‘Artists’ Action For Japan’

by Mio Yamada

Staff Writer

Tokyo Midtown Atrium

April 23-24

If you’re an art student of limited means, what can you do to help the relief efforts for the Great Eastern earthquake and tsunami? The students of Tokyo University of Arts came up with one idea: Artists’ Action For Japan, a series of public art sales, offering works that they personally create for buyers.

AAFJ put out an open invitation to all artists, and the word spread quickly. In the Kanto area, there are now around 120 current and former students from several institutions — including Tama Art University, Musashino Art University and Tohoku University of Arts and Design — who are not only donating artworks but also volunteering their personal time.

Unlike charity auctions, which usually rely on big names to attract higher bids, AAFJ brings together mostly young up-and-coming artists to create original artworks in exchange for donations of ¥1,000 (or more if you like). You can ask one of the participants at the event to paint, sketch or draw something for you, or you can choose one of the pieces on display.

With so many artists from different genres and at different points of their careers, the range of works is vast. There are woodblock prints, drawings, collages, calligraphy, manga, paintings and even a few silk-screen prints — all of which are created using each artist’s personally donated art supplies. So far, AAFJ, which is now also organizing events in the Kansai region, has raised more than ¥1,864,000.

The students’ commitment to these events drew the attention of Fumio Nanjo, the director of Mori Art Museum, who commended the volunteers’ initiative in a video on the AAFJ website. “People from different fields, wherever their skills or knowledge lie, should use what they know,” he explained. “We need to find ways to help through our normal work. And for artists, this means using art.”

Fueled by a community spirit, this is a fun event where visitors are encouraged to chat to the artists and watch them work. It would be difficult to walk away without something you like. Who knows, you may even get a piece from a future exhibitor at the Mori Art Museum.

The next AAFJ event takes place on April 23, 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Tokyo Midtown Atrium in Roppongi. For more information on future events and Kansai events, visit aa4j.org