Home > Teaching Resources > Arts of Japan exhibit project

Arts of Japan exhibit project

Student projects can be viewed at

Suitable for any level of art history.  This project entails actual art objects, which is a great option if you have them available to you. The two phases were split between the two parts of the course, i.e., before and after a break. Students were allowed to visit their piece in storage on two occasions prior to beginning the project, so they were able to get a sense of it.  They were also allowed to take digital photos without flash. The digital photos were then used to put together the on-line virtual exhibit using other digital materials for comparative purposes. You can also do this with images out of the IDEAS database. A copy of the assignment given to students is below.

Phase I

1. You and a partner will receive a work of art selected by me to work on.

This piece will come from among the 36 newly acquired pieces of modern Japanese art in our St Olaf Collection.

2. With your partner, you will begin to compile information on your piece.  This information may come from a variety of resources, including resources found in the library, the worldwide web, as well as oral interviews with either the artist or collector.

3. You and your partner will use the information provided by the museum along with what you yourselves have collected to create a label for your piece for the show.  Besides basic information about the piece as outlined by the museum curator and included in the museum information, your label should include text up to 300 words describing the piece in a broader context. This should include what you have learned from your research on the piece.

4. All of the initial texts are due electronically as a first draft by February 28th.  I will look them over and return them to you and your partner electronically.  We will then have them printed and mounted by the following Tuesday in order to put the show up in time for the March 9th opening.

Phase II

Each of you has successfully written about your piece.  The next phase of the project is to work on contextualizing your work of art within the larger framework of Japanese art, society, culture, and history. 

Each person will write a separate essay of 3-5 pages not including other images and a short bibliography.  These essays will then be linked to your original short description of the piece, so you should discuss the angle you are interested in pursuing with your partner so as not to duplicate efforts.  Possible approaches to your piece include looking at the subject matter within a historical context for Japan; considering the subject matter within a global context, especially for the later pieces; gathering more information on the medium, perhaps considering differences between the east and the west; compiling more information on the artists and the influences on him outside of the Yoshida family tradition. For those of you who are working on the collection as a whole, you might want to consider looking at practices of collecting Japanese prints or art in the 20th century. All of the essays must include at least two artistic works considered in comparison to your original piece. If you have an idea that you're not sure about, feel free to talk with me either via email, during office hours, or before or after class.

The final phase of the project will then be for everyone to submit their essays to me electronically. The deadline for this will be May 2nd.  Several members of the class will be designated as responsible for combining the images of the works on exhibit with the various layers of text to create our on-line exhibit.  Others will be asked to proofread the final texts before they are put on-line. Those who did not actively participate in the hanging of the show will be looked to for help in these areas, but as always, all volunteers are welcome!

Karil Kucera
Associate Professor of Asian Visual Culture
St Olaf College