Sights, sounds of China Arts: A fledgling center in Ellicott City wants Baltimoreans to develop an appreciation for Asian art and music, and learn to create pieces of their own.


A rare gathering of some of China's most accomplished musicians met yesterday in Baltimore, bringing the delicate sounds of traditional flute, guitar and fiddle music to a Johns Hopkins University audience.

In performances that ranged from somber to contemplative to whimsical -- including pantomime and singing by Peking Opera star Xueling Qing, who has won China's highest honor for dramatic singing -- the six musicians evoked for an audience of about 150 the sights and sounds of a distant land.

"When I play for an audience, and I can see they are enjoying it and they are experiencing a part of China, I enjoy that very much," said Youpin Chen, a flutist who performed three pieces ** yesterday. "To know that you can introduce your instrument and culture better is what is important."

A concert by renowned Asian musicians is unusual in the Baltimore region, and yesterday's event attracted a representative from the governor's office and Li Shu Fang, the consul general of the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

The event was organized by the region's newest outlet for Asian art: a fledgling center for painting, dance and music called the Asian Pacific Art Institute. Yesterday's concert, titled simply "Concert of Chinese Music," was the group's first public performance event. More are planned in coming months.

The institute opened three months ago. It is tucked away in a small row of suites on Route 40 in Ellicott City, a location intended to be easily accessible to the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Organizers hope the Asian art will appeal to all Baltimoreans, in particular the region's growing Asian-American community: Between 1990 and 1997, the area's Asian and Pacific Islander population grew more than 40 percent, with the most growth in suburban counties, census data show.

Growing Asian community

"In Maryland, there is not a whole lot of Asian art, and when we traveled around the country we found that there was no exhibit that can represent the modern appearance of Asian-Pacific art," said Joan Wang, 28, vice president of the institute. "I think that's not good."

American and Asian art, she said, "have to be bridged for the two nationalities to come together."

Earlier this year, Wang and her husband, Chinese artist Mu Jaishan, used about $10,000 of their savings to rent space in Ellicott City and launch the institute. Since it opened on June 20, they have spent about $40,000, supported by Mu's painting sales in China, Mu said.

Since moving here, he has shown his ink and watercolor #F paintings at the Maryland Institute, College of Art and Howard Community College.

Broadway dreams

Mu, who said he dreams of organizing performances of Asian music on Broadway and exhibits across the country, also has started plans to publish books on Asian art. Now he is focusing on the educational facet of the institute, offering instruction to anyone who is interested.

Such instruction is available at many Baltimore-area universities

-- Towson University has an Asian Arts and Culture Center with exhibitions, performances and one-day master classes -- but otherwise is hard to find in the region.

Art classes, exhibits

About 50 students -- all adults, some aspiring artists and some interested amateurs -- have signed up at the institute to take instruction in Chinese ink painting, Mu's specialty. The courses meet for two hours each week and cost $80 a month. Individual instruction also is available.

Also offered are one-month ex- hibits -- two, including one of Mu's 18 paintings, have come and gone -- with one that began Thursday featuring Shanghai artist Fang Zhou.

A reception marking the opening of the exhibit is planned for Saturday.

In the works for future exhibits are ideas to get artists from different Asian countries to collaborate on projects, Wang said.

Pub Date: 9/27/98

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