Tag Archives: Chinese Cultural Center

Celebrating Chinese Culture

Mahjong lessons. Kung fu demonstrations. A dragon boat display. All were part of the Phoenix Chinese Week’s “Culture and Cuisine Festival” at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix. I did a little exploring Sunday afternoon, and discovered all sorts of interesting people and programs.

Andre Mangum, a Phoenix boy who studies Kung Fu in Beijing, was there with his family spreading the word about the film recounting his journey from Arizona to China. Mom Margot was excited to share the news that Andre is making his first trip to St. Petersburg next month.

So was artist Michael Papaianni, who shared a  copy of his poem titled “Portraits” and a new poster he’s created called “China Mary.” He also introduced me to the director of a local Chines school. I found plenty of artworks at the festival — including tissue paper flowers, paintings and more. Also Chinese food and children’s arts and crafts with a Chinese theme.

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I enjoyed a lovely conversation with women volunteering at a booth for the Desert Jade Women’s Club, and picked up information about annual scholarships they award to graduating high school seniors of Chinese descent. Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, school and community involvement, and financial need. Applications are due March 10 and folks can learn more by calling Mary Tang (480-775-1990) or Barbara Yim (602-439-1162).

Phoenix Sister Cities also had a booth, highlighting the city’s ties to Chengdu, China. Other sister cities include Hermosillo (Mexico), Taipei (Taiwan), Jimeji (Japan), Ennis (Ireland), Grenoble (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Catania (Italy), Calgary (Canada) and Ramat-Gan (Israel).

Click here to learn more about the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center, which is home to a Chinese supermarket, several retail shops and a relaxing sculpture garden.

— Lynn

Coming up: S.O.S. for school libraries, Hometown history, Art meets mental illness


Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Scene from a 2012 independent film titled "A Boy in China" (Image: Empty Mind Films)

I decided to indulge in a little Mandarin to celebrate the Chinese New Year — and news from proud mom Margot Magnum that her son, a young Kung Fu phenomenon named Andre, performed during Chinese New Year celebrations in NYC today. Seems there’s little down time for the energetic redhead profiled in a newly-released film.

A Boy in China” follows the martial arts adventures of Andre Magnum, seen largely through the eyes of parents Kenn and Margot Magnum — whose reflections on parenting a child with dreams that take him far from home are featured throughout the film.

Magnum, who turns ten in February, studies at the Shichahai Sports School in Beijing. How he got from Phoenix to Beijing is the subject of the film — which explores his early battles with hyperactivity and traditional classrooms, his martial arts training at home and abroad, and his adjustment to life in China.

Magnum discovered Kung Fu while watching scenes from a Jackie Chan film at the tender age of two, but it’s a mistake to assume that “A Boy in China” is just another Kung Fu flick from Empty Mind Films, which specializes in martial arts-related fare. It’s a tale of growing up, letting go and pushing through obstacles created by self and others.

Empty Mind Films is an independent studio specializing in “authentic, accurate and realistic” documentaries on China, Japan and India, as well as martial arts. It’s headed by British filmmaker and photographer Jon Braeley, who directed “A Boy in China.”

Braeley was trained at a young age in both Tai Chi Chuan and Akido, and earned his black belt in Shotokan Karate at age 22. Braeley moved to New York in 1990, and now divides his time between Beijing and Empty Mind production studios.

Details about Magnum’s early martial arts experiences, which began with Wing Chun Kung Fu training with Richard Loewenhagen, are conveyed through snippets of interviews with his parents and coaches.

Once the film shows Magnum heading with his father to China for training at the renowned Shaolin Temple, it incorporates vivid scenes of days spent stretching, marching, chanting, boxing and more.

Much of Magnum’s training with fellow students takes place in majestic outdoor settings with giant trees that make even large groups of students uniformly dressed in red or yellow garb feel small — reinforcing the fact that there’s much more to Kung Fu than meticulous movements.

Magnum moves from rural to big city setting once accepted into the Shichahai Sports School, so folks who see the film enjoy scenes of daily life in different parts of China. It’s interesting stuff for American audiences, especially in an age when China-U.S. relations inform so many discussions about education, technology and world politics.

The film is a masterful blend of three threads, beautifully balancing a family’s adjustment to a son’s special gifts and needs, an American boy’s assimilating into Chinese culture, and a martial arts culture that demands great physical and mental discipline.

“A Boy in China” was screened twice at the FilmBar in Phoenix during January. Both screenings were attended by three of Magnum’s coaches, including Gao Xiang, who teaches traditional Shaolin Kung Fu in Beijing. Also Joseph Eager of Eager Kung Fu and Wushu Academy and Jinheng Li of World Martial Arts Academy  — both located in Phoenix.

Eager and his students will be doing Kung Fu demonstrations this weekend as part of a three-day Chinese New Year celebration at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix. Students at the World Martial Arts Academy will get to enjoy “A Boy in China” during a 6:30pm screening on Tues, Jan. 31.

I sat near Magnum’s parents during an earlier screening, their third viewing of the film, and was touched to see Kenn put his arm around Margot — who got a bit misty eyed at times.

They’ve been married for more than two decades but never envisioned that a Kung Fu journey started while their son was just a toddler would forge a path to the Great Wall of China before he turned ten.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to follow post-production developments for “A Boy in China”

Coming up: A pair of “Midsummers,” Celebrating Seuss

Chinese arts and culture

Patricia Saewert work on exhibit at SCC

While searching through photos of my kiddos the other day, I found some old photos of a trip to China — taken as part of a “fam” (familiarization) tour during my days working in university affairs. People exploring blocks of bird markets. Men playing Mahjong in the streets. Tourists strolling along the Great Wall.

It reminded me that Scottsdale Community College is exhibiting “experimental Chinese painting” in their art building through Sat, Nov. 3. The exhibit — and reception Sat, Oct 8 (4pm-6pm) — is free and open to the public.

Rosemary Ramos White work on exhibit at SCC

The works, which portray a variey of subjects, were created by SCC artists during an Experimental Chinese Painting class first offered in the spring of 2011. It’ll be offered every two years by art professor Robert You, who trained in Beijing.

These paintings integrate Eastern and Western styles — and feature  representational and non-representational imagery.  They were executed with Chinese brushes and fine Chinese black and colored inks on shuen paper. Each painting has a unique “chop.” which is the artists signature.

Joy Smith work on exhibit at SCC

Custom-created chops, which look like rubber stamps on large blocks of wood, are popular with tourists who visit big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Sadly, mine is likely lost to the ages unless someone from the A & E television network disovers it during an episode of “Storage Wars.”

You can enjoy a taste of Chinese culture at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center near Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix — home to the Super L Ranch Market, which is a great place to introduce children to life beyond burgers and fries.

The Chinese Cultural Center’s gardens, designed by Madame Ye, feature replicas of landmarks from five ancient Chinese cities and adhere to Feng Shui and Ying Yang principals. Keep an eye on the center’s calendar for festivals and special events featuring Chinese culture and traditions.

Christine Dennis work on exhibit at SCC

The National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China perform Wed, Oct 5 (7:30pm) at the Mesa Arts Center. The Beijing group of 35 sets martial arts, acrobatics and illusion to traditional Chinese music.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents a “Museum Encounter” with three instrumentalists and two vocalists from Phoenix sister city Chengdu, China. The Sat, Oct 15 (11am) “Chengdu Performing Arts Showcase” is free with museum admission. They’ve also got an impressive collection of instruments from various regions of China.

I’ve got an impressive assortment of souvenirs. One day I hope to actually find and enjoy them.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about Scottsdale Community College at www.scottsdalecc.edu, COFCO Chinese Cultural Center at www.phxchinatown.com, Mesa Arts Center at www.mesaartscenter.com and the Musical Instrument Museum at www.themim.org.

Coming up: Music and dance of India

Free Arts & free arts

“Free” and “arts” — Add the word “children” and you might just have three of the most appealing things on the planet (at least for those lucky enough to enjoy the luxuries of shelter, food and clean water).

Previous "Don Quixote" performance (Harrison Hurwitz Photography)

You can enjoy them all this Sunday, Sept 19, at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — when Dance Theater West’s student company (Storybook Ballet) presents “Don Quixote: A Free Arts Day.”

The 1pm-1:45pm atrium performance, which is free and open to the public, will feature dancers from the “Don Quixote” multi-disciplinary art program offered at Free Arts of Arizona in collaboration with Dance Theater West. Free Arts notes that they have 14 youth, including boys and girls from about 12 to 15, performing on Sunday.

"Don Quixote" with Dance Theater West (Harrison Hurwitz Photography)

The performance, and reception that follows from 1:45pm-3pm, showcase what the two groups have achieved together through professional dance workshops that “invite youth to experience new avenues and possibilities that they might not know exist in the performing arts.”

I recall my daughters dancing in a Dance Theater West “Les Mis” summer camp performance many years ago in this same atrium. It’s a bright, lovely space with plenty of room for children and others to sit and enjoy the offerings.

Just RSVP to info@freeartsaz.org if you can so they’ll have a rough idea of how many to expect for the event.

My daughters also enjoyed many a cultural festival featuring the song, dance, history and art of other countries — including Ireland, India and Japan.

Chinese Cultural Center event

I’ll be sure and alert them to Saturday’s free “Mid-Autumn/Moon Festival” taking place from 6:30pm-9pm at the Chinese Cultural Center near Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. It’s an opportunity for all ages to celebrate this Chinese tradition with moon cakes, live entertainment, demonstrations and other activities.

If you’re reading this post Friday morning, you may still have time to get over to the Edna Vihel Center in Tempe for “Free Art Friday“–featuring art projects, music and movement for preschoolers (plus snack) and their parents. It’s being held from 9am-11am, and is one of many family-friendly events presented by the City of Tempe. (Another cool find: Tempe’s “Public Art Walking Tour.”)

Japanese Friendship Garden event

More weekend events and activities — including several involving live theater for youth and families — are noted in Raising Arizona Kidsonline calendar. But read on for some of my favorite events taking place during the week…

The Japanese Friendship Garden, located at Margaret T. Hance Park near downtown Phoenix, will celebrate the United Nations’ “International Day of Peace” with “Sunrise Yoga” including Sun salutations and more from 6am-8:30am on Tuesday, Sept 21. Participate (with yoga mat or blanket and comfy clothes) or just “enjoy the beauty of the morning.”

Remember too that places like the the Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En), Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo make great locations for wandering with sketch pad and pencils/pastels (or camera) in tow.

Sunrise at the Japanese Friendship Garden

Finally, check out the “Fall Faculty Concert” this week at the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute. The institute is “one of only a handful of academic programs in the nation to focus on the ancient art of storytelling.”

The concert — which takes place Wednesday, Sept 22,  at 7pm (at the SMCC Performance Hall) — features “a variety of intriguing and entertaining tales from a diverse array of cultures” presented by five members of the college’s storytelling institute. Maricopa Community College students (with student ID) can attend at no charge, and general admission tickets are just $10.

If you’re especially excited about a family-friendly event taking place this weekend or during the week ahead, feel free to comment below to let fellow readers know.

— Lynn

Note: The Franciscan Renewal Center and The Arizona Peace Alliance present a “Peace Ceremony” on Tuesday, Sept 21, from 6pm-8:30pm at the center, to include music, dance, inspirational messages, an aerial group photo (people stnding together to spell the word “peace”) and winnings works from a peace-themed art/writing contest for youth.

Coming up: The fine art of fences, Finding peace in art

More art in unexpected places…

We stopped by a little coffee shop in Phoenix called Hob Nobs the other day when we got downtown early for a theater rehearsal. We chose Hob Nobs so we could thank them for donating coffee for a recent event at Lizabeth’s school. Once I stopped drooling over the mesmerizingly moist chocolate cake in the display case, I realized I was surrounded by intriguing paintings, photographs and glass art—even a wall nearly covered with stained glass that reminded me of my mother’s Tiffany stained glass collection. The art was so captivating that I forgot all about the cake. (Some ever so humble paintings just a few inches tall and wide were my favorites because they made me want to run right home and whip out my own paints and brushes.)

There’s another little coffee-house, Mama Java’s, we like to hit when we have a hankering for art and espresso or Italian sodas. (We discovered it when Lizabeth had dance classes almost daily at the nearby studios for Ballet Arizona.) Their walls offer a casual setting for a rotating display of paintings, photographs and more. I love this joint because for years it’s been a non-intimidating way for me to expose my children to diverse artwork and ideas. (They also make a mean iced Americano and have a back room wall plastered with posters for all kinds of cool things you might not hear about elsewhere.)

A trip to Mayo Clinic in north Scottsdale might not sound that appealing, but it’s another favorite haunt of mine when I’m in the mood for art. Their lobby features rotating displays of photographs and paintings, plus sculpture and even a volunteer piano player. I can get my art, music and walking fix all in one place. (The gift shop is fun too!) Plenty of other hospitals and medical facilities take pride in their visual arts offerings too.

When Christopher took photography classes at Scottsdale Community College, we discovered that their art building foyer often features displays of some really remarkable student art, and that the hallway is often lined with photographs by some truly gifted students. I’m planning to explore the art buildings of a few more community colleges, as well as the many art resources at ASU and our other state universities. (We always enjoy the exhibits inside the ASU Gammage lobby when we’re there to enjoy shows in the Broadway Across America series.)

I recall being struck by the artwork on display at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix—both massive paintings and compelling sculpture—back when our children were younger and Valley resorts made a popular place for poolside birthday parties. I’m also on the hunt for other hotel artwork since I suspect this is another unexpected place to find art in the Valley.

Most people hit the library in search of books but may not realize many libraries also feature interesting arts exhibits. We’ve taken in some spectacular paintings and photographs at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix. (It’s just blocks away from the Phoenix Art Museum so you can enjoy double the fun!)

It’s also close to Margaret T. Hance Park (Deck Park), where you’ll find both the Irish Cultural Center and the Japanese Friendship Garden—both of which feature opportunities to enjoy visual and performing arts. (Check the Japanese Friendship Garden website for an Anime Cartoon Contest they are holding in conjunction with the Burton Barr Central Library.) The COFCO Chinese Cultural Center, located near Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, offers some lavish art as well.

Many cultural centers also offer annual festivals that include both visual and performing arts. Your child can enjoy a diverse selection of visual arts in a myriad of media during Valley festivals and fairs, which include the Tempe Festival of the Arts (coming in December) and the Fountain Festival of Arts & Crafts (coming this weekend).

When my children were just toddlers, I took them to Gymboree classes at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, where we also enjoyed impressive displays of everything from complex quilts to tranquil paintings. I’m told that students at the elementary school on site now display their artwork there as well. No doubt the Valley is full of temples, synagogues and churches full of unique works of art that we would really benefit from exploring further.

Now that my children are older, their tastes have turned more off-beat, so we appreciate funky little theaters and arts venues where we can find original art. One of our favorites is Chyro Arts Venue in Scottsdale, where photos, painting and mixed media works grace the walls (right above the sofas they move into rows for seating during theater or band events). Another favorite you might file under “alternative” is the art and theater scene at the annual Phoenix Fringe Festival.

We’ve even found art at the Arizona State Capitol—where children’s artwork exhibited by Young Arts Arizona, a non-profit organization that works with at-risk youth, lines the long hallway you can walk between the executive tower and the legislative chambers. We spent a lot of time there when I was a lobbyist in the non-profit sector. And, wouldn’t you know it, we found a mean grilled cheeseburger there too (although you have to sacrifice your cell phone reception to enjoy it, so that’s a mixed blessing).

Drop me a line in the comment section below and tell me about unexpected places to find art (and cheeseburgers) in your neck of the woods. I’d love to check them out too…


Coming soon: Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Art Awakenings, First Friday Phoenix