Eight months after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, young artists are reaching new creative heights while carrying out volunteer work in disaster-stricken areas.
Many artists are visiting devastated areas and organizing art events for survivors to share moments, experiences and raise hopes for reconstruction.
An art event was held Nov. 3 in the coastal area of the Taira-Toyoma district of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, which was dealt a devastating blow by the tsunami. The residents were invited to lift a large model of a lighthouse and set it upright.
The event was hosted by Tsubasa Kato. The 27-year-old artist has been organizing art performances involving models of buildings. Using ropes tied to a structure, Kato gathers people to help him pull it upright.
Kato had been working as a volunteer relief worker since May. While he was cleaning up rubble, he came up with an idea of an art event using debris from the disaster.
For the Taira-Toyoma event, Kato decided to make a model of the Shioyasaki lighthouse. It serves as a symbol of the community, but it cannot be turned on because of earthquake damage.
With the help of a local construction company and others, Kato built a model that was more than 13 meters high in a vacant lot facing the ocean.
About 500 people joined the event, many of whom were meeting with one another for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake. The lighthouse model, weighing about 8 tons, slowly came to an upright position after the people pulled on the ropes together as Kato shouted encouragement.
"It is meaningful to make concerted efforts and share an experience," Kato said.
Some of his structures used in previous events have tipped over or broken apart.
But after the March disaster, Kato took time to reconsider the meaning of his art. He changed the style of the event so that the structure could be pulled upright in a slow and quiet manner, Kato said.
Meanwhile, a yellow minibus with the phrase "Mirai-e" (to the future) painted in large characters on its body has been traveling around disaster-stricken areas.
The owner is Ichiro Endo, who has been promoting hope for the future as part of his artistic efforts in the past five years.
The 31-year-old Endo was working as a volunteer relief worker after the quake. In Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, Endo assisted and entertained the disaster-affected people by preparing meals for them and staging a game of tug-of-war and performing other forms of traditional arts.
Earlier this month, Endo and a group of volunteers painted a roof over a sand pit at a nursery school in Ofunato in splendid pink, and his minibus was greeted with smiling faces everywhere it traveled.
"It is necessary to talk about hope in a simple manner," Endo said.
"After the disaster, an increasing number of people are waving at us with a smile when they see the bus," Endo added, showing growing confidence in his art.
A male and female duo in their 30s, called Tochka, is known for "PiKA PiKA," a video project using a flashlight animation technique. It shows participants drawing pictures and characters with penlights against the backdrop of a night view.
While they were continuing their volunteer activities, the duo held a workshop in June in Sendai to entertain participants with the PiKA PiKA performance.
When the duo visited Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, in September, they asked students of the Onagawa No. 1 Elementary School who lost their school buildings to draw illustrations and characters and sing their school song at the same time.
But they felt a growing urge to come up with something different from their previous approaches. They wanted to make the best use of sunlight and keep the existing landscapes.
For their new project, the duo gained the cooperation of students in the Tohoku region to draw illustrations using sunlight reflected by mirrors.
The result is a mysterious video clip portraying the bouncing traces of light in the middle of broad daylight, which also shows the artists' growth through their experience in the disaster-stricken areas.
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