Visiting sculptor says art should be experienced by everyone

Posted October 21, 2015

As a visiting professor, artist Kinji Akagawa has made his time in the Art Department worthwhile for UW-River Falls students and faculty alike.

The visiting professor program was implemented to bring artistic talent to the campus and to pass the knowledge and experience of said artist on to students.

Akagawa is a sculptor and professor at the Minneapolis College of Arts and Design and is known mainly for his outdoor installations, often incorporating nature into his pieces. Pieces like a bench made of carefully cut stone and wood are among the works he is known for.

Professor Randy Johnston, a friend of Akagawa’s for more than 30 years, discussed with department Chair Kaylee Spencer whom to bring to UWRF. Akagawa, they determined, would be a great choice.

“It’s quite an honor for the department to have someone like Kinji to come and participate in our activities,” Johnston said. “We have an outstanding art department here at River Falls.”

In particular, he spoke highly of what Akagawa can pass on to the students, even though he is strictly a sculptor.

“Kinji deals with what he calls public art,” Johnston said, “and the message he’s trying to communicate is that art has important social and economic roles, but has the ability to communicate beyond itself and enter into the public domain through public spaces.

“It can serve as a gathering place, you can have an encounter with it, and involve the five senses. It allows people to express themselves and give good communication.”

Akagawa’s visit came with two lectures, one on campus and another at the River Falls Public Library. His second talk saw a large crowd of students, professors and the general public.

Akagawa said he felt that if there was anything that he wanted to impart, it was that art is something that needs to be felt and experienced by everyone.

“It’s like dancing, or singing, or just talking face to face,” he said after his lecture at the library. “These are some of the most important parts of our confidence, and something that becomes conscious by doing so.”

One person who attended, Merle Lee, said she found his lecture to be excellent.

“I’m very glad I came, and learned from him and what he had to say,” Lee said. “My mind is reeling on what I might include in my own yard for an artistic splash.”

People came for different reasons, but Akagawa’s art is what they all came to hear about, from the man who made it himself.

But among the best qualities that make students come to see him is his willingness to embrace new ideas, a trait that Johnson said is great to pass on to students.

“Kinji is very communicative,” he said. “He embraces small ideas and big ideas, and can engage in communications with students on them. That in itself is a reward for our students to be able to have their ideas encouraged, nourished, and expanded upon.”