US-China Cultural Arts Exchange Center is a subsidiary of Amerinvest International, LLC.

The fundamental principle and function of the center is to promote a better understanding and deeper appreciation of the two cultures through organized nongovernmental cultural and art exchange programs and activities. Since its founding in the 1990s in Rantoul, the center has been actively pursuing its goal and has organized and participated in many exchange programs between the two cultures. The center’s achievements are remarkable, and several of its programs have won recognition and awards.  

 One of the most recent initiatives is the center has become a cosponsor of the Yunnan Province Artists Association’s Global Artists Studio Program in the Greater Chicago Area. The mutual goal is to help and support artists, curators, teachers and students in the arts arts to exchange and communicate with their peers in other countries, to promote a better understanding of each other’s culture and art.

Yunnan Province Artists Association (YPAA) believes art is to serve people and society. YPAA is the main sponsor and organizer of the Global Artists Studio Program, which acts on the principle of “Let One Hundred Flowers Blossom and One Hundred Schools of Thought Contend.” The Global Artist Studio Program is funded by YPAA.

 As a cosponsor, the US-China Cultural and Arts Center provides lodging and an art studio to artists who are selected and recommended by YPAA to participate in the exchange program in Rantoul and the Global Artist Studio in the greater Chicago Area.

Mary Gao of the Kunming Institute of Education Sciences arrived in Rantoul as an artist in residence Dec. 2, and she plans to do her visiting artist program here in the U.S. until Feb. 29.

 As a professional educator and photographer, Gao has been living an active life in Rantoul since her arrival at Amerinvest Meadowlands Apartments. She was introduced to the Rantoul mayor and city administrator at a Rantoul Chamber of Commerce social event. Gao has been taking photos in Rantoul to express her artistic view or just simply recording her impressions through her camera. 

From time to time Gao showed me some of her photographs taken locally and asked my opinion or information about the photographed subject. I found her artistic view and photographic language interesting. Here I just share with our reader one of her photos.

 The accompanying photo that she took is of her Meadowlands apartment at night. Although many other Meadowlands tenants and I must have seen it numerous times, we had never paid any special attention to it. 

But after Gao showed me her photo, what immediately came to my mind was as what Roger Ebert once was interviewed and he pointed out that “Subject is neutral. Film (art) is not about subject; it is a matter of the subject. (This is not a direct quote of what Roger said; it is my understanding and intuition of what he meant in the interview).

 I did ask Gao what is the idea, concept of this photo? Her answer was she prefers to let the photo speak for itself. 

Her answer reminded me what a music professor said to me when I was a medical student: “The end of our verbal language is the beginning of our art.” 

In other words, it is when our verbal language is no longer capable or powerful enough to describe or to express ourselves, then we start using our art instead. Of course, Gao or other photographers may take photographs for different purposes, but I find the following sayings are tangible but might be debatable:  

The difference between art photography and researcher is the vision is 1-inch deep or 1-mile wide rather than 1-mile deep or 1-inch wide.   

Also the difference between photo journalism and documentary photography is six hours. In other words, generally, photojournalism concerns itself with breaking news stories while documentary photography is more about longer-term projects with a more complex story line, but clearly the two approaches can and often do overlap.

 More important, I am 100 percent in agreement with what the former University of Illinois President Stan Ikenberry pointed out in the Jan. 4, 2020, News Gazette, that: “As a society, we must recommit ourselves to valuing truth, integrity and knowledge as fundamental to life itself while resisting the dark forces that would lead us away from core academic values.”
 

Dr. Ian Wang is the curator of the Spurlock Museum and may be contacted by email at wangyu@illinois.edu