SAU Buzz

St. Ambrose Celebrates the Intersection of Cultures in the Fine Arts

by Rachel Wiedman
Posted on Nov 02, 2017

Over the weekend the Galvin Fine Arts Center was filled with an air of excitement as people piled in for the weekend’s programing. Friday night, there was a presentation of “Korea: Land of the Morning Calm.” The fine arts event was put together as a part of St. Ambrose’s “Faces of Globalization” theme for the school year and featured some of the university’s own professors, as well as guest performers from the Quad Cities area.

The evening began with a rendition of “Arirang,” a traditional Korean folk song. After the performance there was a lecture by Dr. Duk Kim, a professor of political science and leadership studies and the director of international studies at St. Ambrose. In his talk, he focused on how particular historical events shaped the current, highly-charged political climate of Korea, with an emphasis on modern events since Hiroshima. Given recent tensions between the United States and North Korea, Kim believes discussions about Korean presence in America is more important than ever, yet many Korean-Americans are not exercising their vote. Calling upon the audience to act, Kim urged the crowd to remember the devastating and lasting effects of Hiroshima and made it clear that we must be aware and active to prevent another nuclear tragedy.

After Kim’s moving lecture, there were several performances from countries across the globe. Marian Lee, a professor of piano at SAU, said a few words to the audience, describing how the theme of globalization fit the music department perfectly, as music is already a very diverse and multicultural field. According to Lee, music has the ability to bridge space and time, taking on a new meaning if it is from a different country or era.

“Even if a piece was written one hundred years ago, it becomes alive, and you can hear where the composer is coming from,” Lee explained.
To demonstrate this, pieces from Russia, Germany, Korea, and Spain were performed by Korean musicians Daniel Won, Janis Sakai, Yoo-Jung Chang, Younjung Cha, and Lee herself, all of whom currently live in the Quad Cities area.

Most notable amongst the performances was the Korean piece “Night Flight,” written by Hyukjin Shin which made its American premiere that very evening. Featuring clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, the piece was inspired by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel of the same title. In the book, a pilot faces his demise as he is caught in a storm without fuel or a radio, leaving him with no escape. Despite this desolate position, the pilot still finds momentary calm amidst the chaos as he is dazzled by the light of the moon and stars. The piece reflects this perfectly with dissonant chords and frantic phrases that convey the turmoil of the storm, while later relating the gripping beauty and serenity of the night sky. As the piece is played, the listener can easily imagine the grandeur and peril the pilot experiences during his final moments gliding through the air. The performance and piece were very well received by audience members.

Succeeding the conclusion of the piece was a brief intermission, during which attendants could view paintings by Renee Meyer Ernst and Ken Cunningham, two local Korean artists. When the program resumed, the audience heard from Ernst, who recounted her experiences as a child adopted internationally. Ernst shared how that background gave her a unique perspective throughout her life, but she also iterated how she feared this subculture is declining, creating isolating implications for those who share similar stories to her own. Ernst decided to promote her experiences in her artwork to give a viewer a look into her world. Her work features pictures taken both in her home and from her travels to Korea, and by combining these photos into a single picture, Ernst displays the experience of two worlds that she did not fully experience as a child but that were still apart of her reality.

“With this whole process, I can create my own truths,” Ernst noted.

Ernst’s speech was capped =by another set of musical performances, this time including pieces from America, France, Russia, and Argentina. After the conclusion of the concert, Lee once again spoke to the audience to thank them for their support of the event and dedicated the event to her parents, who had the courage to leave their home in search of a better life despite being relatively well off in Korea. Lee expressed her extreme gratitude for this sacrifice, which allowed her to have a full life in America, and extended the dedication to anyone currently making that same leap of faith. The profound moment was the perfect end to the event, as it acted as a very real reminder of how immigration is apart of everyone’s family tree, as well as pointing out the ways that different cultures continue to enrich and shape America for the better.