Tag Archives: Phoenix sister cities

My favorite New Year’s greeting

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix (Photo by Susan O. McCall)

My virtual inbox filled quickly most December days as retailers alerted me to various sales and organizations pleaded their case for year-end donations.

While I’m all for charitable giving, I’m not a fan of requests for cash couched  in holiday greetings.

So an e-greeting offering heartfelt thanks and genuinely helpful tips for enjoying a tranquil holiday season stood out among all others.

It was from Ro Ho En, also called the Japanese Friendship Garden, in Phoenix. And it didn’t ask for money, though I’m guessing they need the support just as badly as other cultural resources.

I asked their executive director, Susan McCall, for photos to share with readers, and she sent three she’d taken herself– a perfect complement to the three holiday wishes I’m passing along in the hopes they’ll bring needed perspective amidst all the New Year’s revelry.

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix (Photo by Susan O. McCall)

Ro Ho En shares these tips for enjoying the season…

1. Take a deep breath.

2. Share kindness with everyone you meet.

3. Give thanks for all that is good in your life.

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix (Photo by Susan O. McCall)

If you’re not feeling particularly calm or collected as you greet the new year, find a little spot on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror for these simple tips so you can read and reflect upon them often. Or head to the Japanese Friendship Garden for a peaceful stroll. You can click here to learn more about their hours and many offerings.

— Lynn

Coming up: More than a day for MLK


A picture is worth…

As you’re reading this post, I’ll likely be furiously packing for a flight to NYC or racing through a terminal somewhere readying for the next leg of my journey to visit daughter Lizabeth for homecoming festivities at Pace University.

Like many others, I consider NYC the quintessential American city — largely due to its diversity. It’s a city full of different languages, different skin colors, different religions, different foods and different ideas — a compelling canvas for photographers and other artists.

I expect to take lots of photos while I’m there. In Zuccotti Park and the Wall Street financial district. At the recently-opened 9/11 memorial, the newly-relocated Anne Frank Center and the Park 51 Community Center still in development.

Closer to home, an organization called Through Each Others Eyes will be readying for their first big fundraiser. “Exposure 2011: A Cultural Journey” takes place Wed, Oct. 19 at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Through Each Others Eyes originated in 1988 as an artistic outreach of the Phoenix Sister Cities program. Today the non-profit specializes in using photography to “help people around the world understand and appreciate cultures different than their own.”

They’ve participated in several photographer exchange programs, donated photography services to students and organizations in need and sponsored more than 100 free photography exhibitions in nine countries on three continents.

Folks who attend the event can enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres from around the world and classical guitar music performed by the Sahnas Brothers. Also silent and live auctions featuring several items with a photographic twist (including “a photo experience trip” with a TEOE photographer). The photos below offer a glimpse of their talents.

The first, exhibited in Havana and Phoenix in 2002, is from their sole exchange with Cuban photographers. The second is from a 2008 trip to China. The third, from 2001, was taken at a shrine located near sister city Himeji, Japan (a site significantly impacted by the major 2011 earthquake and its aftermath).

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To learn more about Through Each Others Eyes or this event, visit www.teoe.org. To assist the Phoenix Sister Cities program with ongoing aid efforts in Japan, click here.

— Lynn

Note: The Phoenix Art Museum offers exhibits and events of interest to children, teens and adults. Click here to explore museum offerings. Click here to enjoy a video featuring TEOE folks taking photos of Valley students.

Coming up: Opportunities for budding writers, Audition tips from young actors, A “dance dad” takes on “Dance Moms”

Thoughts of Japan

After watching television coverage of the devastating consequences of recent natural disasters in Japan, I spent some time reflecting on challenges facing the people of Japan — and those of us around the globe who must do our part to help its people.

I headed to the Japanese Friendship Garden in central Phoenix, which features an authentic Japanese stroll garden perfect for quiet reflection. There I learned that Himeji, Japan — home of a castle hailed as a world treasure — is one of Phoenix’s “sister cities.”

During tough — and truly tragic — times, those who feel the strongest need to help are often the people who have a personal connection with those affected. Phoenix has such a connection to Japan, and our country’s strong political alliance with Japan is well known and highly regarded.

As you talk with your family, friends and fellow community members about ways to support the Japanese people in the days, months and years ahead — consider spending some time at Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden located at Margaret T. Hance Park.

Here’s a bit of what you’ll see there — followed by news of upcoming events at the garden, and ways you can help the people of Japan rebuild their homes and their lives…

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We first experienced the Japanese Friendship Garden during an elementary school field trip that included participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which we began by taking off our shoes and settling into a spirit of quiet observation and profound respect.

I recalled that ceremony, with its beautiful order and tradition, as I watched footage filmed during and after Japan’s largest earthquake. A woman who struggled to replace cans in a supermarket as they fell around her amidst all the trembling. The people who remained calm and reverant rather than resorting to looting or other means of furthering the chaos wrought by nature upon them.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is a wonderful place to introduce your children to Japanese culture. In addition to the tea house and tea garden, it features more than fifty varieties of plants, flowing streams, stone footbridges and lanterns, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond with more than 300 colorful fish.

During my most recent stroll through the garden, just a few other people were there — making it an especially serene and tranquil experience. I hope to return for the “Zen Garden Music & Art Festival” on April 16, when the garden will come alive with all sorts of visual and performance art.

During their season, the Japanese Friendship Garden participates in ArtLink’s “First Fridays” from 4pm to 7pm/dusk — when admission is free. Other times, the admission fee is modest — and school tours/group tours are available.

You’ll learn plenty about the Japanese Friendship Garden, and affiliates such as the Urasenke Foundation in Kyoto, by simply visiting their website — which features its own spectacular slide show with really interesting captions.

Still, a visit to the garden is the best way to get a feel here in Phoenix for all the beauty and wonder that is Japan.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the following websites to discover some of the ways you can support recovery efforts in Japan: www.doctorswithoutborders.org,  www.internationalmedicalcorps.org, www.peace-winds.org, www.redcross.org, www.salvationarmyusa.org

Coming up: Movie and theater reviews

Update: Donations for the Phoenix sister city of Himeji, Japan can be made March 18-20 at the Himeji, Japan booth in Sister Cities Village at WorldFEST. Click here to learn more about a fund drive being held by the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission to benefit disaster relief efforts — and to learn more about WorldFEST, which features family-friendly activities related to several of our sister cities throughout the world.

Low-cost summer art adventures

There’s a little winding road that runs behind the Burton Barr Central Library, a branch of the Phoenix Public Library system that’s located near Central Ave. and McDowell Rd.

Perhaps you’ve seen the giant bronze sculpture sitting there—“Giant Panda and Maternal Love”—presented to Phoenix by the Chengdu Municipal Government in September of 1996.

Nearby are a couple of buildings housing something wonderful you might never have heard of before.

It’s the Phoenix Center for the Arts, which is part of the city’s parks and recreation department, “brings together students, volunteers and professionals of all ages and skill levels who are passionate about the arts.”

Center materials also note that they offer “a full schedule of classes and programs in the visual and performing arts.”

I recall one of my daughter’s taking a music class there while in elementary school, and realizing at the time that this is one of the city’s many hidden cultural treasures.

I was impressed then, as I am now, by the breadth and depth of their offerings—as well as the diversity of folks we encountered there.

If you’re living in a little pocket of the city where everyone else looks a lot like you, you’ll see the Valley through all new eyes after spending time at this center.

The Phoenix Center for the Arts has several amenities, including the 215-seat Third Street Theater, four classrooms and a multipurpose room within the main building, a visual arts studio (with “creative space for photography, ceramics, metal and painting”) and an art gallery (one of many stops on Phoenix First Friday art tours).

Their gallery exhibit “Arte Latino en la Ciudad” opens tomorrow, May 7. “Ambitions: Teen Art Show” opens June 4, and “Extravaganza Kids Summer Show” opens July 2.

They also offer several performing arts programs, including:

The Phoenix Center Youth Theatre—which helps actors ages 8-18 develop audition, rehearsal and performance skills through plays and musicals.

City Jazz—which helps musicians ages 10-18 to learn, improvise and perform jazz through two 18-piece big bands and combos.

The Phoenix Children’s Chorus—which helps singers in second grade through high school to learn the basic elements of choral singing and performance skills.

Adult classes include glass, metals, photography, painting and drawing, ceramics, special-interest workshops and performing arts (music, dance, theater). The center notes that “resident artists and guest instructors are professionals in their fields.”

Youth classes include visual arts (clay, painting, drawing, ceramics and balloon art), theater (thespian series, improvisation and full-scale productions), music (guitar, piano and voice) and dance (hip hop, salsa and jazz).

During a quick review of their summer schedules I noticed adult classes in printmaking, mat cutting, pottery throwing and belly dance–plus children’s classes in urban dance rhythms, spoken word poetry and voice. (There are dozens more.)

The center’s description of “special interest classes” for youth really caught my eye, noting that offerings “run the gamut from babysitting to juggling and mime.” Seems these bear a remarkable resemblance to some of our more frenzied days on the parenting front.

The Phoenix Center for Youth also offers “special programs and events” that include a visual arts holiday sale and a visual arts mentorship program (which pairs youth with the center’s resident artists).

I dropped by last night to check it out for myself. The visual art building was abuzz with several adult classes, full of students working their craft and enjoying lively conversations.

Next door in the performing art building I enjoyed the bold and beautiful sounds of a jazz rehearsal (somewhere there’s surely a security camera tape of me whistling and doing some serious toe-tapping).

I watched part of a youth theater rehearsal along with two fellow stage moms sitting on some steps off to one side of the rehearsal space—then checked out the green room bustling with children, staff and parent volunteers readying for opening night of Schoolhouse Rock (read tomorrow’s post for details).

Remember the Phoenix Center for the Arts as you’re making your own summer plans.

Perhaps this should be the year you finally honor that yen for bending metal or fusing glass, join a girlfriend for drawing classes, or challenge your partner to a friendly photography duel.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to let the kids take a couple of classes too…


Note: The City of Phoenix offers a rich variety of additional parks and recreation programs, many focusing on arts and culture. Learn more at http://phoenix.gov/parks/. Registration for summer classes opened May 1 and classes can fill quickly, so make haste if you’re eager to get involved. Check with your local city governments as well to see what hidden treasures await in your own lovely habitat.

Coming up: Arts and culture from Valley libraries, Friday preview of weekend events (including dance, film, theater, music and more)

Today’s tidbits: Enjoy contemporary dance performed ala runway fashion show as Scorpius Dance Theatre presents “catwalk” at Phoenix Theatre’s Little Theatre tonight at 7:30pm. Performance features “15 dancers, 8 choreographic works, 5 independent designers and 1 hot urban boutique.” Tickets $25-$30 at 602-254-2151. Info at www.scorpiusdance.com.