Chinese Calligraphy and Brush Painting at USC Pacific Asia Museum

December 29, 2014

Guang Zhang

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was drawn to the USC Pacific Asia Museum by my good friend, the previous instructor of the Traditional Chinese Brush Painting class. Both the excellent collection as well as the emphasis on community education of Asian arts resonated with me. I was honored to take over instruction of the class more than 20 years ago and have been teaching here ever since. The Traditional Chinese Brush Painting class teaches a broad selection of Chinese art over the millennium, from landscapes to flora and fauna. I have always meant for it as a both in-depth instruction on the various brushwork techniques, and cultural immersion into the context in which the works were created and their implications for society. Starting with my demonstrating select, well-known paintings, followed by students practicing and one-on-one edits of their work, the goal is always to enable the students – whether beginners or experienced – to bring their framed works back to their friends and family to share.

I’m very excited last year to have started a new class on Chinese calligraphy due to popular demand. While an integral part of Chinese painting, it’s really an art in itself, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going in-depth on the techniques and cultural context of popular Chinese characters and phrases with the students.

It’s been an absolute pleasure teaching these classes and getting to know the students, some of whom have been here even longer than I have. My favorite moments are always the one-on-one time with students on their own works, and I do hope to share more of those moments with more people. Please join us on Jan 10, 2015 as our new sessions begin.


Guang Zhang (David) was educated at the Shanghai Art Academy and the Brera Academy in Milan, Italy. He is a Visiting Professor at the Shanghai Art Academy and began his career as an Editor at the Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House. His works have been published broadly in over 30 collections and exhibited in the US, China, Japan, Italy and Denmark, among others.


“My Story” by Tai-Ling Wong, Head of Retail Services for USC Pacific Asia Museum Store

December 19, 2014


“If I could do it, you can do it!” This was from my long-time friend Leslee. We were talking on the phone shortly before I was to leave on an architecture and gardens tour of Japan with my parents. Leslee had lived in Japan for a year or so, and was encouraging me to do the same. Since I was already going to be there, I might as well stay for a while, teach English to pay for food and lodging. Thus far my farthest travel experience had been family car trips to San Francisco.

But by the end of the tour, I had decided to take Leslee’s advice. Later, through her family’s L.A. Asian antiques store contacts, I was able to work for about a year at Rakuyo Shoten, under the kind tutelage of elderly Uyeda San who ran the lovely shop in Kyoto’s rustic antique store area. Here I learned to recognize Japanese blue and white or multicolored Imari porcelain ware and to love and appreciate Oribe ware with its characteristic loosely painted deep green and brown hand painted designs.

It was again Leslee who recommended me when the museum was looking for a manager of their store.  She figured the combination of my art school background, years of retail experience, plus five year sojourn in Asia would give me a broad experiential background that could be brought to good use in the museum store.

So, here I am over 12 years later. Still enjoying introducing people to various Asian cultures through the items that I’ve had the pleasure of hand-selecting for the store.

Please come and visit our unique store, just in time for holiday shopping. And I’ll tell you lots more stories about all of our special pieces.

— Tai-Ling Wong

Celebrating the Festival of the Autumn Moon

December 11, 2014

Langham Hotel Ballroom

The Festival of the Autumn Moon has a long history, thirty-seven years!  As a longtime museum member, a former trustee, and a Festival committee member and chair in 2012, I have attended and enjoyed almost half of those years.  So it was especially rewarding to be asked to chair the Committee again, and especially at a time when we could look back to a long, illustrious tradition and also forward to exciting new possibilities that opened last December when Pacific Asia Museum and the University of Southern California merged to become USC Pacific Asia Museum. The hardworking committee members, aided by the museum staff, the USC Office of Cultural Relations and University Events, and community volunteers were committed to making this Festival Gala a grand celebration of both the merger and future opportunities.


Carol King, Peter Lai and Priscilla Gibbs

Held on November 15, 2014, at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, the event honored Dominic Ng, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of East West Bank, and a major supporter of the arts as a means of promoting better understanding of the diversity of Eastern and Western art and culture. Museum Director Christina Yu Yu, welcomed the more than 550 guests who attended, many in flamboyant Asian attire that has been traditional garb in years past. The committee decided to re-introduce the costume tradition and so we took a day off to shop at Peter Lai’s “Japanese Village” shop downtown and had great fun trying on beautiful Asian costumes from his collection (and it was even more fun to wear them that evening). The Langham was a glittering setting and the decor played on the museum’s distinctive Ming style architecture, adding to the Asian ambience. Guests enjoyed bidding on the museum’s signature silent auction which had bountiful selection of art and antiques temptingly displayed. Taiko drums announced time to move into the ballroom for a gourmet dinner, musical entertainment by Hui Jin, a celebrated tenor from Beijing and a doctoral candidate at the USC Thornton School of Music. The live auction, led by Mariana Gantus Joseph from Christies Auction House, offered exotic travel opportunities and elegant jewelry donated by the museum’s former director David Kamansky. It was a magical evening, a dream come true for the festival committee and made possible by the many sponsors, donors and guests whose generosity enables USC Pacific Asia Museum to expand its community outreach programming and fulfill its mission of encouraging intercultural understanding through the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Priscilla Gibbs, Chair, 2014 Festival of the Autumn Moon Gala

Social Work and the Arts

August 5, 2014

Guest blogger Susana Bautista, Ph.D., interim deputy director of USC Pacific Asia Museum, comments on Social Work and the Arts. 

On July 13, 2014, I traveled to Michigan to talk about how art museums are doing social work, and how they can be terrific partners for not only social workers, but also academic schools and students. I was part of a delegation from the USC School of Social Work, representing USC Pacific Asia Museum specifically and university art museums in general. My colleagues were professors at the USC School of Social Work and the School of Cinematic Arts, and participating at the conference were also the Schools of Social Work at the University of Michigan, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Washington, and New York University, as well as museum educators and students. The goals of this symposium were to define the scope of intersection between social work and the arts, identify problems and communities that can benefit from this partnership, and examine the historical and current context of this work. There are many forms of artistic practice that can be considered social work, such as agitprop art, and socially conscious or social justice art, however, I will focus the rest of this post on how art museums conduct social work.

museumThe current issue of Museum magazine has an article called “Museums for Social Justice”, in which David Fleming talks about the “socially responsible museum” and its commitment to education. Museums today are committed to increasing access to their collections, exhibitions, and programs, and in particular to underserved audiences in their immediate communities. They have free family days, bring busses of schoolchildren, and provide materials in multiple languages. Education departments also offer programs for the disabled, most prominently the Alzheimer’s and dementia programs that MoMA started eight years ago.

But these are programs offered by professional museum educators, not social workers, which is an important distinction. The distinction is important because the aesthetics of the space of museums and the neutrality of educators may affect people in an entirely different way than within a clinic or community organization. Often museums consult with social workers when creating programs, or reach out to them to help spread the world, but not to interact with museum visitors. Except in the very unusual case of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, who hired a trained social worker to run their community programs and still work with a student intern in social work.

The lesson for me, from this conference, was that practitioners of social work can take greater advantage of working with art museums – their spaces and their objects – and collaborating with museum educators, to more effectively serve their needs using alternative methods. And that museums can also take greater advantage of social workers to provide a fresh way to interact with and reach out to their visitors. And finally, university museums can act as a training ground for students of social work by collaborating with departments of social work. I am excited to report that we are hosting our first class from the USC School of Social Work. Visiting stuSONY DSCdents from China will be discussing social work and immigration, centered on our current exhibition The Other Side: Chinese and Mexican Immigration to America. There are so many possibilities when you open up your institution to collaboration, especially outside your traditional domain, and we are excited to begin this journey.

Authors on Asia

July 30, 2014


7.19.14 Haiku and 7.20.14 Authors on Asia

July 15, 2014

The Haiku Study Group of Southern California is devoted to studying, writing, and sharing haiku in English. There is no membership fee and beginners are always welcome. Group meets in the serene Blue Room at USC Pacific Asia Museum. Save the date Sunday, August 24 for the Haiku Study Group-sponsored Authors on Asia appearance by poet Richard Gilbert who will discuss his book The Disjunctive Dragonfly, a New Approach to English-Language Haiku.

zen-spaces-in-neon-placesSUNDAY, JULY 20 AT 2 PM
Zen Spaces & Neon Places: Reflections on Japanese Architecture and Urbanism by Vinayak Bharne

Moving across Japanese history in time and space–from its ancient Shinto beginnings to its largest recorded earthquake, and from the spiritual calm of Ise and Ryoanji to the psychedelic consumerism of Shinjuku and Ginza–the book catches all of the dimensions and sensations of the Japanese built environment.

Books will be available for purchase and signing. Light refreshments.
RSVP to or to the Museum Store, 626.449.2742, ext. 20.

The Other Side: Chinese and Mexican Immigration to America

I Am Writing You Tomorrow: Penny Hes Yassour

A New Way Forward: Japanese Hanga of the 20th Century 

USC Pacific Asia Museum/July 9-13, 2014

July 9, 2014

Bloody Autumn Cape Horn California 1867Bloody Autumn, Cape Horn, California, 1867. Building of the Central Pacific by Chinese Workers. Chinese Ink and color on Chinese paper, 2013. Courtesy of Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City, California © Zhi Lin

Artist Talk – Sunday – July 13 – 2 pm

In recent works, internationally acclaimed artist Zhi Lin has explored the experiences of 19th century Chinese railway workers. In addition to the more abstract works currently on view in The Other Side: Chinese and Mexican Immigration to America, his deeply moving drawings documenting the individual workers and geography of the Transcontinental Railway were featured in USC Pacific Asia Museum’s exhibition Chinaman’s Chance in 2008.

Trained at the China National Academy of Fine Arts and London’s Slade School of Fine Art, Lin holds an Endowed Professorship at the University of Washington, teaching both in the Art Division and Jackson School of International Studies. His visit is made possible by the University of Washington.

The Other Side: Chinese and Mexican Immigration to America
Through August 17, 2014
The exhibition presents a series of visual narratives by five contemporary artists exploring recurring issues of immigration and border relations that have persisted throughout U.S. history