Students in China Make History
In late Spring 2015, the Homeglen School of One collaborated with LK on a pilot project for a gallery that used the Carving Vignettes cultural awareness and advanced literacy program for a History class in Beijing, China. For the School of One, this pilot project offered many interesting comparisons and possibilities, particularly since there were many individual “travels with carvings” planned or already underway with individuals from China in Canada, a few international students returning home to other parts of China, and some Canadian travellers with Chinese ancestry embarking on journeys to diverse places in the Republic. Furthermore, a group of larger, "mid-sized" carvings commissioned from the School of One by the Provost’s Office at the University of Alberta had been given to Chinese dignitaries and at least one major Chinese artist, thus providing the major impetus and idea behind the Global Art Project. In short, China will always retain a special place in the Global Art Project and for the Homeglen School of One. Certainly, this gallery is no exception to that overall rule and it is dedicated to the growing links between China, the City of Edmonton and the Province of Alberta.
For LK, an award-winning Instructor who has taught History at almost all of Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions, the pilot project provided an opportunity to bridge some of the central issues teaching International students, including those who were about to become truly international by beginning a course of study at such institutions as the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia during the forthcoming Fall term. As LK explained to the School of One on a few occasions, enhancing language and literacy skills for Chinese International students must be directed towards helping them meet the demands of university education in Western Canada. LK frequently asserts that the study of History should provide International students with the means to develop critical thinking and cultural appreciation in ways that also helps them contend with lingering habits of rote memorization of facts or occasional ethnocentric attitudes harbored towards “the West.” Meanwhile, LK’s own educational and cultural experience added yet another dynamic to the project. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, LK’s family migrated to Calgary. A few years later, LK completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary before obtaining a Ph.D. in History from the University of Alberta.
The unique cultural and educational perspectives LK and the students brought to the pilot project are found in three chapters that comprise this multicultural gallery. As explained in the carving histories that comprise the third and final chapter, moreover, the rocks used for two of the carvings were quarried from places in the Yukon by a naturalized Canadian who immigrated to Edmonton from Colombia, yet another fascinating cultural feature informing this space. Meanwhile, the first chapter outlines LK’s “trial run with the rock”, one that led to the creation of a very brief narrative situated amongst a small legion of portraits of the carving made specifically for the “Instructor’s cut.” The second and central chapter of this gallery is divided into three parts. This chapter clearly demonstrates a different approach to the vignettes found in other Global Art Project travel accounts by citizens of China, one which seems to hark to much older literary traditions found at the intersection of memory, culture, and an attachment to place, not to mention the organizing principles of “spokesperson and committee”. The students, as seen below, chose to follow the Instructor and to produce a vanguard literary account to mark each of their collective group experiences and portraits, three of which are included in the chapter.