Sneak Peek: Above the Fold Installation

25 May

There's nothing like opening a new gift. Christina Johnston of International Arts & Artists and JANM's Kelly Gates unpack Robert Lang's Vertical Pond II (2014). All photos by Vicky Murakami-Tsuda unless otherwise noted.

Christina Johnston of International Arts & Artists and JANM’s Kelly Gates unpack Robert Lang’s Vertical Pond II (2014). All photos by Vicky Murakami-Tsuda unless otherwise noted.

 

In just a few short days, JANM will open Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami, an inventive exhibition in which the traditional Japanese art of origami serves as the inspiration for innovative new sculptures, large-scale installations, and conceptual artworks from around the world. Above the Fold is curated by Meher McArthur and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

Join us for the public opening on Sunday, May 29, or Members Only Preview Day on Saturday, May 28. In the meantime, enjoy the photographs that follow, which capture intrepid JANM and IA&A staff working hard to unfold and install the complex artworks in the show.

Condition reports have to be performed on every incoming piece before it gets installed. Here, Christina and JANM's Maggie Wetherbee inspect works by Yuko Nishimura. Photo: Vicky Murakami.

Condition reports have to be performed on every incoming piece before installation. Here, Christina and JANM’s Maggie Wetherbee inspect works by Yuko Nishimura.

Kelly and Christina making sure the origami carp are in good shape. Photo: Vicky Murakami.

Kelly and Christina making sure the origami koi (carp) are in good shape.

With fish successfully installed, Kelly and Christina move on to other objects. Photo: Vicky Murakami.

With fish successfully installed, the crew moves on to other objects.

Maggie figures out how to assemble a work by Miri Golan. Photo: Vicky Murakami.

Maggie checks the condition of a piece by Miri Golan.

Maggie gets some help with Miri Golan's book piece. Photo: Vicky Murakami.

Christina and Kelly installing Miri Golan’s piece.

Clement Hanami and two assistants inspect Paul Jackson's folded digital prints. Photo: Vicky Murakami.

Clement Hanami and two assistants inspect Paul Jackson’s folded digital prints.

Christina lines up Paul Jackson's prints. Photo: Vicky Murakami.

Christina lines up Paul Jackson’s prints.

One of the many pieces that make up Vincent Floderer's large-scale installation, Unidentified Flying Origami (2002-current). Photo: Vicky Murakami.

One of the many pieces that make up Vincent Floderer’s large-scale installation, Unidentified Flying Origami (2002-current).

The crew prepares to install the most challenging piece, Jiangmei Wu's Ruga Swan (2014). Photo by Vicky Murakami.

The crew prepares to install the most challenging piece,
Jiangmei Wu’s Ruga Swan (2014).

Ruga Swan begins to take shape. Photo by Vicky Murakami.

Ruga Swan begins to take shape.

Exhibition curator Meher McArthur, right, stops by to help out. Photo: Carol Cheh.

Exhibition curator Meher McArthur, right, stops by to check on the installation progress. Photo by Carol Cheh.

Several people have to help hold the sculpture in place while others work to secure it. Photo by Vicky Murakami.

Several people have to help hold the sculpture in place while others work to secure it.

tent install 010a

After much effort, the Ruga Swan finally comes together. Photo by Vicky Murakami.

After much effort, the Ruga Swan finally comes together.

The show is almost ready for the public. See you this weekend!

The show is almost ready for the public. See you this weekend!

Go For Broke Embarks on a New Era

18 May

JANM's Historic Building, now home to Go For Broke National Education Center. Photo courtesy Go For Broke.

JANM’s Historic Building, now home to Go For Broke National
Education Center. Photo courtesy Go For Broke.

 

JANM is excited to welcome a new neighbor to its campus. Last fall, following nearly two years of preparation, Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) took up residence in our Historic Building, located across the plaza from the museum’s main building. Founded in 1989, GFBNEC is dedicated to the legacy of World War II American veterans of Japanese ancestry. For the last several months, they have been hard at work fixing up their new offices and installing a new core exhibition, The Defining Courage Experience.

On the eve of their Homecoming Celebration on May 28—an all-day affair that will include family-friendly activities, food, music, and programs—JANM sat down with GFBNEC’s Exhibit Manager, Chris Brusatte, for a brief interview.

JANM: Why is it so critical for future generations to know the story of Japanese American soldiers during World War II?

Chris Brusatte: History repeats itself. This year’s presidential campaign is just the latest example of why we need to remember our history and why we need to prevent our country from giving in to fear, hatred, and prejudice.

The Japanese Americans of World War II—soldiers, their families, those who protested against the government, and others—all acted with courage in the face of bigotry, injustice, and hatred. They stood up for themselves, for their families, for their communities, and for their country—the United States of America. They proved how wrong it was to treat them so horribly.

This must be taught to all future generations, so that we don’t mistreat Arab or Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans, recent immigrants, or any other group that might far too easily be construed as an “other.” The lessons from this history must prevent similar injustices from happening in the present and in the future.

JANM: What is the significance of setting up your new home in JANM’s Historic Building, the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple?

CB: We always tell people that this building is our number one artifact. And that is putting it lightly. The powerful aura that the building holds still takes my breath away. It is an aura tinged with both sadness and remembrance, bittersweet in the way that it symbolizes the history of the Japanese American community in Los Angeles.

As many of your readers might know, the temple was built in 1925 as the first facility in Los Angeles designed specifically to house a Buddhist place of worship. Sadly, during World War II, local Japanese Americans were ordered to assemble outside the temple to be bused away to incarceration camps. The temple held many of these families’ belongings during the war years, keeping them safe until they could return. It still gives me goose bumps to think that generations of kids will get to learn about this powerful and important history in such a sacred place, right where it actually occurred.

A digital rendering of GFBNEC's new Defining Courage exhibition. Image courtesy of Go For Broke.

A digital rendering of GFBNEC’s new Defining Courage exhibition.
Image courtesy of Go For Broke.

 

JANM: Can you explain the concept and design of your new Defining Courage exhibition?

CB: The Defining Courage Experience is a dynamic, engaging, and participatory exhibition that teaches modern audiences to act with courage and character in their own lives. It does this by teaching them the history of the Japanese American World War II experience and how its message can relate to our world today. Through hands-on activities, both high-tech and tactile, visitors learn about the courage, perseverance, sacrifice, and character of the Japanese American soldiers and others during World War II, and they learn how to apply these virtues and personality traits in their own lives today. Our exhibit design team, Quatrefoil Associates out of Maryland, has done a great job building an extraordinary exhibition that includes activities both historic and modern, action-inducing and thought-provoking.

JANM: Please tell us more about how this new exhibition came together.

CB: This exhibition is the creation of literally a thousand people. Our staff traveled to seven cities around the country in the early stages of concept planning, drawing together scores of people in each community. Once back in Southern California, we convened dozens of scholars, dozens of teachers and educators, and scores of high school and college students.

All of these people helped plan our exhibition from the very beginning—the themes, the content, and how we should lay out each activity. This exhibition truly was created by a village. But mostly, I have to thank my coworkers at Go For Broke and the exhibit design firm of Quatrefoil Associates. This core team was incredible, working with passion and intelligence and creativity to bring this unique exhibition into reality.

JANM: What can we expect from the new interpretive center in the coming months and years?

CB: We hope to keep our exhibits up-to-date using modern news pieces, through a collaborative effort with ABC7 Eyewitness News. Each day that you walk into the exhibition, you will experience something new. In the long run, we hope to bring this exhibition to communities around the country, through some sort of traveling exhibit program. We will also be constantly holding public events, such as lectures and veterans’ programs, in our facilities. We are so thankful as well to the staff at the Japanese American National Museum, who have already been so helpful with collaborative programs and events!

Go For Broke’s Homecoming Celebration takes place this Saturday, May 28, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Event admission is free and no RSVP is necessary. Admission to JANM will be “pay what you wish.” For more information, visit goforbroke.org.

Young LA Rap Artist to Kick Off the National Youth Summit on Japanese American Incarceration

12 May

Three generations of the Tenorio family: father Phil, grandmother Sue, grandson Kane, and grandfather Alex. All photos courtesy of Sue Sato-Tenorio.

Three generations of the Tenorio family: father Phil, grandmother Sue, grandson Kane, and grandfather Alex. All photos courtesy of Sue Sato-Tenorio.

 

Kane Yutaka Tenorio, a college student and rap artist also known as “Kamikaze Kane,” was born in East Los Angeles in 1997. A young man of mixed Latino, Japanese, Native American, and white ancestry, Kane enjoys a close relationship with his extended family, including his grandmother Sue Sato-Tenorio, an educator and longtime friend of JANM.

As a youth, Kane spent a lot of time at his family’s three historic Boyle Heights homes, where he was able to learn about their history firsthand. His great-great-grandmother on his father’s side was a physician who practiced out of her house. She was also diabetic; when she was incarcerated at Poston by the US government during World War II, she became very ill due to lack of care and medication. Kane’s grandma Sue was born at the camp, along with her older brother. Although the family was lucky enough to retrieve their homes when the war was over, they lost their thriving businesses and virtually everything else.

Sue's parents, Jack Yutaka and Clara Sato.

Sue’s parents, Jack Yutaka and Clara Sato.

The real impact of these stories was not lost on Kane, who was an active participant in family discussions as a child. As he grew older, he took up the study of music, eventually writing and recording original rap songs, which were inspired by his own experiences and world events. Today he performs his material, which frequently addresses race and social justice, in venues throughout Southern California.

This Tuesday, May 17, at 10 a.m. PDT, JANM is proud to host the latest edition of the Smithsonian’s National Youth Summit, which will focus on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Kane’s rap song “9066,” will be played to kick off the summit, after which a panel of dynamic speakers will address the history and legacy of the incarceration. (For more information about the Summit, click here.)

Kane Yutaka Tenorio, aka "Kamikaze Kane"

Kane Yutaka Tenorio, aka “Kamikaze Kane”

 

Kane’s song is both a stirring protest against injustice and a loving tribute to the resiliency of his family, whose stories are woven throughout. In his grandma Sue’s words: “I am so proud that Kane has written this rap not only about my experience, but the collective experiences of thousands of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in the United States of America. To me, his song is about the trajectory of injustice, and the terrible human consequences of our government’s illegal incarceration of people solely due to race.”

The museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum will host a full house of students and educators for this important edition of the National Youth Summit. Among the audience members will be three generations of the Tenorio family, including Kane and Sue. In addition, educators and their classrooms around the globe are invited to participate via a live webcast of the event; so far, the event has received registrations for more than 2,000 students from 42 states, the District of Columbia, France, and Canada.

It’s not too late to register your class for what will surely be a lively and engaging event. The Youth Summit website offers many useful educator resources, such as lesson plans and conversation kits, that can be downloaded. After the event concludes, the Smithsonian will archive it along with past Youth Summits on this webpage, where they are available for viewing at any time.

Sue and Alex Tenorio

Sue and Alex Tenorio

Warren Sata Pays Tribute to Japanese American Photographers with Moss on the Mirror

4 May

J. T. Sata, Untitled (Portrait), 1928, gelatin silver print. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family. Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.

J. T. Sata, Untitled (Portrait), 1928, gelatin
silver print. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family. Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.

This Saturday, May 7, at 2 p.m., JANM will present a dramatic reading of Moss on the Mirror, a fictional play inspired by the life and work of renowned photographer Toyo Miyatake. Taking place in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district in the late 1920s and early 1930s, where Miyatake’s practice flourished before World War II, the play examines the creativity, hope, and optimism, as well as the struggles and challenges, of the Japanese immigrant photographers community.

Although not a literal retelling of actual events, the piece seeks to transport audiences to the feelings and circumstances of those times. Moss on the Mirror was written by Warren Sata, whose paternal grandfather was J.T. Sata (1896–1975), a featured photographer (along with Miyatake) in the current exhibition Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920–1940. To learn more about the play, we conducted a brief interview with Sata via email.

JANM: What does the title Moss on the Mirror refer to?

Warren Sata: The title refers to the notion that we understand ourselves and our communities through reflection, or looking in the mirror. The moss evokes a clouded mirror, alluding to the influence of outside circumstances like poverty and racism.

JANM: What inspired you to write this play?

WS: The story of Los Angeles’ Issei photographers has fascinated me and inspired my imagination since I learned about them from my father some years ago. A conversation with actor/director Chris Tashima, who serves as the play’s director, helped me to recognize the importance of Toyo Miyatake’s journey toward becoming a pillar of the community. I began to understand the value of artistry and responsibility in a different way, which led me to take an interest in sketching the story of Japanese Americans photographers and their interests and practices prior to the WWII incarceration.

J. T. Sata, Untitled (Ice Cream Cones), 1930, gelatin silver print. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family. Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.

J. T. Sata, Untitled (Ice Cream Cones), 1930, gelatin silver print.
Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.
Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.

 

JANM: What is your favorite image by a Japanese American photographer, and why?

WS: I am drawn to an abstract self-portrait created by my grandfather, J.T. Sata, which is currently on display in Making Waves. It utilizes triangles and a photographic image of his face. The interplay between a realistic portrait and an abstract prepared background fascinates me; it seems to suggest a doorway between the real world and subjective experience. This allows for a dialogue between these worlds and gives value to the notion of participating in both. I enjoy this because it pushes me to understand the Issei experience and what that might have felt like.

JANM: What do you hope audiences will get out of the dramatic reading?

WS: I hope that audience members will be motivated to honor the contributions of the Issei photographic pioneers, but also to consider what their experiences were like in the 1920s and ’30s—their creativity, their principles, their aesthetics, and the culture and context of the times.

Moss on the Mirror is free with museum admission, but RSVPs are recommended.

Celebrate Civil Rights Activist Minoru Yasui’s 100th Birthday

28 Apr

Minoru Yasui

Minoru Yasui

This Saturday, April 30 at 2 p.m., JANM will present a special event titled Civil Rights Today: The Legacy of Minoru Yasui. Featuring a variety of speakers as well as an excerpt from the documentary film Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice, the event commemorates what would have been the renowned civil rights activist’s 100th birthday, as well as the 74th anniversary of his voluntary arrest in protest against Executive Order 9066. The event is currently sold out. If you were not able to get a ticket, you can still celebrate his birthday by reflecting on his life and work.

Minoru “Min” Yasui was a young Nisei attorney in Oregon during World War II when he violated the military curfew imposed upon all persons of Japanese ancestry in order to bring a test case to court. He lost that case in the US Supreme Court, but nearly 40 years later he reopened it as part of the coram nobis litigation brought by young Sansei attorneys in 1983. Yasui’s criminal conviction was overturned by the federal court in 1986, and two years later, Congress finally acknowledged the government’s mistake with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Recognized posthumously by President Obama with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Yasui was not only a key player in two different eras of struggle, but also an outspoken, deeply committed activist all his life, working tirelessly for the human and civil rights of all people.

Yasui’s life and activism are well documented. You can read his full biography in the Densho Encyclopedia. Visit the Minoru Yasui Tribute Project to learn more about the upcoming tribute event and various related activities. On JANM’s Discover Nikkei website, there are a number of first-person essays about Yasui, including a remembrance by his daughter Holly Yasui, an account of the making of the documentary film, and a reflection on Yasui’s legacy by Gil Asakawa. Finally, at the JANM Store, you can pick up a copy of the book The Japanese American Cases: The Rule of Law in Time of War, which tells the story of four brave Nisei who stood up to challenge the legality of Japanese American incarceration—Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and Mitsuye Endo.

Diary of a Nisei Week Princess, Part Five: The Trip to Hawai‘i!

20 Apr

The 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court visit Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui at the Hawai‘i State Capitol.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court visit Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui at the Hawai‘i State Capitol.

 

As I sit here back at my desk, I’m daydreaming about my week in Hawai‘i with my fellow 2015 Nisei Week Court members, our parents, the Nisei Week Hospitality Committee, the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court, the 2015 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee. It was a week filled with ono (delicious) food, warm beaches, and the nicest people on the island.

Princess Camryn Sugita with her parents at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.

Princess Camryn Sugita with her parents at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.

 

As soon as we landed in Honolulu, we were greeted by the local Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee, who immediately felt like family. After we checked into the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, we went straight to the beach, in spite of the fact that it was raining. Later that evening, we joined the 2015 Cherry Blossom Courts from Hawai‘i and San Francisco and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Hospitality Committee for dinner.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court express their love for the islands.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court express their love for the islands.

 

Saturday, March 26 was the big event that we came to town for: the Festival Ball and coronation ceremony, where 15 contestants competed to become the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court. It was the first time I witnessed a coronation (besides our own), and unlike at Nisei Week, only six of the 15 contestants were selected as the Queen and Court.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court donned local-style garb for this visit to Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court donned local-style garb
for this visit to Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio.

 

It was nerve-wracking to watch these women perform taiko, walk in evening gowns, recite their speeches, walk in kimonos, and answer an impromptu question on stage. It was hard to believe I was in a similar position just seven months ago. All of the women did an amazing job and their months of training paid off. At the end of the night, we congratulated everyone and took photos with the newly crowned Queen and Court. We even met the Governor of Hawai‘i, David Ige! It was an exciting time to say the least.

The newly crowned 2016 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, with the 2015 Nisei Week Court behind them.

The newly crowned 2016 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court,
with the 2015 Nisei Week Court behind them.

 

The next couple of days were filled with exploring the island of O‘ahu with the San Francisco Court and the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee. We climbed to the top of Diamond Head, ate Waiola Shave Ice (my favorite), ate loco moco at Rainbow Drive-In, competed against our parents in the Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze (the parents won), enjoyed shrimp scampi at the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, and tried Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore. Our bellies and hearts were constantly full.

A Dole Whip straight from the source, with li hing powder on top!

A Dole Whip straight from the source, with li hing powder on top!

 

On Tuesday we made our official visits to City Hall and the State Capitol. We learned about the history and culture of Hawai‘i and met with Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui and Roy Amemiya, Managing Director of the City and County of Honolulu. We then visited Menehune Mac, a local confectioner, and KoAloha Ukulele, whose proprietors have led several popular ukulele workshops at JANM. At the Menehune Mac factory, we learned how they make their macadamia chocolates and then we made a box of our own! At KoAloha Ukulele, we made a ukulele keychain and listened to some Hawaiian tunes. I gained a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of the islands.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court with Roy Amemiya, Managing Director of the City and County of Honolulu.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court with Roy Amemiya, Managing Director
of the City and County of Honolulu.

The owner of Menehune Mac shows how it's done.

The owner of Menehune Mac shows how it’s done.

 

For some members of the San Francisco and Los Angeles contingents, Wednesday was the last day to enjoy paradise. The rest of us, however, spent a few more days shopping, going to the beach, climbing Koko Head Crater, eating more food, and hitting the town with the Hawai‘i Court before going back home on Sunday. We also managed to make some guest appearances on the Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio, who interviewed us about our festivals back home.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Hawai'i Cherry Blossom Festival Court savor their beach time in Hawai‘i.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Hawai’i
Cherry Blossom Festival Court savor their beach time in Hawai‘i.

 

Nine days have never gone by faster than my time in Honolulu for the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival. We created unforgettable memories and lasting friendships with our sister organizations. I am forever indebted to the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee for planning an incredible week. I can’t wait until they come to LA for this year’s Nisei Week Japanese Festival, when I can reciprocate the spirit of aloha. Mahalo plenty to my new ohana!

Sunrise at Koko Head Crater.

Sunrise at Koko Head Crater.

Guess Who Killed the Origamist and Win a Signed Copy of Naomi Hirahara’s New Novel

13 Apr

sayonara-slam-175Naomi Hirahara is an acclaimed writer who is best known for her award-winning mystery novels. The popular and long-running Mas Arai series features an aging, widowed Japanese American gardener from Altadena who solves mysteries in his spare time.

In Summer of the Big Bachi, the first Mas Arai mystery published in 2004, Mas reaches a crossroads in his life and has to deal with unresolved secrets from his past. The novel was praised not only for being a riveting mystery, but for accurately capturing the nuances of Japanese American life.

Sayonara Slam, the highly anticipated sixth book in the Mas Arai series, will be published in May. Set at Dodger Stadium during the Japan vs. Korea World Baseball Classic, the novel challenges its stoic protagonist with yet another multi-layered whodunit. Who is that strange woman throwing knuckleball pitches to warm up the Japanese team? Who sent thugs to threaten Mas and accuse him of treason? What was in the deleted files on the murdered sportswriter’s computer, and did they hold secrets that led to his death?

Want to win a signed copy of Hirahara’s new novel? Simply visit our Discover Nikkei website, where we are publishing an exclusive, original, serialized story by Hirahara called Death of an Origamist. Start with Chapter 1 and read through to the recently posted Chapter 9, at the end of which you will see our contest announcement. Guess who the killer is, and post your answer in the comments section of Chapter 9. Hirahara will randomly select the winner from those who guess correctly. It’s a win-win situation: you get a shot at winning a free signed book while reading a free, original murder mystery by an award-winning author!

Guesses must be posted in the comments section of Chapter 9 in order to be entered in the contest. You must state the murderer’s name, and you must submit your guess no later than Tuesday, May 3, 2016, at midnight PDT. The winner will be announced when Chapter 11 is published. The winner will be contacted via the email address used to register/comment on the Discover Nikkei site. If no response is received within 10 days, another winner will be selected. Please note that only residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia are eligible to enter this contest.

Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara

On Saturday, May 21, at 2 p.m., join us for an author discussion with Naomi Hirahara, in which she will read from and discuss Sayonara Slam. JANM members also have the opportunity to attend an intimate pre-event meet-and-greet with Hirahara at 1 p.m. Space is limited; RSVP by May 16 to memberevents@janm.org or 213.830.5646.

Select books by Naomi Hirahara are available for purchase at janmstore.com.

A Getty Intern’s Tale

6 Apr

Applications for the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Summer Internships at the Japanese American National Museum are due on April 27! If you are considering applying, read on for one former intern’s story of how the experience changed her life.

A communications major, an art major, and an English major walk into a bar…

2011 Getty interns Yuiko Sugino, Alexa Kim, and Alyctra Matsushita, in front of a wall drawing by Stan Sakai.

2011 Getty interns Yuiko Sugino, Alexa Kim, and Alyctra Matsushita, in front of a wall drawing by Stan Sakai.

What sounds like the beginning of a bad joke was my college reality. Living in a house of Humanities and Social Science majors, my roommates and I spent four years worrying not just about term papers and printer cards, but also about student loans and postgraduate careers. As optimistic freshmen, we joked that upon graduation we would all live in cardboard box mansions, as that would be all we could afford. But as graduation loomed nearer, we said it more frequently through gritted teeth.

Then, in my junior year I learned about the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship, available at the Japanese American National Museum as well as numerous other museums throughout Southern California. It sounded promising on all counts. I was attending UC Santa Barbara, and returning to Los Angeles for a cool internship sounded much better than the alternative of slopping meals at my student job in the campus dining commons. I also liked the idea of putting “Getty Intern” in big, bold letters on a résumé that boasted little more than my previously mentioned cafeteria duties. And perhaps most important of all, it was PAID!

After eagerly filling out the application, getting my letters of recommendation, and sacrificing a lamb or two, I learned that I was chosen to be JANM’s 2011 Media Arts Intern. Although excited, I was also a little wary and hoped I wouldn’t be a glorified coffee runner, coming home with fingers bloodied by paper cuts and blackened from fixing toner cartridge jams. But I figured at the very least, I’d have ten weeks in Little Tokyo surrounded by all the mochi ice cream I could get my hands on.

I can still remember my first day, five years ago. I was immediately introduced to the two other Getty interns, who were assigned to the curatorial and production departments. We all squished together on a pale leather sofa in a bright room called the Takei Lounge, nervously awaiting further instructions and making awkward small talk. Then, after a quick orientation, we dove into our jobs as museum interns.

Alyctra Matsushita, right, with Discover Nikkei interns Maya Kochiyama and Krista Chavez. Photo courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

Alyctra Matsushita, right, with Discover Nikkei interns Maya Kochiyama
and Krista Chavez. Photo courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

 

As cliché as it sounds, the ten weeks in Media Arts flew by as I learned many new skills. I spent Saturdays filming public programs, meeting speakers that included baseball players and sports executives, hearing poetry readings, and learning the history of kamaboko (fish cake)—with samples! I got a VIP invitation to the Japanese Consul General’s home. I was suddenly able to grab a camera, shoot some videotape, and use Final Cut Pro to edit my own film. I learned basic Photoshop, and could create a real DVD with all the bells and whistles. Yet, as résumé-ready as these skills were, it was the experience and the interactions with people at the museum that were most life-changing.

I met staff and volunteers who had passion for the same things that I had passion for—brilliant people who cared about Japanese American history and culture, who understood the beauty of books and the knowledge they held. I met academics whose texts I had studied. I met people who could (and had) designed exhibitions from the ground up. One of my fellow Getty interns learned about the mysteries that could be unearthed in a pile of artifacts with a pair of white gloves, while the other experimented with wall vinyls and paints, learning how to make research come to life.

During a summer 2011 public program, Frank Kawana demonstrates how to make kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) by hand.

During a summer 2011 public program, Frank Kawana demonstrates
how to make kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) by hand.

 

In those ten quick weeks, I gained a new skill set, a few extra pounds from all the mochi ice cream and snacks, and most importantly, the knowledge that there is a brick-and-mortar set of walls that houses (and pays!) people who care about the same things I care about. When I left, I still didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with my postgraduate life, but I had a much stronger idea of where I might like to be.

In 2014, when I got a call from my amazing Media Arts supervisor about a temporary position in the museum store, I jumped at the opportunity to get my foot back in the door. Since then, I’ve managed to turn that temp gig into a full-time job, taking on a combination of Development, JANM Store, and Visitor Services duties. I’ve connected and reconnected with dozens of wonderful people, met the great George Takei (friend of the museum and the namesake of the lounge where I met my fellow interns back on that first day), and found a real home in this little JANM family.

For details on the available internships and how to apply, visit our Jobs page.

Film Examines Chinese Immigrant History from Women’s Perspectives

30 Mar

This past Saturday, in honor of Women’s History Month, JANM held a screening of the new documentary film, To Climb a Gold Mountain. The film recounts key moments in the history of Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the experiences of Chinese women. Extensive commentary from writers and historians (including past JANM guest speaker Lisa See) is used to tell the stories, along with period stock footage, vintage photographs, and—in the case of a 19th-century prostitute about whom very little is known—a gripping reenactment.

Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The film begins on a dark note, recounting the squalid and abusive conditions endured by the first female Chinese immigrants, who primarily served as prostitutes for the bachelor society of Chinese men that worked to build the railroads. Conditions slowly improved as laws changed to allow these men to start families in the U.S.

The rise of the filmmaking industry comes into play next as the life of Anna May Wong, a talented and charismatic actress who pioneered Asian American representation in popular media, is examined. In spite of her widely acknowledged abilities, Wong suffered a bitter disappointment when she lost the lead role in the landmark 1937 production of The Good Earth to Caucasian actress Luise Rainer, who, along with lead actor Paul Muni, played the role in “yellowface.”

The appearance of the glamorous, articulate, Wellesley-educated Soong Mei-ling, who became a world power player when she married Chinese president Chiang Kai-Shek, signifies a historic shift in U.S.-China relations as well as a significant shift in how Chinese people were viewed by the American public. The film ends on a positive and reaffirming note with a profile of Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, who states unequivocally her continuing belief in the American dream.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with producer and co-director Rebecca Hu, who was brought on to the project by the film’s director and executive producer, Alex Azmi. As a Chinese Canadian, the topic of the film resonated with Hu, but she did not know about most of the women being profiled. Thus, the making of the film was an educational experience for her. She noted that the issues highlighted in the film—such as discrimination against Asians and lack of visibility in the media—are still relevant today, and drew a parallel with recent discussions about the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards.

Hu also shared the good news that To Climb Gold Mountain has been picked up by PBS SoCal. A shorter version of the film that screened at JANM on Saturday—cut to fit PBS’s guidelines—will air beginning on May 17.

To find out more about this film, visit the website, which includes a fascinating gallery of notable Chinese American women, including many who are not featured in the film.

Putting the Spotlight on Writers of Color

24 Mar

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Although today’s cultural landscape is much more diverse than it was 20 or 30 years ago, with a broader array of viewpoints represented in popular media and fine art, artists and writers of color still find themselves struggling to achieve as much visibility as their mainstream white counterparts. Recent events such as the celebrated launch of Fresh Off the Boat, the first Asian American network sitcom in over 20 years, and the lively dialogues that took place around the #OscarsSoWhite controversy reveal that cultural diversity is still an evolving and hotly debated topic in this country.

In 2015, the #LITinCOLOR initiative was launched as a way to spotlight the works of writers of color, particularly those of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent. Three small, well-respected publishers based in Los Angeles—Kaya Press, Tia Chucha Press, and Writ Large Press—came together to “bring attention to vital voices of color and social engagement in literature.”

After years of publishing innovative works by a diverse spectrum of authors, the #LITinCOLOR initiative gave them a distinctive way to branch out and reach new audiences by hosting readings and other events in a variety of locations. The founders credited recent grassroots movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, and #WeNeedDiverseBooks for inspiration.

This coming Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m., join us for a special #LITinCOLOR event, held to coincide with the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, taking place this year in Los Angeles. An evening of readings by poets and novelists from various communities and generations will celebrate the invention and imagination of writers of color who seek to represent realities that lie outside of the mainstream imagination.

Featured writers will include April Naoko Heck, author of the poetry collection A Nuclear Family; Naomi Hirahara, author of the forthcoming mystery novel Sayonara Slam; traci kato-kiriyama, founder of Tuesday Night Project; Leza Lowitz, poet, author, and translator of Ayukawa Nobuo’s America and Other Poems; Japanese-New Zealander singer-songwriter Kat McDowell; David Mura, poet and author of The Last Incantations and Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei; and Gene Oishi, the renowned Nisei journalist who published his first novel, Fox Drum Bebop, when he was in his eighties. Fox Drum Bebop is the winner of the 2016 Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Creative Writing in Prose.

This event is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by Kaya Press, Kundiman, Tia Chucha Press, Writ Large Press, and Tuesday Night Project. For a complete listing of past and upcoming #LITinCOLOR events, click here.