A Lesson for the History Books

by Marne Manoukian and Adam McNeil, 4th Grade Teachers

The 4th graders recently enjoyed a special visit from master calligrapher and seal carver John Wang. John grew up in Taiwan and settled in the Washington, DC, area in 1980. He retired from George Washington University in early 2015 and currently works as a research specialist for Smithsonian Freer/Sackler Gallery, where he teaches calligraphy for the Smithsonian Associates (also at his 159 Art Studio located in Gaithersburg). We were fortunate to have such a talent among us.

John introduced the class to a variety of calligraphy tools, as well as some of the joys of this beautiful form of writing. It is also quite challenging—there are no do-overs or corrections in calligraphy! He demonstrated writing with concentration, employing quick and focused strokes.

The students experienced much more than merely a writing lesson with him. He talked about the art form itself, but also shared insights on focus, tradition, craftsmanship, persistence, and discipline. These insights included: “You can learn from calligraphy and put these skills into anything—like with music or any other interest. How do you become good? You practice. Pay attention to your tools. Learn by watching. Read about how to do something. Ask questions.”

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