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Olympic Athlete-Turned-Artist Blends Two Passions At Tokyo Games

woman rowing
Kelly Salchow MacArthur
Kelly Salchow MacArthur (front) competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games

A two-time Olympic veteran from Michigan is participating in this year’s summer games in Tokyo. 

She’s not returning as an athlete, but as an artist.

Kelly Salchow MacArthur competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 games in Athens as a member of the U.S. National Women’s Rowing Team.

She now works as a professor of graphic design at Michigan State University.

Salchow MacArthur says she has always loved athletics and the arts, and she is blending those passions as one of six Olympic Artists-in-Residence displaying pieces at the summer games in Tokyo.

art piece with word joy in english and japanese
Credit Courtesy / Kelly Salchow MacArthur

"This Olympic installation has been the perfect way to finally pull those two parts of my personality into one cohesive whole,” Salchow MacArthur said.

Salchow MacArthur created graphic designs on five traditional Noren curtains.

They're typically 10 x 4 foot pieces of fabric hung in many shop entrances in Japan.

Each of her panels symbolizes an Olympic ideal: joy, peace, honor, hope and sport.

Credit Courtesy / Kelly Salchow MacArthur

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Salchow MacArthur from traveling to Tokyo to showcase her art in person.

Instead, she’s participating virtually from her home in Ann Arbor.

On Monday, she will host an online workshop where fellow artists can share their thoughts and techniques.

art piece with word honor in english and japanese
Credit Courtesy / Kelly Salchow MacArthur

Salchow MacArthur said she relishes every opportunity to talk about the Olympics, and she looks back fondly on her days as a competitive rower.

Now, she’s grateful for this unique moment to make a new contribution to the games.

art piece with word hope in english and japanese
Credit Courtesy / Kelly Salchow MacArthur

“My athletic Olympic experience was 20 years ago, and now to be able to come back to it, now as a designer, not as an athlete, but to really feel like I’m a part of that global community is so exciting,” she said. “I’m thrilled!”

The Olympic Games run through Aug. 8.

art piece with word sport in english and japanese
Credit Courtesy / Kelly Salchow MacArthur

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