Freedom! Surreal! Straightforward! A unique Kuka world

自由! シュール! 直球! 個性あふれるクーカワールド

Kanagawa Gallery Stroll
Shino Yamamoto (Galerie Watts)

I suddenly saw a colorful and cute picture inside a flyer. A mysterious woman is depicted on a light blue background. Sea creatures are drawn around her. "Huh? I observed it during my free summer vacation assignment," I thought as my long-ago memories suddenly came back to me, and I was drawn to the picture, which seemed like a modern version of a sea monkey, and I wanted to see the real thing, so I went out. . This is the first time I've seen the venue, GALLERY COOCA in Hiratsuka.

As you pass through the shopping street at the west exit of Hiratsuka Station, you'll see a building that looks like a movie set at a wide intersection. ``Cool!'' The words that came out of my mouth were my destination.

As you enter through the retro-looking entrance, you will find yourself at a rustic-modern stylish cafe. There is a counter in the back.
On the other side of the white panel is the gallery space. There were light paintings lined up that drew me here.

This author is Justine Ikeda. Her works are always accompanied by English sentences, and they are about everyday events and memories. It's strange how a simple everyday scene can feel so poetic when combined with a picture made up of clear black lines and well-painted colors.

And the color combinations are fun and tickle your heart.
``I like rainbow colors, so I often use seven colors. They give me energy,'' says Justine.
``This bird from the back has a unique nuance for Justine,'' explained Momoko Kitazawa, director of the Kuka facility. ``People and creatures with round outlines and simple faces are her characteristic patterns, and they often appear. She draws whatever comes to her mind one after another without hesitation. I think he drew the shapes that left an impression on him.”

Justine's cute drawings, which have captured the hearts of people of all ages, have been incorporated into corporate designs such as cosmetics packages and T-shirts.

Now, in one corner of the gallery, there is a corner where artists can work, and even today, drawing paper and paints are spread out.

Suddenly, a man appeared and said, ``Excuse me!'' and began speaking fluently, saying, ``I'm now going to explain ``Tsujitaro Shofuku Kumade.'' He speaks at a fast pace without stumbling, and concludes with the powerful words, "Your wishes will definitely come true!" and you can't help but say, "Yes! Please!" (lol).
His name is Taro Ito, whose pen name is Taro Tsuji. After all, he is one of Kuka's artists. Tsujitaro seems to be good at memorizing and making many of the same things.

Such a big version of Kumade too. It's a big deal because a certain IT company says they will receive an order at the end of the year.

There are many other unique artists at Kuka, such as those who create pin-ups of models and actresses on their desk walls, those who create 3D sculptures with a relaxed mood, and those who are good at performing. It is said that he belongs to.

“Kuka is an atelier for people with disabilities,” says Kitazawa.
“Here, we aim to help each person do their job properly and be successful in what they want to do and what they are good at.”

People who are good at cooking can work in cafes. "At first, we only had sandwiches, but the way the sauce was applied differed from person to person. We realized that it would be difficult to standardize on everyone, so we added pancakes to the menu that are easy to make and use the same grams."
The sandwich also has a flag with a picture of a Kuka artist on it, which is also very fashionable.

When you see the office workers and people from the neighborhood casually coming in, you can see that they are adapting to the town.
I thought that this was due to the design ability of Kuka's staff, and it turned out that many of the staff members, including Mr. Kitazawa, came from art universities or design fields.

Mr. Kitazawa and other Kuka staff are thinking about ways to exit, such as design licenses, puppet shows, and live performances, and the number of opportunities to connect with society is increasing.

*Justine is in the middle, and Kitazawa is second from the right.

``What we Kuka staff are good at is finding people's interesting and wonderful characteristics that people around them don't pay attention to and bringing them out,'' says Kitazawa.

This is true for anyone, handicapped or not, but when your individuality is noticed, it leads to self-affirmation. Sayaka Yokomizo, who was not good at communicating with others, won the grand prize in a handmade picture book contest sponsored by Zushi City in 2007. From there, her heart gradually opened up, and in 2017, she was appointed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a "Special Support Ambassador for the Promotion of Lifelong Education for People with Disabilities."
Mr. Yokomizo's works have a large number of characters, so much so that it is understandable that he is good at picture-story shows in which one person uses different voices to play multiple roles!It is also displayed in the underground passage of Hiratsuka Station, so it can be used as a stroll route. Don't miss it.

Its predecessor was a welfare facility established in 1992. The gallery division within this group became independent in 2009, and Gallery Kuka was born. Mr. Kitazawa and his colleagues continue to spread the word so that the works of all the approximately 100 people who currently attend the kindergarten will be connected to society, and that the lives and relationships between people and art will be enriched, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. Masu.

I wondered why it felt so good to be in Kuka.
All of them are straightforward in their expressions, and their individuality oozes out. The persuasive power of simple expression . There's no logic to it, and there's no need for it. I felt the impact of seeing the underlying power of art.

In the shed inside the gallery, original goods from our artists are on sale in a wide variety of genres, including paintings, words, music, and advice on worries. The expressions that make you laugh are sure to make great souvenirs!

A special exhibition will be held on the first day of the month, and Justine will be exhibiting until August 30th. By the way, the first Sea Monkey-like character that I thought was a girl was ``Mermaid'', according to Justine. You weren't wrong! Yeah!! (lol)

(Interviewed in August 2019)

《Gallery information》

14-8 Akashicho, Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture 213-0032
TEL: 0463-67-752

Opening date: Please check on the website

▶︎About 10 minutes walk from JR Hiratsuka Station

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