Meet our Grantees

December 16, 2016 – 

Writer, designer and filmmaker Graham Kolbeins was named a recipient of the 2016 Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship and traveled to Japan in March for three-month residency. Kolbeins was based mostly in Tokyo, but traveled to Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Gunma and Okinawa to conduct interviews for his film, Queer Japan.

Queer Japan is an ensemble film that looks at people across the LGBT spectrum and beyond. Kolbeins’ goal was to interview a diverse group who identified as LGBT or other gender categories, and to share their stories of their triumphs and struggles being a sexual minority in Japan.

Kolbeins has worked with a variety of gay artists during the last five years. With his collaborator, Anne Ishii, he traveled to Japan in 2011 and interviewed nine gay manga artists for two books: The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame and Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It. Many of the comics were featured in English for the very first time. Publication and success led to a book tour that allowed Kolbeins to travel throughout North America and Japan.

Following that experience, Kolbeins was hungry to continue learning and researching the different expressions of gender and sexuality in Japan, in the present day as well as during the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1902) periods. He returned to Japan in October 2015 and created a pre-production trailer that served as the foundation for his film.

Certain aspects of Japanese society, such as familial obligations and expectation, make it difficult to be open and fully yourself,… » READ MORE

September 27, 2016 – 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

Landscape architect Ron Henderson was awarded a Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship in 2011 and traveled to Japan in 2012. The Fellowship is funded by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and administered in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Here, Henderson reflects on his experiences as a Fellow living in Japan.

“As a landscape architect, Japan is an important place for the profession because of its garden traditions,” says Henderson. “It was a great opportunity for me to spend time as a landscape architect investigating the gardens and horticultural practices of Japan.”

Seeking ancient cherry trees that had been cared for and protected in Japan for generations was a remarkable experience for Henderson, who visited ancient trees and culturally-celebrated cherry blossom sites.  He researched the unique phenomenon of Japanese cherry blossoms, and interviewed scholars, garden designers and anthropologists. He also documented the particular local horticultural practices of Japan such as pruning, branch crutching, and rope-tenting.

Like many fellows, Henderson presented his work at a public event at the International House of Japan. The event shared his research into the significance of cherry trees and sakura blossoms in Japanese design and culture. His presentation included an exhibition of his sakura orihon, folding sketchbooks, which he used to archive his travel throughout Japan.

While in Kyoto, Henderson interviewed Toemon Sano, the 16th generation head gardener of the Ueto Gardening Company. He has designed many renowned Japanese… » READ MORE

August 3, 2016 – 

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C., August 3, 2016: The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today that a group of five outstanding artists from the United States have been selected to participate in the 2017 U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program. The artists will travel to Japan during the 2017 calendar year to pursue their three to five month residency. Since the program’s inception in 1978, 165 U.S. artists, representing a diverse range of disciplines, have been selected to travel to Japan under this program.

The 2017 group of U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program fellows includes:

Elaine Buckholtz – Visual Artist – Boston, MA

Jami Nakamura Lin, Writer – Chicago, IL

Kimi Maeda, Theater Artist – Columbia, SC

Quynh Vantu, Architect, Artist – Glen Allen, VA

Vanessa Voskuil, Choreographer, director, performer, writer, designer, teaching artist – Minneapolis, MN

“This award recognizes the outstanding talent among U.S. artists and the importance of cultural exchange between Japan and the United States”, said Paige Cottingham-Streater, Executive Director of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. “The Commission is proud of its longstanding partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and we are delighted to support this unique experience for people-to-people exchange.”

Since 1978, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with the International House of Japan (I-House) and the Government of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs have administered the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program. Each year five leading U.S.-based artists, representing… » READ MORE

July 13, 2016 – 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

“The three month journey to Japan strengthened my interests in the traditional arts and I am incorporating some basic principles of tradition into how I think about making work now. I continue to investigate the experience and the forms. It all feels raw and just barely in my grasp. I am still unpacking what those experiences mean to me moving forward.”

Dancer, choreographer and director Shinichi Iova-Koga was awarded a Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship in 2012. The Fellowship is funded by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and administered in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

While in Japan, Iova-Koga focused on traditional dance, examining the roots of both the Tadashi Suzuki Method and Butoh dance, which he had trained in extensively in the 1990’s. “In Japan, I practiced a basic Kagura dance, “Tori Mai,” with a history of over a thousand years. Suzuki Hiroshi currently keeps Kagura alive in the Tono community (Iwate prefecture)” explains Iova-Koga, adding that the music and dance of Kagura is connected to the agricultural cycle, dedicated to Kami-sama (Shinto gods).

“The strongest experience I had was performing Kagura in the context of community,” he says. “There’s no sense of classroom. There’s no sense of studying. Only practice and do!” Very few people spoke English in Tono, lova-Koga tells us.  “The experience of being in this rural, farming community made the greatest impact on me personally.”

He also spent a week studying Noh… » READ MORE

May 23, 2016 – 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is proud to support the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and its project, Orpheus with Nobuyuki Tsujii:  a Cross-Cultural Partnership. This unique conductor-less orchestra will collaborate with 27 year-old Japanese pianist and composer Nobuyuki Tsujii in summer 2016 to rehearse and perform two Beethoven symphonies in the United States and Japan.

Blind since birth, Mr. Tsujii has enjoyed a rising career since winning the Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn Piano Competition in 2009. The Orpheus Orchestra has a long history of touring to Japan. “This is almost our 30th year of touring to Japan and we are celebrating our one hundredth concert. We like to say our home base is Carnegie hall but after that it’s Suntory Hall,” said Shruti Adhar, Director of Development and Engagement for the orchestra.

The project will include a dozen performances in Japan and the United States, including engagement programs in both countries for students and visually impaired individuals.

The program begins today in New York City with rehearsals through June 4, 2016. Public school children have been invited to the rehearsals and will be guided through the process of creating music in an orchestra without a conductor. Orpheus has also invited students from the Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School at Lighthouse International, which is the world’s leading service organization for blind and visually impaired individuals.

The two-week tour of Japan will begin during the first… » READ MORE

May 11, 2016 – 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

Visual artist Katie Cercone was awarded a U.S.-Japan Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship in 2015. The Fellowship is funded by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and administered in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. “It was really a moment to solely focus on my creative work and my research. I loved everything about the culture – the food, the sacred space, and the rituals,” Cercone says.

She focused on hip hop and fashion, spending time meeting and connecting with young people. One particularly moving experience was when she visited Mount Takao and the Buddhist community there. “I saw a fire ceremony. There was a big bonfire and several monks chanting. Everyone present walked barefoot over the coals at the end. That was really touching. A big part of my work was looking at the sacred ritual. That was really profound.”

Cercone also shared her own work during her residency in Japan. She led the PRAY WILD Go! Push Pops Workshop and Spirit Animal Parade with the International House of Japan. “We did a one day workshop that incorporated yoga, mindfulness, and neo-shamanic themes drawing from a lot of Japan’s traditional spirit worship,” she explains, “participants were able to make their own costumes of their spirit animal and participate in the parade.” Cercone adds, “We also applied contemporary culture of anime and cartoon worlds – and we did a street parade on Roppongi

Art Night… » READ MORE

May 5, 2016 – 

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) this week welcomed the first delegation of legislators to visit Washington under the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Thomas S. Foley Legislative Exchange — the Foley Exchange — a new public-private partnership intended to build lasting relationships among U.S., Japanese, and Korean elected officials.  The Foley Exchange was established in honor of the late Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley, U.S. ambassador to Japan and an enthusiastic participant and supporter of exchanges between elected officials. This week the Foley Exchange brought seven members of Japan’s National Diet and four members of Korea’s National Assembly to Washington to meet with their counterparts in the

U.S. Congress as well as representatives from the executive branch, the policy community, and the private sector.   Participants included:

Japanese Diet Delegation

Mr. Jiro Aichi, Liberal Democratic Party, House of Councillors

Mr. Yukihisa Fujita, Democratic Party, House of Councillors

Ms. Hiroe Makiyama, Democratic Party, House of Councillors

Mr. Masaharu Nakagawa, Democratic Party, House of Representatives

Mr. Keitaro Ohno, Liberal Democratic Party, House of Representatives

Mr. Takashi Shinohara, Democratic Party, House of Representatives

Mr. Kozo Yamamoto, Liberal Democratic Party, House of Representatives

 

Korean National Assembly Delegation

Ms. Soon-ok Chun, Minjoo Party

» READ MORE

April 13, 2016 – 

The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission congratulates U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program Alumna Sawako Nakayasu on winning the 2016 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. The award recognizes book-length translations of poetry from any language into English published in 2015. Ms. Nakayasu won for The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa, translated from the Japanese.

Since 1978, the Commission has worked with the National Endowment for the Arts to implement the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists’ Program. This important bilateral program allows artists to research and experience both the traditional and contemporary artistic milieu of Japan.  The Commission is marking its 40th anniversary through 2016.

April 11, 2016 – 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

“I consider myself one of the luckiest people on earth for being a part of the program and reflect on it constantly,” remarks contemporary artist Karen LaMonte. She is known for her innovative work creating glass sculptures and spent seven months in Japan on the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship. The Fellowship is funded by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and administered in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

LaMonte has used clothing as a metaphor for identity and exploring the human in absentia throughout her career. As a Fellow living in Kyoto, she researched the Kimono – its production, form, function, and social significance. Focusing on the Kimono was a new evolution in LaMonte’s artwork. She had spent a decade of her career focusing on dress styles characteristic of Western society until she turned her attention to Japan and to the Kimono,  the clothing that most embodies that culture.

One of the people she met was Akiko Nakamura, a fifth-generation brocade weaver. “I found the Kimono very beautiful, but incredibly rigid,” said LaMonte in a presentation at the Corning Museum of Glass. “She taught me about the appropriate motifs you wore in which season, and what the fabric needed to be. Everything was specific; it was the most highly codified clothing vocabulary I have ever seen. And the other thing that I found is that when you wear the Kimono, it completely transforms… » READ MORE

April 5, 2016 – 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

“I have the opportunity to consider environmental problems, so together we can discuss why we have to protect native species,” remarks Reina Takadan a second year student from Kansai University’s Takatsuki campus in Osaka. Reina is currently in Hawai’i where she is working on and learning about the impact of invasive species under the Kai Yama project.

Kai Yama is a year -long program under which undergraduate students from Japan and Hawai’i are working together to address local and global environmental issues.  The project, which includes week-long exchange trips to Japan and Hawai’i, is intended to foster new approaches to environmental problem-solving by encouraging students to explore the shared experiences of two local communities.

JUSFC is delighted to support Kai Yama, which began in December 1, 2015 and will run through November 30, 2016. The program, supported for the first time by the Commission, involves faculty and students, including native Hawai’ian students from the University of Hawaii, Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC) and Kansai University (KU), Takatsuki Campus in Osaka. There are six students from KCC and 12 students from Japan.

Reina and her fellow KU students are currently in Hawai’i for a five-day introduction to ecology and environmental science skills particular to Hawai’i along with their peers from Kapi‘olani Community College, who are sharing their basic ecological sampling skills and their participation in a local community initiative to restore Maunalua Bay, O‘ahu. Together, the students from… » READ MORE