UND Art Faculty Nishiki Tayui’s First-year Students Put Their Work On Exhibit Downtown Grand Forks

She’s a long way from the Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, where she was born. Longer still

Nishiki Tayui
Nishiki Tayui

the cultural distance between Nishiki Tayui’s school days in Yokahama and her teaching job at the University of North Dakota Department of Art & Design.

Those spatial and temporal distances include a year on a “working holiday” visa in Australia and stints as an art teacher in several U.S. universities Tayui, a UND assistant professor of art—Painting and Drawing on a one-year contract—also combines a varied work experience well beyond the brushes and oil paints she favors.

That potpourri of knowledge and experience gleaned across the globe encouraged Tayui to push her first- and second-year painting students at UND to stretch their boundaries, not just their canvases. Several of her Painting 1 and Painting 2 students have work on display at the Urban Stampede in Grand Forks—an unusual step, to say the least, for beginning art students.

“I am in-between, navigating the tension between my native culture and those I have assimilated through my experiences in the world,” said Tayui, whose parents encouraged creativity with activities such as family furniture making or wood-block printing.

“My dad is a retired business man who is also a calligrapher. He was an office guy in a concrete company,” Nishiki said. “My mom is very artistic and likes doing things from scratch, such as raising silkworms to produce the silk she uses. She even tried growing indigo and cotton in our small veranda backyard to use in her textile art. At home, we’d all make furniture, prints and holiday cards together.”

Tayui, who prepares her own canvases from Belgian linen, focuses on guiding her students to discover their inner artist.

“Academically, I want to give them a basis for expanding their artistic vision,” said Tayui, who has applied for a tenure-track position at UND as she finishes paintings that soon head for exhibits around the U.S. and the world. “So last semester, as part of the Painting 1 class I made them exhibit their work. That way they would learn about transferring what they’re doing in class to the real-world art scene.”

Tayui noted that once students understood that their work was going on public exhibit, their attitudes toward finishing their work changed—more energy, more focus, more thought about finishing their work to the best of their abilities.

But there’s a whole lot more to the experience than hanging a painting in an exhibit space.

“By showing their work publicly, it’s not just about critique—‘Oh, what a nice painting,’” she said. “They had to think about the title of the work, whether they wanted to sell it or not, and if so, how much. That’s a lot of details to think through.”

The works by 11 students in Tayui’s beginning painting classes are on display in the “World’s Smallest Art Gallery” with a few local painters at the Urban Stampede in Grand Forks through Monday, Jan. 30. There will be an artists’ reception Jan. 30, from 4 to 6 p.m.