By Dot Bardarson
The friendship between our sister city, Obihiro, Japan and Seward will be strengthened this year by the gift of involvement.
We have been friends for a long time, when 45 years ago, Seward and Obihiro became sister cities. Then in 1973 we began the student exchange program. This has expanded to include an adult exchange program.
Realizing the exchange of physical gifts has been a bit lop-sided, the city of Seward felt it was time for a major gift to its friend across the ocean. We have so enjoyed the Japanese Tea House that adorns our beach-side path, among other gifts. Now it is Obihiro’s turn to be on the receiving end.
The gift of a mural to Obihiro is more than a physical structure. It will involve Japanese artists to help paint it. (Most of our local Seward murals are a community affair, having been painted by volunteers finishing the work of committees within the Seward Mural Society.) That is the way it will be with the mural gift to Obihiro.
The city of Seward has charged the Seward Mural Society with the task of bringing this gift to fruition. It has been in the planning stages for 4 years. The mural society and the city have learned a lot in the process about working together with the Japanese, how they are extreme planners who move in predictable ways, whereas our working style is more flexible, solving problems as they emerge.
Justine Pechusal is the master artist for “Friendship Across Water”. She will prepare the design for transfer to panels with an overhead projector in a warehouse in Japan. In December she attended the Japanese Emperor’s 79th birthday celebration.
Al Lamberson will head up the group that sands and primes the panels.
One of our early meetings (2010) included 2 Japanese along with the international relations representative from Obihiro, Josh Neta. The Seward Mural Society has been working with him since then.
We have also been working with David and Noriko Campbell of Obihiro who have already helped us in identifying supplies that can be purchased in Obihiro. David graduated from Seward High school in 1977. He has been teaching English in Obihiro. Noriko will be helping with promotion in Japan.
Working with the city’s city clerks, Johanna Kinney and Brenda Ballou have been a blessing resulting in a well-informed group with close contact with the city of Obihiro.
We chose Kristi Larson to be our valiant leader. Although she doesn’t claim to be an artist, we zeroed in on her organizational skills. She sure can run a meeting. (As an aside, she is also currently president of Rotary)
There will be 8 art delegates to Obihiro in September. Each has an assignment that will be an important cog in the wheel. Obihiro has convened a similar committee there to assist with transportation, lunches, Japanese artists to work on the mural and problem solving.
During Seward’s April meeting, the Obihiro Mural committee accepted the check from the city of Seward to fund the upcoming project based on a budget presented to city council in January. This will enable us to begin purchasing supplies, some of which will be transported in luggage.
Our major concern had to do with supplies. After much research by Gary Cornwell, we discovered that shipping them would cost $10,000, but we learned from David and Noriko Campbell that we could purchase them in Japan after all. We will be working with yen instead of dollars and measurements that must be converted to feet and inches. Our standard 4 X 8 panels will have to be contrived from metric units.