Our Half the Sky delegation was invited by LuXun Academy President Wei Er Shen to join its Vice President, Gallery Director Wang Yi Gang and some of the International Office staff in a formal dining room for a Welcome Dinner. President Wei joked that he was welcoming us at the end of our time together as a cultural exchange, but that it was also appropriate to have this time together after the opening and our events in order to celebrate their successes. Michael, our interpreter from the opening and our roundtable session sat next to President Wei and shared with us the President's official welcome speech.
In the toast and speech, he told of of some of the history about LuXun Academy, which was founded in 1938:
- Jiang Ching (Madame Mao), Mao Zedung's last wife, lead much of the propaganda efforts for the Communist Party, including molding the arts at LuXun Academy in support of this.
- The 60 foot tall epoxy resin statue of Mao raised above depictions of very expressive workers, peasants, heroes, adults and children, "Long Live the Victory of Mao Zedong Though", and located in Zhongshan Square in Shenyang was created at LuXun Academy.
- LuXun Academy is one of the top five art academies in China and leads the rankings in some of its specialties. The Academy, its artists and staff have received many awards over its history, including Wei Er Shen himself, who won the National Prize for one of his oil paintings. He still teaches an oil painting class.
- A new, larger campus is currently in construction and, among its many new improvements, it will offer each professor (permanent and visiting) full, private studio spaces and much larger studios for each of the classes. President Wei invited us to return in two years when the campus is inaugurated.
President Wei also spoke about the unprecedented nature of Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art. There have been women's art exhibitions in China before, but not with the intentions associated with this one, where the focus was on collaboration, interactions, sharing of women's lives as artists and concerned citizens.
On more personal notes, he talked about his enjoyment of western music, particularly that of Karen Carpenter, and US cities such as New York City.
As was customary and expected, I also made a toast in gratitude to President Wei Er Shen for inviting the Women's Caucus for Art to Shenyang, to Gallery Director Wang Yi Gang for letting us use the beautiful gallery, for the generous and kind staff and academicians who assisted us shared this rich and meaningful experience with us. I complimented the Academy's peaceful and inspiring setting and the enthusiasm of its students.
The huge round table meant that the official conversation between President Wei Er Shen, Priscilla Otani, Jing Deng and myself was difficult to hear by others, but we all shared the delicious local foods that were presented on the large glass turntable - each of us nabbing bits each as they rotated by.
President Wei announced the official end of the dinner when he noticed that our eating was slowing down. He and the Academy staff departed after much gratitude among us all. Our delegation stayed around the table to have a warm satisfying debrief of our experiences so far.