By Elena Nielsen
From Buddha’s birthday on Wednesday; to OUR GALLERY OPENING the following day, to my mother’s birthday on the 10th, to the first day of the 2015 Cherry Blossom Festival, it’s been an extremely auspicious, albeit slightly hectic, week.
Buddha’s birthday on Wednesday, our last night of gallery prep, saw the completion of two art pieces of Buddhist inspiration: Nancy Hom’s beautiful Japantown community Mandala and Kevin King’s Peace Pagoda sculpture.
Both pieces promote participation from the viewer, where gallery visitors can place their own art cards into the Mandala, and stringing Tanabata-style paper wishes (tanzaku) for Japantown onto the Peace Pagoda.
The day of the gallery opening finally arrived on April 9th. I was grateful to see almost the entire JCCCNC staff amongst our first visitors. Safi wa Nairobi of 89.5FM, KPOO, who interviewed Brenda, Mark, and Eryn about our project last week, also took the time to stop by. Overall, the evening had a great turnout, with somewhere around 300 people cycling in and out of our gallery.
Reverend Kawahatsu of the local Konko Church performed a traditional Shinto blessing of the space ceremony. Vocalist Moy Eng sang a soulful jazz tune. Dancer ArVejon A. Jones and our own J-Tell, Ayana Yonesaka, gracefully tiptoed out of the crowd and performed a beautiful dance routine whilst weaving in and out of the crowd and around the art pieces.
It was very interesting to see the contrast of the formal Shinto ceremony with the free-from song and dance performance, and I was reminded of one of the goals of our project: to bring modernity to Japantown without losing our cultural roots.
Marissa Bergmann sang a delicate self-written song in Japanese about the changing seasons.
Even as the evening was coming to a close, and the performances had concluded, people continued to enter the gallery—a testament to the success and positive energy of the event!
Within our staff circle, thanks and congratulations abounded, and everyone left the gallery that night feeling a little exhausted but with our hearts full.