Every fall, new sculptures take over the Wara Art Festival in Japan. This annual event is a collaboration with Masashino Art University, in which art students help dispose of unused straw from the rice harvest (wara in Japanese). Rather than let it go to waste, the participants create massive structures based on a theme.
This year, the installations were inspired by Echigo no Umi, or the “Sea of Echigo,” which refers to the water surrounding an old province equivalent to modern-day Niigata. As such, all of the artworks have a close relationship to the sea. There is a group of three dolphins, two of whom are constructed so that they appear to be diving into the ground, s though they’re swimming through waves. Additionally, the students built a large octopus with tentacles splayed in different directions. Lastly, there is a crested ibis—called a toki in Japanese—which has a close relationship to the sea and is a symbol of Niigata.
To construct these monumental sculptures, the organizers first created wooden structures. This base helps them attach the rice straw and keep it secure. The festival shared the hand-drawn illustrations that inspired these fantastic pieces.
The 2023 Wara Art Festival is officially held on October 7, but the sculptures are on view at Uwasekigata Park until the end of October. You can also see the work from previous festivals in their online gallery.