By Melissa Mitchell
Mother Nature may be responsible for the April showers that bring May flowers to Central Illinois, but UI art and design professor Kimiko Gunji and her "flower ladies" get all the credit for bringing Japan's reigning king of flower arranging or ikebana to the prairie this spring.
Thanks to arrangements made by Gunji and members of the Prairie Ikebana Study Group, Sen'ei Ikenobo, the 45th headmaster of the Ikenobo Ikebana School of Floral Art in Kyoto, will be the honored guest at "Through Flowers," a symposium and exhibition May 2-4 at the UI. The headmaster's visit is partially funded by the Lorado Taft Lecture Committee .
In addition to presiding over symposium events, the headmaster will present a workshop and lecture-demonstration and will formally initiate Gunji's study group as the Illinois Prairie Chapter of the Ikenobo Ikebana Society of America. The group was founded in 1991 by participants in one of Gunji's ikebana workshops at the UI. Following the workshop, the group, which Gunji fondly refers to as "my flower ladies," was hooked on ikebana, and appealed to the professor to provide them with some form of ongoing, continuing education. Since then, Gunji has been meeting monthly with the group which currently includes one "flower gentleman."
Gunji, an alumna of the Ikenobo school who teaches ikebana and other Japanese cultural arts at the UI, said the Kyoto school founded 500 years ago during Japan's Muromachi period "is not only the oldest school of ikebana, but also the most prestigious school" in the world. The school continues to operate at its original site, the Rokkakudo Temple, which has been home to successive generations of a family of priests whose name, "Ikenobo," means "living near a pond."
"The priests of this family have served as the hereditary headmasters of Ikenobo, with each headmaster adapting Ikenobo ikebana to suit the lifestyle of his time," said Jeanne Holy, co-chair of the UI symposium. "Sen'ei Ikenobo continues to perpetuate this rich traditional art form while further enhancing it with the bright energy of contemporary life."
Gunji said the headmaster's visit to Illinois is notable because his visits to any chapter are very selective. "He makes foreign visits about once or twice a year all over the world," she said. "Often, he selects a chapter that is having a celebration of its 10th, 15th, 20th or 25th anniversary. So we are very honored to have him agree to come here to our chapter initiation."
Traveling to Illinois with the headmaster will be more than 70 of the
school's professors, who will participate in the symposium and contribute
ikebana designs to the exhibition. The dramatic display of flower arrangements
representing various styles of ikebana, from traditional to modern
will be held at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, a co-sponsor
of the event. The exhibition will be open to the public from 5:30 p.m. May
2 through 4 p.m. May 4.