Learning about the Japanese art form of kintsugi provides essential life lessons for residents at The Barry Robinson Center (BRC).
In kintsugi, an artist purposefully breaks pottery and repairs it using veins of gold as “glue.” The result is a unique and beautiful new work of art. This centuries-old method of repairing pottery honors the imperfections of the piece by highlighting rather than hiding them.
“There is a beautiful work of art, but at some point, it breaks. However, someone cares and loves it enough to fix it. In the end we see the scars, but the new art is more beautiful and even more valuable,” Ryan McIntire, BRC fine arts teacher, explains to his classes. ”I can’t think of a better analogy for why we are all here at BRC. Something is broken, and we are going to put it back together into something new and beautiful.”
The kintsugi project is part of BRC’s summer Education program. Residents enjoy working with clay, and the relevant lessons matter. During one class, McIntire shared a “teachable moment” with his students. He accidentally broke a piece of unfired pottery while shaping it. Rather than get upset, he simply added the broken pieces to a holding tray where the clay can be recycled for another use. Mistakes and accidents happen to everyone, and McIntire modeled an appropriate way of handling them.
McIntire is BRC’s first fulltime arts instructor, joining the Education department in September 2020. He’s been a professor of Fine & Performance Arts at Old Dominion University and Hampton University. He’s also had a professional film and stunt career since 2008.
After starting with high-level art instruction over the past academic year, McIntire has exciting plans to enhance his courses over the coming months. During a break between the spring semester and summer session, he led a major renovation project in BRC’s art room.
“We took down a couple of walls, painted the floors, and did a big revamp to make the room into a modern, university-level art studio,” he said. “I’m structuring the classes more like a ‘studio study’ course, and the kids are really loving it so far.”
McIntire designed the renovated room with a forward mindset. He said this is the start of a process to make the room a “black box” simple performance theater space, as well as an art studio.
“This will allow us to have a nice, open space to explore drama and performance as I continue working toward implementing that new curriculum later this year,” he said.
To complement its art instruction, BRC also purchased 10 new iPads recently that residents can use to learn digital art.
“This is a great skill some of them may go on to use in high school, college, and even a career. Many public schools would never be able to give this opportunity, so I’m really happy we have the chance to do so here,” McIntire said.
“The residents are all really excited, and I’m thrilled to set up BRC as a place with top-notch fine and performing arts opportunities for them.”