Correction: This story has been modified from its original version. — This article has been modified from its original version to more accurately reflect Jane Vance's status as an instructor here at Tech. The Collegiate Times regrets this error.
Her many travels have literally filled her home. Her first trip to the southern parts of Asia, which is well represented in the crevices of her walls, began in 1985. Although she didn’t know anyone who had ventured there, she decided to visit India for the first time to visit a friend from graduate school.
“I’ve never stopped going back,” she said.
It took her a visit or two to go further north to Nepal, where she discovered the Tibetan culture, which she describes as “in exile.”
By this she is referring to Tibet’s invasion by communist China 50 years ago, an occupation that still stands today. The Dalai Lama is Tibet’s spiritual and governmental leader, who had to flee Tibet and find refuge in India’s mountains. Although he is now 76 years old, the Dalai Lama has not been able to go home for half a century.
“It is a very sad story. The world knows it, but tends to forget because it’s been with us for so long, but I don’t forget. The Tibetans I know are the free ones,” Vance said. “But, because of this, they can really only practice Tibetan Buddhism or Tibetan thinking outside of Tibet.”
Although this saddens her, Vance’s face lit up when she spoke of the Tibetan’s place of refuge, Nepal, which is less than 1 percent of the world’s landmass, about the size of Tennessee.
“It was almost as if an invisible thread was pulling me, and it was just a tug, a tug, a tug, and I’ve been painting about it for decades now,” she said.
Vance admires Nepal’s varied landscape, which includes the tallest mountains in the world, a moonscape, tremendous rivers, a tropical forest and malarial jungles.
“The minute I return I can’t wait to go back, although this is also my home,” she said. “I have the same feeling about the mountains of Virginia.”
She described the Himalayan region as one of the happiest cultures of the 30 different countries she has been to. In that part of the world, everything that is given is not lost.
“They do not indulge in the anxieties and grumpy behavior as easily. Their culture teaches them to not waste precious chances to love, and to do service,” Vance said.
Nepal is rugged, at times dangerous and far from luxurious, but it is, as a destination, “spiritually clear — crystal clear.”
The greatest knowledge Vance gained from her travels concerns how she lives her own life.
“There are ways for other hearts to carry your grief. There are reasons for suffering but there are also reasons to celebrate,” she said. “These people have taught me that there is no time to waste. You always have a choice to become passive, to go into a sort of personal paralysis in your life, or you can build something, you can make something that will tell a story, or that will serve another heart. That choice is in every single moment.”
She hopes to convey all of these things in “A Gift for the Village.” What Vance finds “miraculous” about the whole process of creating the documentary, is that she and her co-producers had a vision and they were able to document it from the time of its inception, all the way up until its conclusion. Vance’s friend and videographer, Tech alumna Jenna Swann, captured the painting from its very first brushstroke.
“I didn’t know it was going to be a documentary,” Swann said, “but I saw this artist with amazing stories and talent.”
But there is yet another reason the documentary is so meaningful to Vance.
As part of her course at Tech, the creative process, Vance has her students come to her house. She makes them dinner and does a lesson on something she calls “visual yoga.”
During the last three years of filming, she had her students videotaped both at her house and in the classroom, and the footage was included in the documentary.
“As it happens, in both the shooting in this room and on campus, my front row girl, Morgan Harrington, was in those shots,” she said.