Yenching Scholars from around the world attend courses and meet their colleagues at the elegant Jingyuan Courtyard 4. Behind the red gate, the elegant yet historical courtyard with drooping Chinese wisteria flowers has witnessed the students’ joys and academic pursuits.
Jingyuan Courtyard 4 sees our Scholars’ talent for academia and art. In May 2021, Joyce Fung Wai Yun (2020 Scholar from Hong Kong, China) curated “Through Our Door,” a multidisciplinary cultural exhibition in the courtyard. The exhibition was like a time-travel experience, enabling the audience to converse with Jingyuan Courtyard 4 on its history, culture, and aesthetics. This year, we have a new art corner in the courtyard.
A booth-like space lies on the ground floor in the courtyard’s northeast corner. Yenching Academy Dean Dong Qiang thought it was a good idea to change this small place into the YCA Creative Booth – a world of art created and curated by Yenching Scholars irrespective of location.
The Academy’s Graduate Student Union then called for artworks from the Scholars. They could work as individuals or groups on whatever themes and forms they preferred, including photography, painting, writing, and installation. Students and teachers have warmly received the initiative since its kickoff at the end of March. Our Scholars, whether in China or abroad, have shown their passions. The Creative Booth will have its debut exhibition by Casey Wang (USA) from the 2020 Cohort.
Casey graduated from Georgetown University. During her third year, she was accepted early to Harvard Law School, where she plans to pursue a J.D. after her studies in Yenching’s Economics and Management track.
A pupil of Qu Zhi, a renowned Chinese painter, Casey is a published and award-winning artist. She is the winner of the Silver Key in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and a scholarship recipient from Savannah College of Art & Design. Casey has ranked first place in the Association of Christian Schools International Art Festival for four years in a row. Her artworks have been seen in exhibitions and published in magazines.
Casey loves to present her art with water, color, and metaphor, as evident in her collection in the Booth. “The Garden” collection presents watercolor paintings, eight of which are watercolor fashion designs. The artist unites different cultures through color and floral patterns, emphasizing the cultural significance of flowers, and explores how floral patterns are applied in traditional and modern fashion design. Casey explains:
We see other cultures, even our own, only from our perceptions. It’s like the experience of looking at a painting. From afar, you may find a line not parallel to the one above or below it; or you may think the vertical lines are wavy. Standing further away from the painting, you have a picture of waves. However, taking a closer look, you have every straight line in front of you. The lines go parallel or perpendicular to each other. Every line is carefully measured and drawn with the ruler. The brain cheats, and the eyes are tricked. Similarly, we are cheated by our perceptions when trying to understand other cultures. We need a closer look and rely on mutual communication to comprehend others. It is not enough to look on from afar.
As An American-born Chinese, Casey has been keen on cultures and eager to share the Chinese culture with others. That is where she drew inspiration for “The Garden” collection. Casey initially focused only on the fashion design itself; she wanted to present costumes distinctive to different cultures. But the more she learned about a culture and its characteristic fashion design, the keener she became on integrating cultural elements, like the national flower in her design. The eight fashion designs represent the countries she desired to know more about in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Casey sees something in common between her fashion designs and diversity at the Academy; both exemplify multiculturalism.
It hurts that Casey is yet to see the beauty of our campus in person over her two years at Yenching Academy because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, she has been with the Yenching family and made good friends here.
“Over the two years at the Academy, I’ve interacted with fellow students from around the world. They are smart and talented; I’m lucky to know them,” said Casey. Casey was a co-chair of the synchronous online and on-site 2021 Yenching Global Symposium (YGS). In her second year at the Academy, she worked as an Assistant Advisor, organizing brilliant events for her colleagues. Physically distant from her schoolmates, Casey feels she has always been with the other students and learned from them, particularly about teamwork, leadership, and friendship.
“The pandemic causes too many inconveniences. But I’ve managed to surmount difficulties, with the support from the Academy and help from other Scholars,” Casey stressed, adding, “I know it’s friendship that’ll last long throughout my life. A Scholar and I are talking about sharing a dormitory room at Harvard Law School. I can’t wait to have that fantastic friendship.”
Casey wants to place her collection of floral patterns in “The Garden” space, with full blossoms and a mirror. Casey invites the audience to look into the mirror and see their reflection and cultures.
Her ideas for this exhibition could not have materialized without help from Xu “Zoey” Zhanyi (China). Both Scholars are from the 2020 Cohort and have been good partners, collaborating as members of the YGS Organizing Committee. Zoey believes Casey and she are always in sync, from aesthetic tastes to brainstorming project ideas, and they have no difficulty in communication and cooperation despite the distance. Casey is grateful to Zoey for working closely with her to design and build the exhibition.
This project has given Zoey an entirely new experience and impressed her with details in curating exhibitions. “We worked closely for the event, from theme design, display layout, materials selection, and purchase to final installation. Over the month of preparation, I’ve had a new understanding of exhibition and curation. It’s time- and energy-consuming, but all efforts were worthwhile. I believe Joyce set an extraordinary example through her exhibition last year.”
Casey’s exhibition is ready for the audience, and she is excited for the audience to see her works and anticipates their take on the exhibition. “The Creative Booth is a fantastic idea in itself, and I’m honored to have my artworks displayed in the Booth,” she stated.
Zoey is happy, too. She said, “The small space looks like a pavilion because of its pyramidal-shaped ceiling, and it grows into the Creative Booth per Prof. Dong’s brilliant idea. The small booth can be a large universe for wild imaginations; it can be a painting exhibition, an art installation, or a story corner. It is small, but it can grow larger and become a kaleidoscope of the world, with our creative minds.”
Dean Dong Qiang admires the students’ artworks and their creative minds. He said, “I’m looking forward to seeing more artwork from our Yenching Scholars. I hope that you come to the Creative Booth frequently. I hope the Booth becomes a new name card of our Yenching Academy one day. You can see your bright budding ideas flourish here.” Prof. Dong’s advice was valuable for “The Garden” exhibition. The installation initially looked a bit out of proportion, but a green décor chair from Prof. Dong transformed the exhibition view.
The Creative Booth is open to all our Scholars and stands as the corner of creativity at Jingyuan Courtyard 4. Casey and Zoey call for wider participation from the 2021 and 2022 Cohorts; they believe in the unlimited creativity the Yenching family can unleash.