Culture for the common man

SANDUSKY Traditional Chinese folk art will open the Sandusky Cultural Center's 40th season. The Sandusky Cultural Cent
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Traditional Chinese folk art will open the Sandusky Cultural Center's 40th season.

The Sandusky Cultural Center is a non-profit art gallery interested in diversity, presenting things one wouldn't normally find in Sandusky.

"We do try to show things that are off the beaten path," Director Charles Mayer explained.

This year's season will open with a Chinese papercuts exhibit. Hal and Joanna Retzler have collected numerous traditional and modern papercuts during many trips to China. The Retzlers plan to attend the opening reception of the exhibit to answer questions and talk about their experiences in China. Many of the works will be available for sale.

Mayer said papercuts were originally used in China as decorations, especially around New Year's time, and also as embroidery patterns. The windows in China were primarily made of paper, even as recently as 30 or 40 years ago, and the intricate papercuts were often used to decorate the windows.

"They were not considered high art," Mayer said. "They were made by peasants. Those certainly are folk art."

Red is the most traditional color for the papercuts; it represents happiness and good luck and is often used in New Year's decorations.

The delicately cut sheets of rice paper, while aesthetically beautiful on their own, also tell stories of the culture and convey political messages.

Mike Zuilhof, gallery assistant, pointed out the tractors depicted in several different cuttings as a point of pride in the post-cultural revolution era. Also apparent in the papercuts are working women, some even in traditionally male roles.

Formally trained artists also create these traditional works of art as the technique is being taught in classrooms.

Mayer said that it is exciting to begin the Cultural Center's 40th season.

"It is, except we think all of them are exciting," Mayer added with a smile.

The Chinese papercut exhibit will run through Oct. 14 at the Cultural Center, 2130 Hayes Ave., next to Frohman Planetarium at Sandusky High School.

For information, call 419-625-1188 or visit the center's Web site at www.sanduskyculturalcenter.org.