Students and the community experienced a Lunar New Year Celebration with a focus on all things Asian last week at the Bitterroot College.
Art intern Kim Delvo formed the Bitterroot College Art Cooperative and then directed the Asian celebration that had art, decorations, food, costumes, games and a formal tea ceremony. Her goal was to share the differences in social values and customs.
“The main aim is to collaborate and work together to help each other because with a small college we need to have more experience than just work, study and be in class,” Delvo said. “In Asian cultures, we have different dynamics. Elders have to approach the young ones and teach them to be patient and just use all of your skills to be just right for the job.”
The Chinese New Year is more commonly known in Asian countries as the Lunar New Year.
“It is a tradition,” Delvo said. “This is the year of the pig so there are origami pigs made by students in Karen Coombs’ art class at the tea ceremony. We are celebrating diversity and eating food that is Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and Thailand. We decorated with pink, red and yellow.”
The celebration was casual without a timetable of events but rather college students and instructors coming before and after classes. Community members and Hamilton High School Alternative Learning students participated in the celebration by eating food, playing games and having tea.
“We have to respect the school schedule,” Delvo said. “This is a small event and we’re planning larger events. Students here are all different ages and different backgrounds.”
Delvo served the tea for the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
“Teas are part of Asian cultures but differ in practice from each other,” she said. “Tea is something we drink three times – once for the scent, second for the taste and third for the aftertaste. Tea warms our heart and is a tradition for special events.”
She explained that tea has a delicate balance of herbs, tea leaves and water. The water is boiled then cooled a bit, the tea is added, steeped and poured into small cups with no handles. Traditionally, tea cups are accepted with a bowing for thanks and held with two hands.
Delvo said that Chinese people use tea for medicine and to show value while Japanese use it for beauty and to show quality.
“Americans drink tea in a rush-rush-gulp but Asian tea is consumed slowly and shows a different speed of life,” she said. “Tea is respect of nature, family and time.”
Narissa Munsey made most of the food. She is occasionally a Bitterroot College student who was born and raised in Burma near Thailand.
“I love to cook different foods,” Munsey said. “I studied for a while in Taiwan so made a variety of foods for the Lunar New Year Celebration. I have a Burmese salad, baked tofu to represent Taiwan, cold noodle salad to represent Thailand and Burmese curry.”
Munsey said made enough for 40 people and does not use recipes.
“I never use a recipe to cook because I grew up learning to cook by looking and tasting,” she said. Everyone was invited to the meal and fortune cookie dessert.
Bitterroot College Director Victoria Clark played Anni Boreland (Asian name “Misun Gu”) in the traditional game of “Go” where the goal is to place your disks on the lines to completely surround your opponent.
James Borland explained that there are strategies which include starting more than one “conflict” to distract your opponent.
“It looks amazingly simple, and it is simple to play, but once you know how to play the strategy becomes very subtle,” he said. “You try to trick your opponent that you’re going to try something.”
Oceana Munsey is a homeschooled student in eighth grade who came to participate in the event. She also dressed in a Hanbok, Korean custom clothing that has been inspired by nature.
“It even has round sleeves like the sky and universe,” Delvo said. “You feel more freedom even though there are seven layers.”
She explained that the traditional outfits focus on elegance, beauty and attitude not the shape of the body.
Delvo is working on her bachelor of art online through the University of Montana and completing her internship with the Bitterroot College by focusing her project on promoting diversity through art.
Board members for the Arts Co-operative are Delvo, Steven Christensen, Savannah Bickish, Michael Johnson and Helen O’Leary as an at-large community member and Kathleen O’Leary as faculty/staff advisor.
The goal is to have more culture and diverse offerings with rotating leaders from the Art Co-op.
Delvo said a large project is coming about ‘Love and Respect’ which will be 100 12-inch by 12-inch stretched canvasses that are painted by students and community members. They can be placed together to form a large mural or in smaller groups throughout the college.
“I think our society needs to respect diversity and different backgrounds,” Delvo said. “The mural will be more freestyle to reflect individualism and at the same time we practice collaboration and walking together.”
Delvo said to watch for more public cultural and art events at the Bitterroot College as the Arts Co-operative grows.