- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - It takes artisans in a small village in Thailand somewhere between two and 10 years to handcraft their wood carvings and sculptures, a skill and tradition passed down for generations.

In the past decade, however, interest in their artwork has dwindled, causing the tradition to fade.

Purdue University professor Chad Allred and about a dozen of his students in the Krannert School of Management traveled last summer to Baan Tawai village in Thailand, working with North-Chiang Mai University to help the artisans develop their businesses in the 21st century.

“What is the brand? Who are the key audiences that want to know?” Allred told the Journal & Courier (https://on.jconline.com/1yrK7GW ) in a phone interview Monday. “And so we’re identifying who those audiences and they range anywhere from wood workers who would be interested in owning the art to art collectors who want to preserve the art.”

North-Chiang Mai President Narong Chavasint visited Westwood Manor recently to present an intricate wood sculpture in gratitude of the project and the students, who will return to Thailand this summer to help further build the Baan Tawai economy.

“We are grateful that Purdue has established this partnership … to identify how we might work together to revitalize the declining economy of Baan Tawai, one of Thailand’s national treasures,” Chavasint said during the reception.

The wood sculpture was of the Anon fish, which Purdue President Mitch Daniels said symbolizes swimming against the current.

“We’re trying to swim against the current in devising new and better ways to teach and to create great citizens and workers and leaders who will keep on learning the rest of their lives,” he said.

Krannert student Xavier Thompson wanted to extend the initiative outside the classroom, so he helped form the Baan Tawai Student Organization. He said the efforts are beginning to scratch the surface of economic change.

“We are beginning to build that level of business and infrastructure they have not seen before,” he said before the reception. “Kind of bringing the marketing concepts of American business over there to set them up better to serve themselves and to serve their community.”

The Anon fish sculpture will remain on display at Westwood, Daniels said.

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Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com

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