Professor Ju-i Yuan died on February 10, 2016 at the age of 63 in her native city of Taipei, Taiwan. She is best remembered within a global arts community for her innovative research studies in the field of arts education, with special focus on the larger Chinese arts community. She received a M.F.A. in Fine Arts (1981) and a Ph.D. in Art Education (1986) at the University of Oregon. After this education, Dr. Yuan returned to Taiwan where she joined the faculty in the Department of Arts at National Taipei Normal University (1987 – 2016). She achieved the rank of Full Professor and served as department head from 1995 - 1998.
Friends and colleagues will recall a woman with a relentless curiosity, who took sincere pleasure in asking thoughtful questions in all aspects of her life, in true anthropological style. At her core, Dr. Yuan was an inquirer and a communicator; it was her primary goal to discover and build connections whenever she could. She founded and edited a publication titled “Research in Arts Education”. In 1999 she also founded and facilitated a monthly forum known as “Yi-Shu” to discuss research topics related to the arts, culture, and education. And in 2000 Dr. Yuan founded the Chinese professional exchange internet platform, Global Network of Art Education (gnae.ntue.edu.tw), designed to reach out to the greater Chinese community, including and beyond Mainland China and Taiwan.
Dr. Yuan’s lifelong academic research goal was to build a mutually informing framework for the integration of cultural theory and practice within a broadly defined context of arts education. Her decades of research endeavors were grounded in theories of art, arts education, cultural anthropology, and on-site ethnographic research methods. Dr. Yuan developed five key ethnographic studies, taking a macro perspective of arts education:
• Longshan Temple research, beginning in 1983 and published (in English) as her dissertation in 1986, which examined the aesthetic participation of visitors to the historic Longshan temple in Taipei’s oldest district.
• Elementary School research, beginning in 1988 and published in 1995, which examined a group of fifth grade students in Taipei as they developed their own new aesthetic based on their sub-cultural context.
• The Netherlands research, beginning in 1990 and published in 1995, which examined a visual arts teacher-training program in order to understand the impact of cultural adaptation and innovation.
• Harvard study, beginning in 1997 and published as a book (in Chinese) in 2010 titled “Harvard Magic”, which examined one highly renowned arts education department and how the unique characteristics of specific individuals can impact ideas and curriculum.
• Nanjing, China research (2012 – 2014, unfinished), which examined an elementary school in Jiangsu Province, China as a way to observe the status of community arts education in the face of larger cultural change.
True to her ideal to integrate theory and practice in the arts, Dr. Yuan continued to paint and explore new art forms throughout her life. A collection of her drawings, paintings, ceramics, and weavings is archived at http://artseduc.blogspot.com/, along with memorial videos. Selections from her personal library collection will be donated to the National Taipei Normal University. Remaining research documents will be made available by request to interested researchers.
Dr. Yuan is survived by her husband, Ching-shyang Hwang (retired professor at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and current founder and director of the Tin Turtle Project in the community of Erh-lin). She is also survived by a son (Zaijong) and a daughter (Jyhjong). Each child has been influenced by their mother’s creative spirit and public service in their own way; Zaijong is now working in the field theoretical physics and Jyhjong is in the field of international development. She is greatly missed by all who knew and loved her!