Visual Communications Evolves with the Times

Founded in 1970, Visual Communications (VC) was the first nonprofit organization in the country dedicated to supporting the creation, presentation, and preservation of media works by Asian Pacific American people. On the eve of the 31st edition of their Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, taking place April 23–30, we checked in with Francis Cullado, VC’s Interim Executive Director, and Milton Liu, VC’s Director of Programs and Artist Services, about the state of Asian Pacific American media arts today.

Fresh Off the Boat panel at the 2014 Conference for Creative Content (C3), with with moderator Amy Hill (actor), Randall Park (star), Nahnatchka Khan (showrunner), Melvin Mar (executive producer), and Samie Kim Falvey (Executive Vice President, Comedy Development, ABC).
Fresh Off the Boat panel at the 2014 Conference for Creative Content (C3), with
moderator Amy Hill (actor), Randall Park (star), Nahnatchka Khan (showrunner), Melvin Mar (executive producer), and Samie Kim Falvey (Executive Vice President, Comedy Development, ABC). Photo courtesy Visual Communications.

 

JANM: The world of media arts has changed so much since 1970, and of course, VC has evolved along with it. What would you say are the most significant developments or changes that have occurred at VC in the last 10 years or so?

Francis Cullado: Widespread technological advances have empowered more people to become creative artists. At VC, we’ve developed our programs to utilize new technologies and processes to create digital stories. Gone are the days of expensive media, and with greater accessibility, we can create programs to capture and nurture digital storytellers.

Milton Liu: The media landscape has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Now, you can shoot a film on your iPhone and upload content directly to your YouTube/Vimeo page. Because of this, we’ve seen a surge of content that’s available through non-traditional channels, and a decrease in audiences for movie theaters and appointment television. For this reason, VC continues to focus on diverse year-round programs, such as the Armed with a Camera Fellowship for emerging artists and the Digital Histories program of short films created by senior citizens.

The Conference for Creative Content (C3), the premier entertainment media conference that happens as part of the annual festival, delves into a myriad of traditional and nontraditional topics with leading content creators and executives. For instance, past panels have included Sustaining Your Online Audience, Writing for Diverse Characters in TV, and Transitioning from Film to Video Games. Media continues to evolve and we understand the need for Visual Communications to remain at the forefront of this change.

Opening night at the 2014 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Photo courtesy Visual Communications.
Opening night at the 2014 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
Photo courtesy Visual Communications.

 

JANM: APA visibility in the media seems to be growing steadily, getting a big boost recently with the hit TV show, Fresh Off the Boat. What do you think are the important next steps for the community in terms of building and maintaining media presence?

ML: The next steps for the community are to keep pressing to have APAs not only in front of the camera, but behind it. Furthermore, the percentage of APA actors, writers and directors in TV and film still doesn’t come close to matching the percentage of APAs in the American population. Keep fighting to have APAs represented! People of color make up huge audiences that spend our money on film and TV—speak with your wallet!

FC: Keep supporting APAs in media, and keep demanding more! To quote our fellow staffer Abraham Ferrer, for every production highlighting Asian Americans “that crows about diverse casting, there are at least 20 more in which people of color simply don’t exist.” The discourse that Fresh Off the Boat has created and will continue to create has many complexities that revolve around race, ethnicity, and culture, and that’s great. But just because we’ve progressed to a point that is different from where we started, it doesn’t mean that it’s where we want and/or need to be.

For more information about Visual Communications and the upcoming Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, please visit vconline.org.

Target Free Family Saturday: Ukulele fun & Valentine crafts!

Feb target crafts

Aloha! Are you ready? It’s the first Target Free Family Saturday of 2014 and we are excited to see you!!

On Saturday, January 8th from 11am – 4pm, we’ll be celebrating Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele, who will be leading performances, workshops, crafts, and all things ukulele…and it’s all FREE! (If you have an ukulele, be sure to bring it to join in the fun.)

A full schedule for the day can be found here.

Not only is Hawaii on our minds, but, we’re also thinking about Valentine’s Day which is right around the corner. All kids can come and think sweet thoughts as they construct a candy lei. We will also have a variety of supplies available for you to make Valentine cards. It’s going to be a fun one so we hope you can join us!

 

 

Natsumatsuri: Yukata

800px-Girls_in_kimonos
Photo: Chris Gladis

What better way to get into the spirit of summer festivals than with some new duds? Try on a yukata with the help of Suehiro Kimono Agency and get your photo taken at our Natsumatsuri Family Festival this weekend on Saturday, August 10!

Yukata are traditional Japanese garments for both men and women. Unlike kimono, they are worn for casual occasions, especially during the summer for special events such as obon or firework displays. They are unlined and made of cotton—making them nice and cool for those long, hot days.

In Heian-era Japan, court nobles wore linen yukata after bathing, a practice later adopted by the public with the popularization of public baths. Today, they are often brightly colored with fun patterns such as florals or geometric designs. Many young women coordinate their yukata color with that of their obi, or sash—some even wearing a more transparent obi on top for decoration. Some go all out and also wear geta, or traditional wooden clogs, and a kanzashi, a cute hair ornament.

2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival
FREE ALL DAY!
Saturday, August 10, 2013
11AM – 5PM

2PM – 5PM: Try on a yukata and have your picture taken!
Suehiro Kimono Agency will dress you in a yukata so you can have a special picture to take home! Yukata are traditional light Japanese garments worn during the summer to keep cool.

For full schedule of activities: janm.org/natsumatsuri2013

Natsumatsuri: Taiko

While the Museum prepares for Natsumatsuri on Saturday, August 10th, we thought we’d get everyone pumped by putting a spotlight on some of the upcoming activities! Look forward to more of these posts explaining several Natsumatsuri traditions.

Hal Keimi is a long-time JANM volunteer who leads interactive taiko demonstrations for school tours throughout the year. He led 2 taiko sessions at Oshogatsu Family Festival
Hal Keimi is a long-time JANM volunteer who leads interactive taiko demonstrations for school tours and family festival events throughout the year

Anyone who’s been a regular visitor to Little Tokyo has likely seen—or heard—a taiko group perform. If you haven’t, there will be several chances to at this year’s Natsumatsuri! Museum docent Hal Keimi will be teaching taiko, followed by a performance to cap off the day by the L.A. Matsuri Taiko group.

Taiko, or Japanese drums, have grown into a variety of percussion instruments. Taiko can also refer to the art of Japanese ensemble drumming with many different instruments and performers—specifically known as kumi-daiko. Performances can last from five to 25 minutes.

Taiko in America really began in the 1960s, when the first kumi-daiko group was formed in San Francisco. That first group soon lead to two more, one in San Jose and the other right here in Los Angeles. These three original groups built their own drums, created their own costumes, and wrote their own music.

The ranks swelled and diversified to over 250 groups in North America today, who perform not just at festivals but also in colleges, auditoriums, and movie soundtracks.

Check out this video of LA Matsuri Taiko performing at the Valley Japanese Community Center Obon Festival!

 

(Video: odorigirl)

2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival
FREE ALL DAY!
Saturday, August 10, 2013
11AM – 5PM

11:30AM & 12:30PM: Taiko Demonstrations
Taiko is a Japanese American tradition! Learn how to play taiko drums with JANM docent Hal Keimi

4:30PM: Taiko Performance
Enjoy a fun taiko performance by L.A. Matsuri Taiko!

For full schedule of activities: janm.org/natsumatsuri2013

* * * * *

The Watase Media Arts Center produced a DVD about taiko in the United States in conjunction with the 2005 Big Drum exhibition. Purchase it from the Museum Store >>

Natsumatsuri: Bon Odori

While the Museum prepares for Natsumatsuri on Saturday, August 10th, we thought we’d get everyone pumped by putting a spotlight on some of the upcoming activities! Look forward to more of these posts explaining Natsumatsuri traditions.

Ondo dancing at the 2007 Orange County Buddhist Church Obon.
(Photo: Vicky Murakami-Tsuda)

 

This August, come get your groove on at JANM! The Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will be teaching bon odori, or traditional Japanese folk dances often performed at obon festivals in the summer.

During a bon odori, dancers line up and perform to traditional folk songs along with the beat of a taiko. The dancers, nowadays often multi-generational and multiethnic, circle the drummer, who is perched on a raised wooden scaffold. The songs vary from festival to festival, with different regional favorites (such as Tokyo ondo or tanko bushi, the coal miner’s dance). Some odori use props like kachi kachi (small wooden clappers) or different types of fans.

Although the style dates back all the way to the late Heian (794-1185) period, the first bon odori in Los Angeles was in 1933 or ‘34 at the nearby Hompa Hongwanji temple. Today, you can find bon odori at obons all across California, from Los Angeles to San Jose.

See for yourself what a bon odori looks like in this video of a Nishi Hongwanji obon!

 

(Video: Ralph Moratz)

2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival
FREE ALL DAY!
Saturday, August 10, 2013
11AM – 5PM

1PM: Obon History & Traditions
What is Obon all about? Rev. Bill Briones of Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will discuss the history and traditions of Obon in Japan and the United States

2:30PM: Obon Dance Demonstration
Get ready to dance! Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will show you how to dance traditional Obon dances

For full schedule of activities: janm.org/natsumatsuri2013

Fun for the whole family at Natsumatsuri!

JANM-2013-NatsumatsuriWe are cutting the origami paper, ordering the bounce house, and lining up the entertainment…and you know what that means! JANM is gearing up for our annual Natsumatsuri family festival! On Saturday, August 10th, from 11 AM to 5PM, join us to celebrate summer with crafts, cultural performances, and activities—all for free.

This year, we’re going retro with lots of traditional summer festival activities. Get your blood pumping with a taiko lesson from JANM docent Hal Kiemi before learning what obon is all about. As always, there will be tons of fun activities and crafts all day, from screenprinting tote bags to making wacky paper hats.

It’s not all old school—we’re making new traditions this year too! Japanese mariachi singer Roger del Norte will perform with MEXICAPAN and singer Lupita Infante for the first ever mariachi concert at JANM.

Also, if you haven’t already, walk through our exhibits Visible & Invisible (closing on August 25th) and Portraiture Now!

Check out the schedule for the full list of awesome activities.

See you soon!

Make Memories at the July Target Free Family Saturday!

Author/illustrator Allen Say will read The Favorite Daughter at the upcoming Target Day! (Image credit: Allen Say)
Author/illustrator Allen Say will read The Favorite Daughter at the upcoming Target Day! (Image credit: Allen Say)

Family comes first at the upcoming Target Free Family Saturday on July 13, from 11am-4pm! Join us for a day celebrating your family’s roots—and make some new memories while you’re at it!

At 3pm, Caldecott Award-winning author/illustrator Allen Say will read his newest book, The Favorite Daughter, about a young hapa girl who finds pride in her heritage with her father’s patient help. The book is based on Say’s experiences with his daughter, Yuriko — who will also attend the reading! Say will be signing copies of The Favorite Daughter, which is available to purchase at the Museum Store.

We have lots of hands-on crafts planned, including a journal to record your favorite family memories, a portrait collage, and an origami camera in Ruthie’s Origami Corner. Then stop for a snack with Kidding Around the Kitchen, where kids can learn to make a salad and salad dressing the whole family will love.

If you’d like a break from the hustle and bustle, we will be screening the documentary Searchlight Serenade, about the big bands formed by Japanese Americans in the World War Two internment camps. Searchlight Serenade will begin at 2pm.

This Target Satuday is in conjunction with our currently running exhibition, Visible and Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History.

Tsukemono, Bento, and Mochi — Oh My!

Cooking instructor Sonoko Sakai will be making bento boxes. (www.cooktellsastory.com)

If you’ve ever dreamed of being an Iron Chef but never got past making onigiri, we have a workshop—or three—for you! Come brush up on your Japanese cooking skills on Saturday, July 6, from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. The cost for all three workshops is $70 members, $80 non-members.

First, Yoko Issai will teach you how to make tsukemono, or traditional Japanese pickles. Yoko grew up in a Japanese foodie family, using what she learned from them to become a successful cooking instructor. Then, discover how to make your family the envy of the lunchroom with one of Sonoko Sakai’s bento boxes.

Finally, don’t miss a mochi tasting with baker Jenn Fujikawa!  In this free with admission workshop, Jenn will also discuss (and sign copies of) her new cookbook Mochi: Recipes from Savory to Sweet!. 

Not only will this class be loads of fun, but you’ll also walk away with three new and impressive dishes!

RSVP early, 15 students max. For all classes, workshops, and food tours, pre-payment is now required to hold your space. Please call 213.625.0414 or download the pre-payment form. Cancellations must be made 48 hours in advance or no refund will be issued.

Hapa Hoops Coming Up!

NBA veteran and current University of San Francisco coach Rex Walters will discuss his experiences at the screening. (Photo courtesy of the University of San Francisco)

Drop by the Museum this Saturday, June 22nd at 2pm for court-side—or rather, screen-side—seats to Hapa Hoops! We will be showing the documentary Crossover followed by a conversation with hapa NBA veteran Rex Walters. The program is free with admission to the Museum.

Produced originally for the More Than a Game exhibition (2000) by the Museum’s Watase Media Arts Center, and directed by Justin Lin (of the Fast and Furious series), Crossover is a fast-paced look at the history and purpose of Japanese American basketball leagues over the years. First established in the 1930s as an opportunity for Japanese Americans to participate in competitive sports, the leagues have flourished over the years—bringing about questions of how to adapt to an increasingly diverse player base.

Walters got his basketball start playing in one such youth league. Before making his professional debut with the New Jersey Nets, he helped lead the University of Kansas Jayhawks to the Final Four in 1993. He currently works as head basketball coach at the University of San Francisco.

This program is presented in conjunction with our exhibition Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History, running through August 25th. Visible & Invisible explores the diverse experiences and history of mixed-roots and mixed-race Japanese Americans through photos, historical artifacts, and interactive elements.

 

2013 Oshogatsu Festival photos

Thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate the New Year & the Year of the Snake!

Over 2,800 came throughout the day for our 2013 Oshogatsu Family Festival on Sunday, January 6th to enjoy free crafts, performances & food.

Thanks so much to our volunteer photographers who captured all the fun—Caroline Jung, Russell Kitagawa, Daryl Kobayashi, Richard Murakami, and Tsuneo Takasugi.

Here’s a selection of the many, many photos they took to document the day!

(Click on the images to see the full photos)

 

For more Oshogatsu Family Festival photos, including from the Onigiri Design Contest, check out our photo album on our  JANM Facebook page >>