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JUSFC Meet Our Grantees Series: The National Association of Japan-America Societies
May 8, 2017
The Japan U.S. Friendship Commission is pleased to support the National Association of Japan America Societies’ (NAJAS) Richard J. Wood Art Curator Series. This program offers a series of talks at Japan-America Societies by curators of Japanese art at major museums in the United States. The participating curators are well known in the field and represent some of the best known collections of Japanese art in the America.
NAJAS facilitates the signature events in this art series by selecting three Japan-America Societies (JAS) as hosts. The three JAS are competitively chosen from amongst NAJAS’ 37 member organizations.
On April 24, 2017, the Japan-America Society of North Carolina (JASNC) hosted the first talk of the 2017 Richard Wood Art Curator Series. “Our goal was to partner with museum curators and share their wonderful collections of Japanese art with Japan-America Society cities throughout the United States.,” explains NAJAS President Peter Kelley. “Curators give presentations about their favorite objects in the home museum’s collection, who the collectors were and why the art is important.”
In North Carolina, Dr. John Carpenter of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art presented the conference’s keynote address at the Ackland Art Museum on the topic, “The Three Perfections of Japanese Art: Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy – Masterworks from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection,” which is currently on exhibit at The Met. “These human interest stories regarding the collectors are just as appealing as the art,” adds Peter Kelley. “It is important to mix the art with the fascinating stories behind it.”
NAJAS is comprised of 37 member societies in 26 states. Founded and managed by local supporters, their mission is to promote mutual understanding between American and Japanese in their local areas. The member societies formed NAJAS in 1978 to strengthen their organizations and create programs to support their missions. The oldest Japan-America Society was founded 1904 in Boston, the newest in North Carolina in 2015.
NAJAS seeks program opportunities that offer a variety of aspects of the U.S.-Japan relationship, including public affairs, business, art and cultural exchanges. The organization focuses on historically well known facets of the bilateral relationship. This led to the Art Curator Series, named for the late NAJAS Vice Chair and JUSFC Commissioner Richard J. Wood.
“We believe that collections of Japanese art in U.S. museums are such an important part of the shared personal connections in the U.S.-Japan relationship,” Kelley notes. “From the 19th century, western collectors and curators have been interested in Japanese art and created these wonderful collections.”
The next event in the Art Curator Series will take place on May 11 at the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater in Pittsburgh with the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania, featuring the Japanese print collection of Clarence Buckingham. The final event of 2017 will occur May 23 at the Seattle Art Museum with the Japan-America Society of Washington State, and will feature author James Michener’s collection of woodblock prints.
“Curators enjoy the opportunity to share their collections and expertise through this program,” Kelley points out. “Having already presented the collections in their own cities, it’s exciting for them to bring these works and the collectors’ stories to new audiences. Our audiences deeply appreciate the chance to hear the curator’s fascinating stories.”
NAJAS and its advisory committee of curators from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Freer Gal lery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Met in New York will continue to identify Japanese art collections to present in the next grant cycle and beyond. They hope to include more modern art and explore a variety of museums in future years.