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Bonsai master brings tiny trees to mountain

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Bonsai expert Gregg Richie will teach the art at MACC beginning Sept. 10. Photo by Katy Mena

After living in California for decades, Scenic City native Gregg Richie is returning to his roots and bringing his bonsai skills to the Mountain Arts Community Center.

The first session of classes begins Sept. 10 and registration is required one week prior to the start date.

“There was always the hope that the thing that I love I could bring back,” said Richie, who first fell in love with bonsai in 1972. “It was an instantaneous connection. It was one of those things you have to learn.”

Bonsai is the art of aesthetic miniaturization of trees. Richie said he was first attracted to bonsai because it encapsulated the beauty of his Tennessee environs in tiny pots, and he believes local students will quickly come to share his affection for the art.

“I think if you go through this class, you will never look at a tree the same way again,” said Richie. “(Students) will have a new skill and perhaps a new appreciation for another horticultural art form.”

MORE INFORMATION

The first session of Gregg Richie’s beginner bonsai class starts Sept. 10 at Mountain Arts Community Center and will continue Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. until Oct. 15. To sign up, register by visiting MACC, calling 886-1959 or e-mailing macc@signalmounta... by Sept. 3. Gregg Richie may be reached at 580-7030.

Richie emphasizes that the beginner class does not require that students have any artistic experience. They simply must possess the desire to learn and the ability to keep a plant alive.

“It’s going to begin on the assumption that nobody has ever experienced bonsai in their life, and we’re going to go from there,” said Richie.

He added that the practice of bonsai develops emotional and spiritual skills as well as artistic abilities, as it encourages students to cultivate patience and inner peace.

Richie, a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of California, Los Angeles, spent several years working as an archaeologist in California before making bonsai his full-time profession. He has studied extensively with bonsai masters such as Ben Oki and Johnny Uchida and served as assistant sensei with the Fuji Bonsai Club in Berkeley, Calif.

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