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Marshall art professor receives Living Traditions Folk Art Grant

West Virginia Press Association

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Dr. Miyuki Akai-Cook, an associate professor in Marshall University’s School of Art & Design, was awarded a Living Traditions Folk Art Grant from the West Virginia Division of Arts, Culture & History to support research in Japan to create a new body of work combining rug tufting, Japanese Folklore and environmental awareness.

Akai-Cook teaches fibers, with her focus on the balance between societal advancements and nature. The works of her project will be based on endangered animals that are transformed into monster-like creatures called Yokai, legendary ghosts, monsters and spirits from Japanese folklore. They aim to increase awareness of the impact humans have on the environment, animal species and ultimately the younger generation’s well-being.

She already created some pieces as a test for the project. One of the pieces, Losing My Life for Cocaine of The Sea: Vaquita & Totoaba (2023), received the Best in Show Artivism Award from the Wild Heart Gallery International Juried Art Exhibition in May 2023.

“I chose a rug as the medium for this project because it retains domestic functionality and familiarity; moreover, rugs have inviting tactile textures that people want to touch,” Akai-Cook said. “I want my artwork to be a conversation starter about environmental issues.”

Akai-Cook has been teaching Fibers at Marshall University since 2009. She earned her MFA in Artisanry-Fibers from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and her BFA in Interior Design from Osaka University of Arts in Japan. She has had works displayed throughout the United States and in her home country of Japan.

Akai-Cook will spend the Spring 2024 semester conducting research for additional works. She hopes to exhibit her upcoming works in libraries, children’s museums, natural history museums and science centers where families with children visit. Some of the initial works in the series have been exhibited at the Clay Center’s Juliet Art Museum in Charleston, West Virginia, and the School of Art & Design’s Carroll Gallery at the Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave. in Huntington.

For more information about Marshall University’s School of Art & Design, visit www.marshall.edu/art.

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