JANM’s Biggest Annual Event is Just Around the Corner

2016-Gala-Dinner-header-600px

On March 19, JANM will hold its annual Gala Dinner, Silent Auction, and After Party at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles. A lavish affair that typically attracts over 1,000 guests, this event raises crucial funds that support the museum’s operations throughout the year.

The theme of this year’s dinner is “Moving Images, Telling Stories.” Those who know JANM for its exhibitions exploring various facets of the Japanese American experience, from the World War II incarceration to Hello Kitty and Giant Robot, may not be aware that the museum is home to a groundbreaking collection of home movies and video life histories—the former dating back to the Issei of the early 20th century.

Representing rare footage of Japanese American life taken by Japanese Americans, the home movies are a glimpse back in time, providing an invaluable counterpoint to mainstream media in which Asians were either absent or portrayed unfavorably. The video life histories are in-depth interviews conducted by JANM with a diverse spectrum of Japanese Americans, recording the lives of Japanese Americans in their own words. These compelling first-person resources have helped to portray the Japanese American story as an integral part of the broader American narrative.

Karen L. Ishizuka and Robert A. Nakamura
Karen L. Ishizuka and Robert A. Nakamura

 

This year’s dinner will honor Karen L. Ishizuka and Robert A. Nakamura, who pioneered the museum’s moving image collection and founded its Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center. Nakamura is also a seminal Asian American filmmaker, having made some of the first films by and about Asian Americans. Ishizuka was instrumental in advocating for the historical and cultural significance of home movies, lobbying successfully for the inclusion of amateur footage shot at the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp during World War II on the National Film Registry. Together, Ishizuka and Nakamura will receive the inaugural JANM Legacy Award, established to recognize individuals and organizations that have made a lasting contribution to the museum’s institutional legacy and helped to distinguish the museum as a unique, vital, and valuable community resource.

Ken Burns. Photo by Cable Risdon.
Ken Burns. Photo by Cable Risdon.

 

Also honored will be the acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who has made significant use of JANM’s home movies and other archival materials in three of his highly popular historical sagas, bringing the museum’s resources to a broad national audience. Burns will receive the inaugural JANM Founders’ Award, established to recognize an individual or organization that advances the mission and vision of the museum’s founders in a meaningful way on a national or international scale.

Please visit our newly revamped Gala Dinner website for complete details and to purchase tickets. We hope you can join us for what promises to be a very exciting evening.

Support Tatau: Marks of Polynesia

The story of Polynesian tattoo art, or tatau, is one of fierce dedication to cultural tradition. Despite attempts by western missionaries to eliminate the practice, tatau has survived for over two thousand years, passed down through generations of skilled tattoo artists. The act of acquiring tatau is itself a grueling test of endurance and tolerance for pain. Thus, wearing these traditional marks is a bold statement of cultural pride.

Tattoo by Su'a Sulu'ape Peter. Photo by John Agcaoili.
Tattoo by Su’a Sulu’ape Peter.
Photo by John Agcaoili.

Recognizing the importance of what tatau symbolizes, and its relevance to JANM’s work of promoting diversity, JANM will present Tatau: Marks of Polynesia, an exhibition on the artistry and legacy of Samoan tattoo.

Opening in Summer 2016, Tatau will build on JANM’s immensely popular 2014 exhibition Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World. Like Perseverence, Tatau is curated by acclaimed tattoo artist and author Takahiro Kitamura. We hope Tatau will inspire and enlighten our members and frequent visitors, while also introducing JANM and the Japanese American story to new audiences.

Because we expect Tatau will appeal to diverse communities, JANM was open to exploring new options for funding the exhibition. Earlier this month, the museum launched its first-ever crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise funds for Tatau. Contributions to the campaign will support photographing tatau, installing the exhibition at the museum, and publishing a full-color catalog. Recently, Kitamura and exhibition photographer John Agcaoili traveled to Hawai‘i to consult with Sulu’ape Steve Looney and Danielle Steffany-Looney of Pacific Soul Tattoo as well as Edward Danielson, lecturer in the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, University of Hawai‘i, to ensure the cultural accuracy of the exhibition narrative.

Tattoo by Su'a Sulu'ape Aisea. Photo by John Agcaoili.
Tattoo by Su’a Sulu’ape Aisea. Photo by John Agcaoili.

 

So far, the campaign has attracted interest from around the world and raised several thousand dollars for the exhibition through donations of all sizes. Currently, we are about one-third of the way to our goal of raising $20,000.

Visit our Tatau Indiegogo page to learn more about the exhibition and help us reach our fundraising goal. Our campaign runs through December 3, 2015. And we hope to see you when Tatau comes to JANM next year.

Fresh Off the Boat Viewing and Panel Discussion Attracts an Avid Crowd

FOB Panel small

JANM’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum was packed full on Tuesday night for a special community viewing of the latest episode of the Asian-American sitcom Fresh Off the Boat. The episode featured a LGBTQ storyline, and the event drew many members of the Asian American media and LGBTQ communities. The viewing was followed by a panel discussion with writer and showrunner Nahnatchka Khan, guest actor Rex Lee, author/comedian D’Lo, and artist/organizer Erin O’Brien, moderated by filmmaker Curtis Chin. The event was organized by Jeff Yang, journalist and father of the show’s young star, Hudson Yang.

The episode, titled “Blind Spot,” kept everyone laughing. It revolved around a visit from mom Jessica Huang’s old college boyfriend, Oscar Chow. Jessica, oblivious to the fact that Oscar is now openly gay, wonders why her husband Louis feels absolutely no jealousy. Louis, for his part, is oblivious to the fact that the person Oscar really loved in college was him, not Jessica. Much hilarity ensues as the couple confronts one another about their respective “blind spots.”

L to R: Curtis Chin, Erin O'Brien, D'Lo, Rex Lee, Nahnatchka Khan. Photo: Richard Murakami.
L to R: Curtis Chin, Erin O’Brien, D’Lo, Rex Lee, Nahnatchka Khan.
Photo: Richard Murakami.

 

The panelists, who were all LGBTQ-identified, engaged in a lively and humorous discussion following the episode. Rex Lee, who played the character of Oscar Chow, said that his favorite thing about guest starring on this episode was getting to know the three child actors, who now send him tweets constantly. Erin O’Brien analyzed the gay subtext in Fresh Off the Boat and other popular shows, jokingly proclaiming that “everything has a gay subtext.” D’Lo, who has had roles on the LGBTQ-themed shows Looking and Transparent, expressed his preference for Fresh Off the Boat, which features people of color.

During the Q&A, one audience member called out the Oscar Chow character for being “stereotypically gay.” Lee responded that as a gay man himself, he felt he was able to play Oscar from the inside, rather than via external gestures. This drew applause from the audience, who for the most part seemed to appreciate a television show capable of showcasing both Asian and gay characters with light but intelligent humor. Audience members also approved of the show’s culturally authentic details, such as this episode’s reference to “white flower oil,” an herbal remedy commonly used by Chinese families.

Erin O'Brien makes an impassioned point. Photo: Richard Murakami.
Erin O’Brien makes an impassioned point. Photo: Richard Murakami.

Throughout the discussion, the panelists spoke most passionately about the hunger for media representation of LGBTQ people and people of color, pointing to the huge turnouts both for that night’s event and an earlier community viewing of the premiere episode of the show as evidence. It was noted that fans of the show comprise a highly diverse demographic that includes Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and whites. O’Brien asserted, “We really want to see ourselves on TV. And as cultural producers, we have realized that we have to do this ourselves.”

Loud hisses came from the audience at the mention of a recent article on the Deadline website, which offended many by asking if diversity in casting had gone too far, reducing the available roles for whites. (The site has since apologized for the story.) “To see more people of color on the screen, how is this not a great thing?” asked Nahnatchka Khan. Later, when complimented by an Asian American man in the audience for a joke in the episode that alluded to Louis’ “big bones” and thus countered stereotypes of Asian men as under-endowed, Khan responded, “You just have to be committed to the message.”

To watch the complete panel discussion online, visit JANM’s YouTube channel.

JANM Celebrates The Karate Kid’s 30th Anniversary with Special Guests

L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding "Mr. Miyagi's" WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding “Mr. Miyagi’s” WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

The Tateuchi Democracy Forum welcomed a full house on Tuesday, September 9, as JANM celebrated the 30th anniversary of the beloved film The Karate Kid with a reception, screening, and panel discussion. This highly anticipated event featured live appearances by star Ralph Macchio, director John Avildsen, Aly Morita (daughter of deceased star Pat Morita), and co-stars Billy Zabka (“Johnny Lawrence”) and Martin Kove (“John Kreese”). Among the guests in the audience were Tamlyn Tomita, star of The Karate Kid II; JANM Board of Trustees member Wendy Shiba; and JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima.

Many avid fans of the movie, some of whom had seen it when it first came out in 1984, were in the audience. During the screening, people clapped wildly for classic scenes, such as Mr. Miyagi protecting Daniel from the gang of teenage boys, and Daniel executing his tournament-winning crane kick.

Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid
panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Jared Cowan, a photographer who recently wrote a cover story about The Karate Kid for LA Weekly, moderated a Q&A session following the film. The stars and director reminisced about the making of the film while Aly Morita shared her childhood memories of her father. The panelists also brought the film’s martial arts choreographer, Darryl Vidal, to the stage for an extended explanation of the iconic crane kick. While inspired by classic martial arts moves, the kick itself was specifically created by Vidal to heighten the drama of the climactic scene.

JANM volunteer Richard Murakami spoke for many in the audience when he offered a heartfelt thanks to the group for creating a sensitive portrayal of a Japanese American man during a time when such portrayals were rare. “It made me proud,” he said, generating a round of applause.

To see more photos from the event, visit JANM’s Facebook page.

Keep an eye on our YouTube channel for video highlights of the evening, coming soon.

Speaking Up! Lots of National Conference Audio/Video On-Line!


 

SpeakingUpSigntrFINALIn July, JANM hosted a national conference themed, Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity in Seattle. And now, we are pleased to announce that conference audio and video files are now available online!

You can see the breadth of audio and video offerings here, as well as here.

We hope that these offerings will help those who were at the conference—as well as those who weren’t able to make it—continue to learn, grow, and be inspired to speak up for democracy, justice, and dignity!

Highlights from the “Unexpected Journeys” Screening at JANM

Life History ProjectOn November 2, 2013, JANM held a premiere film screening for the documentary, Unexpected Journeys: Remarkable Stories of Japanese in America in the Atsuhiko & Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Democracy Forum

Produced by the Museum’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center, and sponsored by NITTO TIRES U.S.A Inc.Unexpected Journeys is a 30-minute documentary of selected interviews of individuals whose lives illuminate the astonishing diversity of the Japanese experience in America.

John Esaki, Director of JANM's Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center leads a Q&A with the interviewees and the project's videographers.
John Esaki, Director of JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center leads a Q&A with the interviewees and the project’s videographers.

Not only did guests get to watch the premiere public screening of Unexpected Journeys, they also got to enjoy a Q&A session led by director John Esaki with interviewees Sumi Hughes, Jean Schneider, Iris Teragawa, Harry Oda, and Lloyd Inui. The Q&A session continued with videographers Akira Boch and Evan Kodani joining the interviewees on stage.

Guests talk amongst friends and the documentary's interviewees, sponsors, and staff over refreshments.
Guests chat with the documentary’s interviewees, sponsors, and staff over refreshments.

After the public screening and the enlightening Q&A session, guests, interviewees and their families, project participants, staff, sponsors, and other special guests were able to greet each other over light refreshments. Among Saturday’s special guests, was Frank H. Watase, who JANM’s media arts center is named after!

 

Check out these photos from the premiere public screening of Unexpected Journeys!

 

Photo Credits: Richard Murakami and Tsuneo Takasugi

FREE screening of “Unexpected Journeys—Remarkable Stories of Japanese in America” on November 2nd

1For the past year and a half, JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center has captured more than 25 first-person accounts of individuals whose lives illuminate the astonishing diversity of the Japanese experience in America.

With the support of NITTO TIRES U.S.A. Inc. and its visionary President, Tomo Mizutani, the Watase Media Arts Center staff has been enabled to videotape extensive interviews with Nisei, Japanese-speaking Kibei, Hapa, and post-WWII “Shin Issei.” Their stories have revealed many new historical insights and several previously unexpressed personal perspectives on the World War II era and beyond.

3From the little known early Yamato colony of Japanese in Florida where Sumi (Fukushima) Hughes’ parents settled to the challenges faced by Hamako (Amano) Schneider, one of the first Japanese war brides to be admitted to the U.S. following World War II, the project has uncovered many aspects of history that have remained unfamiliar to the public.

Photographed in Hi-Definition video by the Media Arts Center’s videographers Akira Boch and Evan Kodani, each interview is transcribed, translated when necessary, and digitally archived for eventual use in documentaries, exhibitions, and ongoing JANM educational projects such as the Discover Nikkei website and the Museum’s YouTube channel, janmdotorg. The project also involved follow ups with interviewees and their families to gather, identify, and scan photo albums, documents, and other supplementary resource material.

2After viewing the completed two-to-three hour interviews and assessing the available supplementary photographs and other visuals, the Media Arts staff—with assistance from Japanese staff member Yoko Nishimura of the Discover Nikkei project—edited selected interviews into a 30-minute documentary, Unexpected Journeys, that interweaves short autobiographical profiles with narration, graphics, and music by accomplished composer and musician, Dave Iwataki. To make these stories accessible to as wide an audience as possible the video includes both English and Japanese narration and subtitling to reach both English and Japanese-speaking audiences.

On Saturday, November 2, several of the interviewees and their families will attend a special premiere public screening presented in JANM’s Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Democracy Forum and will be able to meet fellow project participants, staff, sponsors, and other special guests. Light refreshments to follow program.

Lloyd Inui

FILM SCREENING
Unexpected Journeys: Remarkable Stories of Japanese in America
Saturday, November 2, 2013 • 2PM
FREE & open to the public!

This program is sponsored by Nitto Tire and produced by the National Museum’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center.

 

Check out the updated Watase Media Arts Center pages online: janm.org/mediaarts

I Want the Wide American Earth’s promotional video is released!

JANM's 2013 interns celebrate the end of a great summer internship!
JANM’s 2013 interns celebrate the end of a great summer internship!

Every summer the Getty Foundation organizes a Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program in Los Angeles that aims to encourage greater diversity in the professions related to museums and the visual arts. This year JANM hired three interns—Kelly in Media Arts, Cindi in Production, and myself, Esther, in the Curatorial department.

For the majority of the summer we worked separately, but for the last few weeks, we worked together to produce a final collaboration project which would culminate in a promotional video for the exhibition, I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story.

Media Arts intern, Kelly, searches for artifacts on JANM's database.
Media Arts intern, Kelly, searches for artifacts on JANM’s database.

As the exhibition  takes a sweeping look at how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of U.S. history, we decided to interview Asian Pacific Americans of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and occupations on a variety of topics. Our central question was “What do you want from your America?”. We also asked each interviewee to finish the sentence “I am…”. We got a wide array of answers that allows any viewer to appreciate the cultural, historical, and social diversity among Asian Pacific Americans.

Cindi and Esther are guided through JANM's artifacts by Collections  Manager, Maggie Wetherbee.
The interns are guided through the Collections Department by JANM’s Collections Manager, Maggie Wetherbee.

For footage we used photographs from the exhibition itself, and made stops around Downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and Chinatown. We also visited our own Collections Department at JANM to photograph artifacts and photographs that were relevant to the exhibition. It was an exciting day because we saw how expansive our Collections Department is, and we got to personally handle artifacts!

A shot from Wong Fu Productions'  "10 Year Anniversary" clip.
A shot from Wong Fu Productions’ “10 Year Anniversary” clip.

We were also granted permission from Youtube stars including, fitness instructor Cassey Ho from Blogilates, singers David Choi and Clara C, and Wong Fu Productions for our preview clip. Although we did not use all of these clips for our final video, we were able to get exciting experience communicating with professionals, and were able compile more than enough footage so that we had many options while editing our video.

Check out our final video to see who’s footage and interviews made it into our collaboration project!

Curatorial intern, Esther carefully handling a "Justice for Vincent Chin" pin from the 80s.
Curatorial intern, Esther, carefully handling a “Justice for Vincent Chin” pin from the ’80s.

 

It was a time-consuming project, but it was also a great experience because we were able to collaborate with each other, appreciate each of our talents, and examine how different departments come together to produce a project. For us, this experience reinforced the fact that museums, including JANM, are not made up of individuals working separately, but rather, individuals working and collaborating together to produce something great!

 

Cindi, JANM's 2013 production intern, designing a event flyer.
Cindi, JANM’s 2013 production intern, designing an event flyer.

If you haven’t seen it already, I Want the Wide American Earth is on display at JANM until October 27th. Also, be sure to catch Our American Voice—a special two-person show starring Traci Kato-Kiriyama, and Johnny Kwon (also the narrators of our final video), exploring six diverse stories of Asian Pacific Americans. This special performance was produced in partnership with East West Players, and will be performed at 1pm in the exhibition gallery every Saturday for the duration of the exhibition.

Photos by: Kelly Gates, and Esther Shin.

***

For more information on I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story, visit: janm.org/wide-american-earth.

 

Thank you for joining us in Seattle!

image_1838 small

Thank you to the over 500 people who joined us at our fourth National Conference, Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity, held July 4–7 in Seattle, Washington.

Participants came from around the nation, as well as from Canada and Japan to participate in a jam-packed program commemorating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act.  [See below for a video of Secretary Norman Mineta’s keynote address at the dinner banquet on July 6.]

image_1456 small

We are now going through the photos, video footage, and audio recordings of the conference so that we can make them available on the Web. But for now, because we are so excited about all of the media, wanted to preview just a few of the photos and to say THANK YOU for helping make the conference unforgettable!  And a special THANK YOU to the folks in Seattle for sharing the history of their wonderful city with us.

(Photos by Tracy Kumono)

 

image_1857 small

image_1859 small

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visible & Invisible Through a Student’s Eyes

Westdale

Growing up in Southern California as a person of Japanese descent, JANM has played a large role in helping me discover my cultural identity. Each exhibit that I have immersed myself in has, in one way or another, done an excellent job of captivating me while still teaching me about my Japanese American heritage. Out of all the exhibits that I have seen, the museum’s newest installment Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History has been one of the most personally intriguing because it delves into the deep history of mixed-race and hapa individuals within the United States. Being half Japanese and half Caucasian myself, I found Visible & Invisible to be very relatable to my life.

As I walked through the exhibit, a few pieces that really piqued my interest, including an anti-Japanese campaign poster for California Senator James D. Phelan that revealed the prejudice and discrimination  Japanese Americans faced more than two decades before World War II. Another intriguing part of the exhibit was an article from Ebony magazine that highlighted the troubles endured by children of American soldiers and Japanese women. Although I can’t entirely relate to those children due to the fact that being hapa hasn’t been detrimental to me at all, I realize now that life for some mixed race children, both in Japan and in the United States following World War II, was not easy.

Basketball has played a huge role in my life. Up until this past year I had been spending the majority of my weekends either at practices or games for my team, the Venice Lakers. Seeing the different Venice jerseys and pictures of multiple teams, a few of which I recognized, brought back many fond memories of my time playing Japanese American basketball. It was easily my favorite part of the exhibit. JA basketball helps expose children to not only the sport of basketball, but to different aspects of Japanese culture. If you ask a child of Japanese descent if he plays basketball, there’s a high likelihood that he or she will say yes, or will know somebody who does.

Another facet of the exhibit that interested me was Virgil Westdale, a half Japanese, half Caucasian soldier forced to switch his name from Nishimura to Westdale so he could join the armed forces. After the United States Army Air Corps found out about Westdale’s background they demoted him to private, stripped him of his pilot’s license, and sent him to Camp Shelby in Mississippi to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The accompanying video helped me delve deeper into Westdale’s personal account of what life was like for him as a mixed-race member of the 442nd and as an American of Japanese heritage during World War II.

Lastly, this exhibit wouldn’t feel like a JANM exhibit without a compelling interactive component. I very much enjoyed the interactive aspects of last year’s XLAB 2012, however, the black journal experiment in Visible & Invisible has become my favorite, mainly because of the personal touch each participant can add. It’s absolutely amazing to see the artistic skills and personal messages from people as far north as Eugene, Oregon, to people who have lived in Boyle Heights since 1944.

Ultimately I would have to say that the main reason that Visible & Invisible initially appealed to me was because I am mixed-race. However, walking through the exhibit I realized that the exhibit wasn’t so much about being hapa as it was about the Japanese American experience. Visible & Invisible runs the gamut in terms of Japanese and mixed race culture within the United States by giving an informative, yet enthralling, look at nearly 300 years of history. I highly recommend coming to the JANM to check this exhibit out before it ends on August 25th.

Writer Jeremy Parks is a 17 year old high school senior who attends Campbell Hall High School in Studio City. He is an editor on his school’s newspaper. He is volunteering this summer with the museum’s Watase Media Arts Center.