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Five Colleges Receives Grant to Celebrate Taiwanese Arts

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Taiwan Ministry of Culture has awarded Five Colleges, Incorporated, of which Hampshire College is a member, a $50,000 grant to celebrate the richness of traditional Taiwanese culture in a project that will bring three renowned performance troupes to the area. Coordinated by the UMass Fine Arts Center Asian Arts & Culture Program, over the next 18 months a world music ensemble, a puppet theater group and a dance company will visit college campuses and elementary school classrooms, with each visit culminating in a public performance at the Fine Arts Center.

The project is funded, in part, by Spotlight Taiwan, a multimillion-dollar initiative to share Taiwanese culture through lectures, workshops, performances and exhibitions. Central to the project is visits by Taiwanese performers to more than 40 campuses worldwide over the next three years. Described by Taiwan’s minister of culture as “an opportunity for Taiwan to connect with the world through our culture,” Project Taiwan is a natural fit for the Asian Arts & Culture Program at UMass’ Fine Arts Center, which is hosting the performances.

“Arts are a vehicle for understanding cultures around the globe,” says Willie L. Hill, director of the Fine Arts Center at UMass. “I am thrilled that our exemplary Asian Arts & Culture Program will highlight Arts from Taiwan this season in a variety of artistic offerings for our campus, Five Colleges and western Massachusetts communities. We thank the Taiwan Ministry of Culture for the Spotlight Taiwan award.”

Described by National Geographic as “one of the most original outfits working in the world music arena today,” the group Sheng Dong (A Moving Sound) will bring its fusion of traditional Asian and Western pop sounds to the area this September.

In March, the Tai Yuan Puppet Company will come to the area, showcasing the music, wood-carving, embroidery and performance techniques that make Taiwanese puppetry so unique.

In September 2015, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre will stage its performance Rice, celebrating traditional rural life in Taiwan. Described by the Toronto Globe and Mail as “one of the finest dance companies in the world,” Cloud Gate transforms ancient aesthetics into a modern celebration of motion.

“Embracing the rich diversity of arts and culture in Asia, the Asian Arts & Culture Program is delighted to have the opportunity to showcase three outstanding artist groups from Taiwan for our audiences this season,” says Ranjanaa Devi, director of the Asian Arts & Culture Program.

Each group of performers will spend time in area schools and campuses leading master classes and other outreach programs. These events come in addition to celebrations of Taiwanese culture that are regularly scheduled in the region, such as an autumn moon festival in September, “10-10” day on October 10, and dragon boat races in June.

“This is an exciting opportunity to strengthen Five College collaborations for faculty members and students in East Asian studies, music, ethnomusicology, dance and theater through interaction with renowned Taiwanese performing groups,” says Neal Abraham, executive director of Five Colleges. “We’re particularly pleased that this project will also engage members of our neighboring communities, especially k-12 students and their teachers, in their explorations of world cultures.”

Ongoing information about Spotlight Taiwan events can be found at https://fivecolleges.edu/community/spotlight_taiwan .

Spotlight Taiwan events in western Massachusetts are funded in part by the Ministry of Culture, Republic of China and special patron Dr. Samuel Yin, support from Five Colleges, Incorporated, and the Fine Arts Center of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Additional support comes from Baystate Health and Health New England, Hadley Meeting House, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, Five Colleges, Inc., is a nonprofit educational consortium created in 1965 to advance the extensive educational and cultural objectives of its member institutions—Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  The Five College Center for East Asian Studies ( https://www.fivecolleges.edu/fcceas/ ) offers extensive programming for teachers of Asia, including a summer institute underway now.

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