Art1 Blue and White

Anything can happen at Shobu Gakuen care facility in Kagoshima for special abilities people.

There can be dancing in the soba shop, Bonta, singing in the sewing center, shouting in the ceramics workshop. The atmosphere of freedom and purpose creates a remarkable happiness that seeps down to all members and visitors as well.  Most of the 140 members of Shobu Gakuen are residents, but 40 or so commute daily to take part in the art centered daily activities that Shobu Gakuen offers, be it embroidery in the grass roofed sewing center above, or woodcraft in an airy wood center filled with light and tools most carpenters only dream of, paper making in spacious work rooms, painting, clay work, food or music. Each member finds his own niche that he practices and hones every day from 9:30 til 4. I want to join!  There is a bakery, a café with the wonderful name – Otafuku – a soba shop plus 3 galleries. One gallery houses a rotating exhibit of the permanent collection of Shobu Gakuen Art in the Shobu Style building housing offices, conference center and a light laced gallery with windows opening on the lily pond outside.

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Shobu Style is a philosophy of setting people free to follow their bliss despite or perhaps because of their differing disabilities. Who is normal? What is normal? asks Shin Fukumori, the inspired and humor-driven director who also conducts concert happenings with his musicians dressed in wild and whimsical handmade costumes designed and made by his multi-talented wife, Noriko in charge of Nui Project, Shobu’s Sewing Center. Most recently the musicians of  Shobu Gakuen performed OTTO & ORABU in Nagoya at IMS Hall on March 9.

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Beaded object by an autistic woman who expresses herself with her hands.

Another building houses an exhibit space of alternating large art pieces and wall hangings, wood carvings filled with whimsy – large painted canvases and woodcarvings when we were there.

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A friend called her The Goddess of Everything – quite right.

She wanted to come home with me.

I said YES!

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Wonder wall of characters made of paper and tape, all figments of a rich imagination and dexterous fingers, welcomes visitors to the two galleries.

He has been concentrating on making these figures for years.

On the left is a delicious gallery of small crafts for sale – a feast for the eyes, candy to take away with you.

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Art8 Blue and White

Bags and buttons to take home and give to friends.

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Painted postcards aka art for the walls reflect Shobu’s strong sense of home within its insistence on recycling and honoring the excellence of art created.

In bags, in calendars, in book covers, in postcards, the art is used in charming and fanciful ways. Nothing is wasted or ignored.

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They even do it in Blue & White as in a recent exhibit at Shibuya’s Parco celebrating the publication of their new book of a blackboard diary of one of their members. Each of the 3,000 covers was stamped by hand using cuts of bamboo!

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Small dishes are art in themselves, but also excellent for soy sauce or salt or wasabi.

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Shobu Gakuen is a place of joy and purpose and contentedness. People welcome you when you come. Friendships blossom quickly. The happiness that one encounters at Shobu Gakuen lights a flame in the spirit that continues to warm body and heart. The feeling of empowerment that you encounter there gives everyone-residents and visitors alike-a new sense of wanting to give life A TRY.

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