This letter is to add to some of the comments made by Kathy Masaoka and others about the future of the JACCC.
I will start with several premises then make some suggestions.
1. The JACCC is an essential public space for Little Tokyo, a cultural space, space for cultural instructors and community organizations and a community space — where else do JAs think of when needing to collect supplies for the earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan?
2. The difficult economic times have wreaked havoc on cultural and arts institutions in general, but declining interest in traditional Japanese culture, the fading Japanese corporate presence, changing ethnic demographics in Little Tokyo, and that younger JAs often experience culture in ways influenced by new technologies — these have undermined the original business model of the JACCC.
3. Philanthropy with younger generations has changed — donors, even small donors, seek a qualitatively more personal relationship with institutions they support and expect to be confided in; and this in turn requires a “flatter” and less hierarchical organizational structure, and a much wider section of staff who serve as the personal links to the connecting public. Social media have created new participatory expectations among young people. Conferences that involve young people now set up screens that show an ongoing tweeting commentary from the audience simultaneously with the speakers talking from the podium.
4. The challenges are numerous and complex, but not unsolvable. It requires different approaches to the remaining Nisei, graying baby-boomer Sansei, and the Yonsei coming into their own. It means being able to incorporate being Asian American and being Japanese American. It means recognizing the cultural shifts in modern Japan and how Japanese newcomers, also of different generations, and non-Japanese, non-Asians want to relate to and experience Japanese culture.
5. The JACCC Board is key to deciding upon a process of reflection, renewal and moving forward, but to change an organization’s culture begins with its leadership and requires the welcoming of new perspectives, generations, bringing in the experiences and values of other sectors from our diverse JA community.
As some first steps, I encourage the board to convene several “roundtable” forums that focus in on and explore issues, including those raised in this letter.
A. The cultural content of the JACCC: Whose and which Japanese culture? Traditional, modern/contemporary or pop cultures (a similar and fascinating debate has been taking place within MOCA) as well re-conceptualizing relationships to sister Asian, Asian American and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander cultures.
B. The charitable giving/philanthropic landscape in the JA community and the generational differences: How do nonprofits relate to their supporting communities and the internal organizational cultures that support new rules of engagement?
C. The third roundtable: What are some of the choices and the principal elements for a successful and sustainable business model for the JACCC? Are there opportunities that exist in relation to neighboring communities in the Arts District, new and diverse downtown residential populations, etc.?