Japanese legend and message of peace inspires UW-Green Bay student artist

Peace Cranes in Library Commons

Sunshine TourtillottAre you familiar with the Japanese legend of a thousand origami cranes?

The story became popular through a girl named Sadako Sasaki, who was only two years old when she became exposed to radiation due to the atomic bombing in Hiroshima during World War II. She developed leukemia at the age of 12, and began folding origami cranes while hospitalized, in hopes of making a thousand. According to the Japanese legend, anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes gets their wish granted by the gods. Sasaki was hoping for recovery.

UW-Green Bay junior Sunshine Tourtillott (Art Management & Photography) was inspired by the Japanese legend, and decided to make a 1000-piece origami crane installation.

The Oconto Falls native taught herself Origami, or the art of folding paper. Tourtillott started working on the art piece during 2018 spring semester and finished it a month after the semester was over.

“I wanted to make something hands-on, no technology. Something that would take longer than a week to make,” she says. Tourtillott purchased colored paper, some beads to put at the end of the strings so that the cranes wouldn’t fall off the strings and saved junk mail to use as paper.

“About 300 of the cranes are made of recycled paper, like Domino’s coupons,” she explains, “I was throwing away junk mail and thought, ‘wait a minute, I could use this for the cranes.’”

Originally, Tourtillott wanted to place her art piece for people to admire in the Lawton gallery in Studio Arts building. But Associate Professor Sarah Detweiler (Art) thought the piece deserved to be seen by as many as possible, and she encouraged Tourtillott to contact the personnel at the Cofrin Library. After receiving permission to hang her installation in the library, Tourtillott decided that the best place for it would be the entrance to Library Commons.

“The Cofrin Library staff loves the opportunity to showcase student art, and the Library Commons is the perfect new space to do just that,” says Assistant Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and the Cofrin Library, Paula Ganyard. “You will find student art adorning the walls throughout the library. Over the years was have added to our permanent collection and have enjoyed temporary installations like the 1000 Peace Cranes, the seven-foot cardboard monkey, the art bombs, or the larger-than-life jewelry. The Cofrin Library is a place to stimulate the intellect through more than just the books on the shelves.”

The one thousand colorful origami cranes will remain in the Library Commons until September 5, 2018.

In case you are wondering what happened to Sasaki… A popular version of the story states that she was only able to fold 644 paper cranes before she passed away. Years later, a monument was built in her honor, now known as the Children’s Peace Monument. It represents a child’s hope for world peace. Every year on August 6, children from all over the world send folded paper cranes to Sadako’s statue to keep this hope alive.

Feature story by Marketing and University Communication student employee, Roosa Turunen ’20 Business Administration.

Photos by Dan Moore, UW-Green Bay.

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