Turning Japanese

Back in the late '70s and early '80s, when everyone suddenly discovered sushi and Akira Kurosawa, it was hip to be a Japanophile, and I was. And even now, when sushi bars proliferate almost as quickly as Starbucks, I still appreciate not only the unique Japanese sense of grace and subtlety, but also Japan's reverent pop-culture mania. It's only been natural for me to glom on to my nine-year-old's fascination with contemporary anime and the folklore-powered imagination of Hayao Miyazaki, the new, better Disney. And so, with high expectations, I dragged my family down to Pueblo for this year's Japan-themed summer exhibits at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and Buell Children's Museum, 210 North Santa Fe Avenue, which had everything to do with all of the above. I was not disappointed.

Lumped under the title Tokonoma: A Place of Simple, Elegant Beauty, the seasonal art shows offer many high points, including the neat, textured graphics of Colorado Springs artist Margaret Kasahara, who juxtaposes cross-cultural images in her paintings; Homare Ikeda's lively, color-splashed canvases; and a stunning collection of classic Japanese textiles. And that all dovetails nicely into Jump to Japan, at the adjacent Buell Children’s Museum, which boasts a life-sized plush cat-bus taken from Miyazaki's cartoon My Neighbor Totoro, a hands-on teahouse, Buddha Board character painting stations and a manga shop among its kid-friendly pleasures.

The museums will host a community opening celebration today, with tea ceremony demonstrations, origami and manga activities, calligraphy, live music, strolling Japanese characters, Japanese food and more. Family events are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Exhibits remain on view through August; for details, call 1-719-295-7200 or go to www.sdc-arts.org.
Aug. 25-Nov. 10, 2007