At the beginning of my grant, I scheduled the New Years break as a time to reassess my goals and strategies for the remaining grant period. Indeed, I do have different ideas about how to continue with my research after the first few months.
My initial plan for public art research has not produced as many leads as I had hoped. I have spoken to many people about my goals and will continue my investigation. A professor at my school is working on a public art project at a local grade school and I have arranged to go see the work in progress. I also met ceramic artist Minoru Terada (寺田みのる) who is an active artist as well as an accomplished public artist. He invited me back to his studio and I plan to talk to him further about his public art experience. Investigations into the Japanese art world have lead to more fruitful results.
I participated in two exhibitions in the last two months. I recounted my experience in a group exhibition in Kyoto for the Fulbright newsletter. For an exhibition at my University’s gallery I held a performance of my piece, Big Blob and gave an artist talk about my work to the student body and faculty. This proved to be quite difficult since it was in Japanese. I wanted to do the lecture because I have a lecture in Tokyo planned this spring and am exploring opportunities in the summer and fall to give artist talks and lectures. In January I will perform Big Blob again for a group show. I am excited about this performance because it will not be at the University but in the city at the Nagakute Cultural Center (長久手町文化の家). The reason that I am interested in public art is because I think that fine art serves a limited audience and purpose and that art and people benefit the most when the two intermingle and join.
The creative fields require a large network of colleagues. Opportunities are not advertised in newspapers. Decisions are made over conversations at an art opening or in artists’ studios. I have been trying to nurture relationships that I have established. Part of my new research strategy is to actively contact professionals in the field rather than waiting to be introduced. Contacts that I have made in the art world will probably lead me back to people that can assist with my public art research. The more I know about the art world in the US, Japan and the world, the more I discover how small it really is. For example, a visiting scholar from Scotland, Alan Johnston, came to the school for two weeks. I spoke to him about art and various topics. It turned out that he knew Nishi Tatsu, a Japanese artist living in Germany whom I contacted earlier. Alan also knew the director of the Mori Art Center and another curator in Osaka. It was a pleasure to meet someone who has spent his life making art.
Time is limited and if I want to penetrate the public art sphere, I will need a wide range of contacts ranging from city planners to arts consultants in large corporations. So far my inquiries into the matter result in the same response of, “That is very difficult to do.” For that very reason I am motivated not to fail. I will use my experience as a telemarketer to play a numbers game with potential contacts in order to find the resources and people that will further my research goals and to establish myself in the creative sector in Japan.
At the end of January, I will travel with my wife Mimi to America to help her move into a yearlong artist residency in New Mexico. I think that this date of separation has weighed heavy on my mind during the first part of my grant. After establishing us both in activities for professional development I feel that upon my return to Japan I will be more focused. I value family in addition to knowledge and now will be better able to balance the two.