Ohio State students bring American performance, art to China

March 18, 2014
Nearly 30 OSU students involved in the performing arts went to China from March 7-17 to showcase their work for audiences.  Credit: Courtesy of Bob Eckhart

Nearly 30 OSU students involved in the performing arts went to China from March 7-17 to showcase their work for audiences.
Credit: Courtesy of Bob Eckhart

It is not every day that Ohio State receives recognition for its art programs instead of its engineering or business departments. One group of students studying the arts might have impacted what OSU is known for globally when it traveled to China this month.

Nearly 30 OSU students involved in the performing arts went to China from March 7 to Monday in order to showcase their work for audiences. Students from OSU’s Jazz Ensemble, some members that are involved in the Department of Dance and the Freestyle Rap and Beatbox Club presented their performances in the cities of Nanning, Xinxiang, Shenyang and Changchun.

Trips such as this show the arts are important to OSU, Bob Eckhart, the executive director of the combined ESL programs, Department of Teaching and Learning, and director of the WHO-OSU Center for American Culture, said.

“I can’t stress enough how important the arts are to Ohio State University. They’re a vital part to this campus because they add so much culture and life to Ohio State. Without the arts, Ohio State could pretty much be academics and athletics. So, the arts provide a great balance to that,” Eckhart said.

John Houston, a 2012 OSU graduate who majored in theatre, said the experience of visiting other countries is important.

“It’s definitely important to get out of your bubble (in order) to see the world as other people see it and to experience new places. And China is certainly a different and new place,” Houston, said.

Houston performed a solo theatrical piece while he was there about Muhammad Ali. His creation is titled “When a Man Stands Alone: The Life of the Louisville Lip.”

Houston said he thought the people in China enjoyed his performance.

“Definitely. They definitely enjoyed (my performance). People stuck around for a long time because my show is just as visual as it is verbal. I think they understood from my body language what was happening and the tone of my voice what was happening,” Houston said.

The students also visited and performed at Wuhan University, a university with which OSU has had a research partnership for more than 30 years, Eckhart said.

The students at Wuhan University seemed happy to meet him, Houston said.

“It was really nice. They were really welcoming. They really wanted to learn from us, to see what America was like. They had a lot of questions about what we do with our time and how we spend our days. It’s interesting. The cities and cultures are very different. But when you get down to a personal level, people are the same. They want a lot of the same things. They want to have a good time, they want to have friends. They want to have a family that loves them,” Houston said.

Eckhart said the opportunity to travel to China was the result of a $50,000 grant from the U.S. State Department he applied for last spring and was awarded later in the summer. The trip was also supported by other privately raised funds.

Eckhart said when he wrote the proposal for the grant, he wanted to focus on OSU’s commitment to the arts and sending student art performers abroad. He also received a little bit of help in writing it from Christopher Carey, the director of the Global Gateways initiative, and Ashley Behrendt, business manager for the Global Gateways and assistant director of the WHO-OSU Center for American Culture.

Eckhart said he is happy to spread more awareness about the performing arts OSU has to offer.

“Most of the people in China, when they think of Ohio State, they think of the business school and the engineering school and I wanted them (the people in China) to learn about the arts and how we have a great arts program at the Ohio State University,” Eckhart said.

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