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Tanabata: Wish Upon A Star With Chaco Kato

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre

Kathryn Hunyor

Chaco Kato

Total audience: 9,000+
Workshop participants: 1,200
Over 4 days of WOW Festival

9 – 12 July 2014

Photography: Haline Ly & ArtsPeople
Supported by Japan Foundation and Sekisui House.
Book and merchandise by ArtsPeople in partnership with Haline Ly, editing by Alison Peters.


Tanabata: Wish Upon a Star is an immersive, participatory art experience for all ages, inspired by the annual Japanese star festival.

The traditional Tanabata festival celebrates the story of how two stars – Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair) – came to be in the sky. Tanabata is held on or around the 7th July each year. During the Tanabata season people write their wishes on ‘tanzaku’ wishing cards, and make origami decorations, to hang on bamboo branches that decorate the streets. Children sing the Tanabata song and read stories of Orihime and Hikoboshi.

ArtsPeople created a contemporary art adaptation of this festival with artist Chaco Kato. Highly interactive and multi-sensory, the audience’s collective creativity brings the Tanabata artwork to life, while exploring issues of loyalty, environmental sustainability and individual responsibility. Gradually over the course of the installation, the Tanabata galaxy flourishes with the community’s wishes and artistic creations.

Whimsical, poignant and layered with meaning, Tanabata transcends culture to give us a magical moment of coming together to celebrate our universal hopes, fears and dreams.

The Artist

Chaco Kato is a renowned contemporary artist based in Melbourne who creates large-scale site-specific installations in both urban and rural contexts.

Born in Japan, Chaco has been based in Australia since 1996, exhibiting nationally and internationally, including NGV, Arts Centre Melbourne, 3331 Arts Chiyoda (Tokyo), 
and Esplanade Performance Centre (Singapore). She holds a BFA from SMFA at Tufts Boston, and Master of Fine Arts from the VCA. She was the recipient of the Paris Cite
 des Arts, and a studio at Gertrude Contemporary Art Space 1998 – 2000.

In 2008 together with Dylan Martorell, Chaco founded Slow Art Collective (SAC). SAC focuses on creative practices relating to environmental sustainability, material ethics, DIY culture and collaboration. Members of the collective share common ideas on process-based art practice and the slow absorption of culture through community engagement. With Chaco and Dylan as its core members, other artists, children and the community are invited to collaborate in each project.

The Project

Australian children and families discover the Tanabata story through hands-on art making, interactive storytelling, and artistic collaboration, all within a beautiful site-specific art environment.

Site-specific art installation: Chaco Kato creates intricate yet robust environments from bamboo, string, and other architectural structures. Responding to the site, the ephemeral Tanabata environments are beautiful interpretations of the story, designed to be cumulative and responsive to audience contribution over the course of the project.

Tanzaku wishing cards: children and families write their wishes on special ‘tanzaku’ and hang them in the artwork

Origami & Kirigami: audiences make their own decorations to hang with their ‘tanzaku’ wishing cards

Weaving: visitors watch the walls of the art environment fill up with the brightly-coloured weaving by the children

Interactive storytelling: children participate through sound and movement in the telling of the Tanabata story.

Additional public programs: Origami demonstrations and singing workshops

Our Approach

Tanabata was devised and created by ArtsPeople in collaboration with artist Chaco Kato. The project was originally commissioned by the Japan Foundation, Sydney in 2013.

In 2014, this bespoke version of Tanabata for Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre was the centerpiece of their annual WOW Festival for Children. We delivered an artist residency, workshops with local schools, large-scale immersive art installation, storytelling, hands-on workshops, weaving, and book publication ‘The Story of Tanabata’ by Kathryn Hunyor (words) & Haline Ly (illustrations).

Our role included:
Curatorial & Programming Services
Production and Project Management
Audience Engagement Strategies
Book Publication

Tanabata: Wish Upon A Star With Chaco Kato
Tanabata: Wish Upon A Star With Chaco Kato
Tanabata: Wish Upon A Star With Chaco Kato
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