edit some translated articles and interviews for the center’s newsletter. Via all of these interactions and events, I have been introduced to local performance and visual artists that I would not have known about otherwise.

Overall, volunteering for the Kyoto Arts Center was a great way to get involved in the Japanese artistic community. I was able to interact with a vast Japanese community, and participate in interesting events at the center. However, because the center has so many steady volunteers already, I did not get specific projects to work on or regular, weekly volunteer work. Every time I worked I met many new volunteers, but never established lasting relationships. Nonetheless, I hope that my volunteer work there contributed in small part to their mission of supporting the diversity of the Kyoto artistic community, and fostering it’s young members.

2 thoughts on “Camille Weisgant: Kyoto Arts Center

  1. Sounds like an awesome experience, especially since it really fused together your two areas of study. Did you have the opportunity to watch any of the shows/or the art pieces at the center? What were your impressions of the Kyoto art community??

    • Yes, it really was a great way to fuse the two. The main performances that I was able to attend were the dance performances during the “Dance 4 All” weekend that I volunteered at (I wrote about those in my previous blog post). Otherwise, I actually attended a reading and talk by a young Japanese playwright, but, unfortunately, because it was all in Japanese, it kind of went over my head. As for visual arts, I watched the gallery once afternoon when they were showing video work by one of their artists in residence. It was an exhibit called “The Art of Flirting,” a way for the artist to come to terms with her own sense of Japan, as she was from Toronto. Beyond that, it also just explored the process that goes into building relationships and some sense of distance that exists between people, that she found to be dinstinctly Japanese.

      As for the Kyoto artistic community as a whole, I would have to say I was shocked at the radical variety of it’s members. It honestly seems kind of like a hippy commune over there compared to the rest of Kyoto; very open-minded, foreigners and Japanese alike, young and old, all wanting to support each other in the most open, vulnerable expression, at the same time having fun. That being said, people who visit the center are mainly regulars, or have lots of connections with the place, so it was a hard world to break in to just being here for a few months.