Locations: Sculpture Court, Level 4, and Graham Auditorium
Capacity is limited; space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Celebrate the opening of Across Asia: Arts of Asia and the Islamic World with gallery talks, drop-in art-making activities, and performances co-presented by the Asian Arts & Culture Center at Towson University. Listen to Persian music by Ahmad Borhani and Japanese koto musician Masayo Ishigure and enjoy an Indian-Thai collaborative dance performance by Nilimma Devi and Anila Kumari of Sutradhar Institute of Dance and Related Arts/Devi Dance Theatre and Suteera Nagavajara and Vorayot Suksaichon of Somapa Thai Dance Company.

Experience Across Asia with talks by curators in the galleries and learn about the diverse cultures and artistic exchanges across the Asian continent as represented in the Walters collections. All ages are welcome.

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Drop-in art making on the Sculpture Court
11:30 a.m, 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m.: 30-minute curator talks starting in the Level 4 Lobby
2-3 p.m.: Performances in the Graham Auditorium
3-4 p.m.: Tea tasting by Cuples Tea in the Walters Cafe

About the Performers

Ahmad Borhani was born in Kashmar, Iran, and received degrees from the universities of Tehran and Mashhad. He has been a composer, conductor, and music instructor since 1969. When he came to the United States, he established the Persian National Music Ensemble in Baltimore in 1985. Since then, he has led the ensemble in performances throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, including two programs dedicated to Rumi at the American Visionary Art Museum and the Smithsonian’s Rumi Year in 2007. Borhani is an artist member of the Maryland State Arts Council and has received grants and awards from the State of Maryland as a conductor, composer, and soloist.

Nilimma Devi is an acclaimed artist, educator and choreographer whose career has crossed barriers and spanned the globe. Devi’s work is classically rigorous yet it challenges cultural barriers. She is founder and director of Sutradhar Institute Dance and Related Arts (SIDRA). Under her direction (1988-present) she has made the Silver Spring-based institute a community touchstone of classical art and culture. Devi is also the director of the Devi Dance Theater, which has performed at the Kennedy Center, Dance Place, Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and for Voice of America. She has taught “Gender and Indian Classical Dance” as adjunct faculty at George Washington University, University of Wisconsin, Goldsmith College in London, and Osmania University in Hyderabad. As a Senior Fellow of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), Devi researched hand gesture creativity. Her collection of scholarly and recorded works are being archived at the Library of Congress. In recognition of her lifetime body of work, former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley appointed her a member of the Maryland State Arts Council for two terms. Recently, she was awarded the Pola Nirenska Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance and the Saraswati Award from the Indian Minister of Culture.

Masayo Ishigure began playing the koto and jiuta shamisen at the age of five in Gifu, Japan and has created an extensive, multi-faceted career that continues to stretch the limits of the koto, while maintaining a strong grasp of the tradition. In 2005, Ishigure was a recording artist in the Grammy®–winning soundtrack from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha by John Williams, alongside Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. In 2001, she released her own solo CD entitled Grace. Ms. Ishigure moved to New York City in 1992 and has since performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall-Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall, the Japan Society, and Symphony Space. She has been a guest artist with the San Diego Symphony, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, and Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Ishigure taught at Columbia University and offers private lessons as the only Sawai Koto Academy Instructor in New York City.

Anila Kumari is an eminent Kuchipudi dancer, writer, and storyteller who has had an international career in teaching and performing. By the age of 13 she had performed on stage and television in the United States, Kenya, Iran, and Indonesia. Kumari is lead dancer and choreographer for Devi Dance Theater. Kumari’s innovative choreographic work was set to an African American spiritual “Long White Robe” and premiered at Dance Place. She was the recipient of the Master Apprenticeship Award 2012-2013 by the Maryland State Arts Council. With an analytical approach to art and health modalities, she has brought her program to underserved inner-city kids in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. She has designed programs to create diversity awareness, mindfulness in dance practice, and healthy body image through writing for teens. Writing  In Search of Sita: Revisiting Mythology (Penguin Books) in 2009, Kumari was interviewed by the BBC in their world dance series. She is currently writing a children’s version of the Ramayana.

Suteera Nagavajara received her B.A. from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand with a major in English Literature and a minor in Theatre Arts, and M.A. in International Studies from the University of Oregon. Since the age of 10, Nagavajara studied Thai classical dance under the most prominent dance masters in Thailand including the late National Artist in Performing Arts Ms. Jamrieng Phuthpradab. Nagavajara is an artistic director of the Somapa Thai Dance Company and has given numerous Thai classical dance workshops at theaters, museums, universities, as well as Broadway productions such as the King and I at the Lincoln Center in New York City in 2015. She has performed throughout the Washington, D.C. area, other states in the U.S., as well as in Mexico and Chile.

Vorayot Suksaichon, a celebrated Thai string master, specializes in Thai fiddles: namely Saw Duang (two-string fiddle with a hardwood body); Saw U (two-string fiddle with a coconut shell body); and Saw Sam Sai (three-string spike fiddle with a coconut shell body). Master Vorayot is a virtuoso and a highly respected teacher in Thai classical music in both traditional and contemporary styles. He has composed Thai classical music for solo performances as well as for Thai orchestras. He also researched and created development work on the theory of Thai music. Master Vorayot has performed widely at national and international levels and recorded traditional and contemporary Thai music continuously up to the present.

About the Guest Speakers

Eric and Lynnette Dodson are the husband and wife team who started Cuples Tea House, a small Black-owned business in Baltimore operated by Lynnette. Launched in 2015, Cuples Tea has grown from a mobile and ecommerce tea company into a successful tea brand offering a full range of loose-leaf teas, tea accessories, tea events, and workshops. For six years, Cuples Tea participated in farmers markets, pop-up events, and festivals across Maryland. In the fall of 2021, the Dodsons opened their first brick-and-mortar location at 409 North Howard Street. They offer an assortment of premium loose-leaf teas, pastries, breakfast, and lunch items along with good music, art, and culture in a socially connected atmosphere, which they refer to as “The Urban Tea Experience.”

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