Today we are training and developing the next generation of bonsai artists. Through our actions and even through our inactions we are creating the state of bonsai in the future, we are developing the future artists, and we are cultivating the next generation. We have the chance to make it all we wish it were now.
The seeds we are sowing today will someday bear the fruit of what bonsai will be, what it will become. Under our care and guidance these future artists will prosper and raise the level of bonsai to the art form it is and possibly even into a successful commercial realm now only dreamt of in the West. If we are not careful to encourage the young thirst for knowledge, if we do not fan the flames of creativity, we will reap no more than we have sowed.
This next generation will no doubt be not only caring for the trees we are creating today and the trees that we care for now from the past, but they will also be inventing new techniques, new styles, and they will be creating the innovations that will carry the art forward.
As artists, it is our responsibility to guide the next generation, to make them more than what we are. It is our responsibility to offer them what we never had, to start them on the right path, and to provide them with an environment conclusive to learning technique and refining talent.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I put forth a challenge to all bonsaists the world over. I challenge the artists, the clubs, the organizations, the growers, the nurseries, the experienced who give classes, demos and workshops, the show organizers, the administrators of forums, the bloggers, the web managers, the magazine and book publishers, I challenge everyone from the keeper of a single bonsai to the world class master to lift a hand, make a small change, add a little something to guide the youth of bonsai, to help build the very future of bonsai, and to lead by example.
What can be done? What can a single person do? There are many things that can be done to blaze a path for the youth of bonsai, to help build what we call “The Bonsai Nation.” Below is a list of ideas I have compiled, specifically designed to make a place for youth, to make them feel welcomed, and to create a welcoming environment that is conclusive to learning and encouraging creativity. This is our field of dreams and we believe that if it is built, they will come.
- Forums, web pages, associations, and organizations can host or sponsor on-line contests targeted to young artists with defined age limits or that are categorized by age ranges such as 5-7 and 8-10. These contests, for those under the age of 18, 17, or 16, would serve to make a more welcoming environment and one which participants would not be intimidated by competing against older, more experienced artists. By participating with others of their own level, they can more accurately gage their own accomplishments while learning and communicating with a peer group of their own age and experience. Prizes could consist of educational material the young artist may not have access to, possibly subscriptions to magazines that embrace the ideas put forth here and have content geared toward youth, such as described below.
- Clubs, associations, organizations, and show organizers can devote a separate area where the work of youth can be displayed separately and judge separately. Special categories such as Youth – Beginner and Youth – Intermediate can be designated to differentiate talent and experience levels as well as to create goals to be worked toward. Eventually shows exclusively for youth may be created.
- A special contest like the Joshua Roth New Talent Competition could be created dealing exclusively with those artists under the age of 18, 17, or 16.
- Clubs within clubs for the children of members to participate in with others their own age would create a environment that would make it fun and educational for the youth while enabling content to be shared that would not require the young trying to absorb more advance information with the whole club.
- Scholarships could be created for those youths showing early signs of inherent talent. These need not be overly large, but instead maybe subscriptions to magazines, bonsai books, free workshop passes, tools, pots, and other such material that a youth may have difficulty in acquiring.
- A special section could be set aside in national and international bonsai magazines, as well as local newsletters exclusively for articles written for children on bonsai, developing, cultivating and possible even featuring other young artists to assure young readers that they are not alone in their love of bonsai. This also creates a future subscriber base for the magazine as the young readers start reading the other content provided.
- On-line forums could create sections for young artists where artists of the same age group can share thoughts, pictures, trials and successes. Such an area would be accessible to young artists only and could be moderated and ran by the members, hence also passing on knowledge of on-line bonsai activities and administration.
- Web pages and forums can feature on-line galleries devoted solely for young artists where the work of the next generation can not only be showcased, but also preserved for prosperity.
- Forums and magazines could activity solicit articles from young practitioners to feature in the sections dedicated to them. In this way readers are reading the experiences and thoughts of others in their own age group. Older experienced artists could be asked to provide articles geared toward the young.
- A national young bonsaist organization, similar to 4H but dealing exclusively with bonsai and related arts could be created and sponsored by the already existing bonsai organizations such as BCI, ABS, or any of the many others. It could also be a group effort of all such organizations. This “Bonsai Nation” could encompass many of the ideas stated above, including youth shows, youth forums, as well as providing articles and other content geared toward the next generation.
The above list of ideas is by no means all inclusive, there are limitless possibilities for creating an environment that will assure that the youth of bonsai have the resources and the opportunities needed to flourish Indeed, these ideas are meant only as a foundation to build upon, to encourage thought and then action, for it is our actions and our inactions that will determine the state of bonsai in the next generation.
I am dedicated to the ideas expressed above and will offer whatever services I can to anyone who desires to take the lead and help pave the road for the next generation. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or make suggestions, in so doing we hope to encourage discussion that will lead to action.
What can you do for the next generation of bonsai artists?
First published 9/27/07
Copyright 2007 All Rights Reserved