The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Contents
Kyoko Yoshida
YOSHIDA, Kyoko
data
Arts Midwest
http://www.artsmidwest.org


































*1 CTN
CTN is a project that seeks to create a long-term network and support system for cooperation between Japanese and American artists and presenters in the stage arts and arts in general. The organization is active in the planning and implementation of programs tat will expand exchanges between Japan and the U.S. in geographic terms as well as strengthening the contents of these exchanges.
Presenter Interview
2005.11.28
An organization for the promotion of the arts in the American Midwest, Arts Midwest  
 
In the United States there are six non-profit Regional Arts Organizations (RAO) dedicated to the promotion of the arts in the states of their respective regions along with inter-states/regional arts exchange. Each of these RAOs receive funding support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and various other public and private funds, which they use to conduct independent activities, in cooperation and coordination with the arts councils of each state. We interviewed Ms. Kyoko Yoshida, who works at the RAO responsible for nine Midwest states, Arts Midwest. There she is the director of the U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network (CTN), a project for the promotion of arts and cultural exchanges between Japan and the U.S.
(Interviewer: Eiko Tsuboike)


Can you tell us how you, a Japanese citizen, came to work in arts management in the U.S.?
It began when I started working at the “Spiral Art Center” in the Aoyama district of Tokyo that opened in 1985 with 100% financing by the lingerie maker Wacoal. I was engaged in inviting and presenting international dance companies and other productions at the “Spiral Hall.” But the onset of recession caused the funding for such programs to be reduced, and about the same time arts management was becoming a subject of interest in Japan. I became interested in the non-profit arts sector as it was functioning in Europe and North America, so decided to go to New York to study arts management at a graduate course at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York for 2 years.
For a while after finishing the program, I worked free-lance as a manager and marketing consultant for Japanese companies coming to New York for performances, and eventually in 1996 I went to work for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) in Los Angeles, thanks to a good relationship resulting from the research work with them for my Master's thesis. First, I worked as assistant to the executive director, Mr. Gerald D. (Jerry) Yoshitomi, who had been long aware of the need for a nationwide network that would enable Japanese performing arts companies to tour the country beyond Los Angeles. So, I became involved in creating such a network. Three and a half years later, I became a program manager for the Center’s Japan America Theatre (880 seats), and started to invite and present several Japanese companies at the Theatre. Mr. Yoshitomi resigned from his post, and the programs at the JACCC began to shift focus toward presenting works by more traditional Japanese artists and local Japanese American artists.
I wanted very much to introduce Japanese contemporary performing arts to the U.S. audience beyond just Los Angeles, and since I was already building a national network of presenters interested in that area, I wanted to continue in that direction. It was then that the executive director of Arts Midwest, Mr. David Fraher, asked me if I wanted to create a project for U.S.-Japan arts and culture exchange at his organization. Mr. Fraher believes that in the American Midwest you have to actively go out and create opportunities for international cultural and arts exchange, otherwise you are in danger of becoming isolated from the rest of the world. So, he was planning to create a U.S.-Japan project with support from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. First, I was helping him from Los Angeles, but in March 2002, I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where Arts Midwest is headquartered, and since then, I have been in charge of CTN (*1) as a project of Arts Midwest.

What kind of services does the CTN provide?
For an example, there is a network of presenters in the U.S. who present international (especially Asian) performing arts programs on a regular basis. CTN works to provide the latest information about Japanese performing arts to that network by such means as organizing briefing seminars with the Japan Foundation. We are also directing efforts to introduce American artists, with a focus on Midwest and other regions not known much to Japanese people. Since 2001 we have been participating in the Tokyo Performing Arts Market (TPAM) with video presentations and live showcases of the U.S. artists. In 2003, we organized a live showcase featuring Rennie Harris Puremovement hip hop dance company, Minneapolis's Sean McConneloug, and hoi polloi of Boston, and introduced other U.S. dance groups including Dayton Contemporary Dance Company of Ohio on video.
We have also organized several U.S. delegation groups of presenters to attend TPAM in the past to introduce Japanese performing arts. We had one presenter from Pennsylvania who had previously had no interest in Japanese performers, but after participating in CTN’s delegation trips, he fell in love with Japanese culture and the Tsugaru shamisen of Masahiro Nitta. That eventually led to the first U.S. tour of Nitta and collaborations between Nitta and a Pennsylvanian Jazz band.
At CTN, while we are involved in this kind of information exchange, what we always want to do is to provide “contextualization” at the same time, i.e., the background of the artists’ works and overall bigger picture evolving the artists. In the case of Rennie Harris, we provided information on the African dance tradition and social messages behind hip hop, and the position of Harris in the American dance scene. We also try to create opportunities for more actual contact and deepen the significance of the exchanges by conducting artist workshops and other residency activities at the same time.
It is the same when we bring American presenters to TPAM. We organize special lectures by Japanese specialists so that presenters understand the bigger picture of the current trends and developments. We also provide them with information on the Japanese cultural basics like business cards and keeping strictly to schedules prior to the departure for Japan.

What about inviting Japanese artists to the U.S.?
At CTN we don't usually invite artists directly, our main roles are supplying information, helping work out problems with Japanese artists who have been invited to the U.S. and generally what we call technical support. There is already a system in place to some degree for Japanese artists to perform in the U.S. and there are presenters who are interested in Japanese artists, so what we need to do is to constantly supply them with information to stimulate their interest in inviting Japanese artists. Also, inviting artists from another culture is a very difficult thing. For just a 2-hour performance, the preparations may demand sending hundreds of emails back and forth, and there often are communication difficulties as two entities work across the Pacific. So, it is something that takes a great amount of determination and effort to realize such a program. We believe that our position at CTN is to provide various support to prevent these efforts by presenters from failing.
It would be good if TPAM had a good system for inviting presenters to Japan.
For example, when the British Council conducts showcases at the Edinburgh Festival, there is a system for them to provide the travel subsidies for presenters, as long as the presenters attend a certain number of British artists’ showcases, specified by the Council. This year, there were more than 20 presenters from the U.S., and about 200 presenters from all over the world who went to Edinburgh Festival invited by the Council.
 
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