University of Vermont

Gyotaku Art at Davis Center

Japanese Art by Governor's Institute on Asian Cultures Program on display until January 2012

The Gyotaku Art is located on the fourth floor of the Davis Center. The art was created by high school students from across Vermont using rubber gyotaku fish, sumi ink, and rice paper.


From December 6th to January 28th, the Livak Fireplace Lounge in the Davis Center will host Japanese Gyotaku art created by the 2011 Governor’s Institute on Asian Cultures students. The art display is open to the community.

Each of the 18 breathtaking and original pieces of art were created by high school students from across Vermont during the Summer 2011 Governor’s Institute on Asian Cultures (GIAC) program at UVM campus. The goal of the GIAC program is to help Vermont students learn about Asian art, culture and history.

In Japanese, "gyo" translates to "fish" and "taku" translates to "stone rubbing" which refers to the technique of fish rubbing. Originating in 19th century Japan, gyotaku developed from the need to record the exact size of a trophy catch and evolved into a beautiful art form.

The GIAC art project was lead by Gerry Gatz, curriculum coordinator for the Asian Studies Outreach Program. While the original practice of gyotaku used real fish, Gerry Gatz ensured that no fish were harmed in the creation of the 2011 GIAC art works by using lifelike rubber fish.  Students used brushes to apply traditional sumi ink on the rubber fish before gently pressing down the ink on rice paper.

“Students were able to develop an appreciation of the process of fish printing, which appears simple but actually requires a bit of skill and patience.” Gerry explained. During the summer workshop, students were able to practice creating fish prints, and were asked to select their “best” work to be put on display at the Davis Center.

“Very fun, difficult but fun!” explained one GIAC student of the workshop. All the students had their hands covered in ink that afternoon. Students also gained a deeper appreciation for Japanese culture that day as they were able to listen to a history lecture by UVM professor Erik Esselstrom and learn some Japanese language through a Japanese Pop! music lesson from Megumi Esselstrom.

The Governor's Institute on Asian Cultures is co-sponsored by the Asian Studies Outreach Program at the University of Vermont and the Vermont Governor's Insitute. The GIAC program provides a unique opportunity for Vermont teenagers to learn about Asia and to travel in China over a two-year cycle. High school students interested in learning more about Asia are encouraged to contact the Governor's Institutes of Vermont office for more information.

The Gyotaku Kit is available free of charges for educators across Vermont. For more information on how to reserve the kit, or to arrange a Gyotaku Workshop at your community center, contact Jacqueline Drouin at the Asian Studies Outreach Program at