Sister Baulu Kuan and Connections in Art

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Baulu Kuan, OSB,  was born in Beijing, China in 1933. Her Chinese name is Kuan Nai-Han, which means “endurance in life’s suffering” and her baptismal name is Elizabeth. Sister Baulu joined Saint Benedict's Monastery in 1955. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 1960 with a B.A. in English and Art, making her CSB’s first Art Major. She went on to teach English at high schools and to get her M.A. in Art from the State University of Iowa in 1968. Kuan returned to CSB in 1968 as a Professor of Art, a position she held until 2002. 

Sister Baulu participated in international programs beginning in the 1970s. In 1971, she explored the Mayan pyramids in Mexico. The next summer, 1972, she visited Western Africa. Then in 1973 Sister Baulu, along with Father Cyprian Weaver, OSB, went to Papua and Asmat, territories of New Guinea. They brought many artifacts back from their trips, including masks from the Sepik River region of New Guinea, now part of the CSB+SJU permanent collection. CSB’s non-Western art collections are some of the finest in the Upper Midwest thanks to Sister Baulu and Father Cyprian.

In addition to exploring art in other lands for her own development and that of her students, Sister Baulu joined with Sister Ingrid Anderson, Associate Professor of Home and Community Service, to lead five J-term classes to Central America and Mexico in the 1970s. Sisters Baulu and Ingrid, additionally, led four summer tours to China from 1980-1983. Students, parents, friends, and alumni were able to participate in these programs. The 1980 summer trip to China was sponsored by the Upper Midwest Association for Intercultural Education (UMAIE).  In 1987, another UMAIE program was run, during J-term. This program was led by Sister Baulu with assistance from Sister Eunice Antony, international student advisor at CSB. The following year, Sister Baulu, along with Dr. Gary Prevost, led a J-term tour of China, with an extended stay at Southwest University.

Sister Baulu has had a significant impact on CSB+SJU, especially in establishing the partnership with Southwest University (SWU) in Beibei, Chongqing Province, China. She went on sabbatical in 1984-1985, which is when she noted SWU would be a good study abroad location. She was one of the first art scholars invited into China following the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Kuan was awarded the “Consultant Professor of Southwest Teachers University” by the President of SWU, Chen Zhongmu. From there she worked with the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at SJU, Robert Spaeth and Vice President for Academic Affairs at CSB, Dr. Charles Villette, to establish the first study abroad program in China. A contract was signed by CSB+SJU and SWU in 1986, which provided for faculty and student exchanges. This partnership has transformed the lives of both CSB+SJU and SWU students and it has lasted for over 30 years.

The first semester-long study abroad program at SWU occurred in 1988. Sister Baulu Kuan and Fr. Cyprian Weaver co-directed the program. Sister Baulu taught a course on water coloring there and Fr. Cyprian taught a human biology course. They also co-directed this trip again in 1990.

Sisters Baulu and Ingrid led a 5th tour of China in 1994. That same year, Sister Baulu, along with Sister Carol Berg and Dr. Richard Bohr, proposed an East Asian Studies minor. The minor was implemented in 1996. 

In March 1995, Sister Baulu served as a translator when a delegation from SWU visited CSB+SJU. In 1996, she became a member of the Benedictine Commission on China. She helped organize the annual Benedictine China Study Tour for Benedictines and others, which began in 1999. 

In 2001, Sister Baulu’s book on Chinese papercutting, Zhou Ping-Ying: The Grandmother’s Papercuttings, was published by Saint Benedict's Monastery. Du Jun, Ping-Ying’s granddaughter, was one of many artists-in-residence from China that Sister Baulu brought to CSB+SJU. 

Sister Baulu believes strongly in global education-learning about and from people and cultures different from one's own. 

Sister Baulu Kuan and Connections in Art