Tadashi Nakamura with his parents, Robert Nakamura and Karen Ishizuka. (Center for Asian American Media)

The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) has appointed James E. Herr as the new director of the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at JANM and Tadashi Nakamura as the new director of the museum’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center.

Herr brings over 20 years in philanthropic and nonprofit management to his work. Previously, he was a program officer at the Annenberg Foundation, a program officer at the California Community Foundation, senior manager of Global Corporate Citizenship for the Boeing Company, manager of corporate social responsibility at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and director of diversity at Film Independent. He participated in the GCS Los Angeles Korean Leadership Exchange program and was selected as an American Leaders of Change Fellow through National Urban Fellows.

James E. Herr

“My work in the region over the last 20 years has centered on the arts, particularly from the lens of the Asian Pacific Islander experience,” said Herr. “As a grantmaker, I had the good fortune to support a wide variety of community-based arts organizations and witnessed first-hand their impact on civic engagement and social justice issues. As a board member of a number of arts and civic organizations, I helped to create opportunities for greater inclusion of our artists and our stories. 

“I know that by harnessing the dynamic power of the arts to reflect, engage, and inspire, we can ensure that our API communities — and all underserved and marginalized communities — feel empowered to participate in our democracy. In fact, our democracy depends on this participation.”

Nakamura is an Emmy Award-winning director and was named one of CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” for being the youngest filmmaker at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and one of the “Top Rising Asian American Directors” on IMDb. His latest film, “Mele Murals,” was broadcasted on PBS and Al Jazeera. His previous film, “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings,” was broadcasted nationally on PBS and won the 2013 Gotham Independent Film Audience Award.

His parents, JANM Chief Curator Karen Ishizuka and “the Godfather of Asian American media,” Robert Nakamura, created the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center in 1997.

“It’s a huge privilege to be able to continue the work that my parents, John Esaki, and Akira Boch have built over the years at the Watase Media Arts Center,” said Nakamura. “It’s a strong legacy that I’m proud to carry on. I see this opportunity as an organic continuation of my work as a filmmaker over the last 20 years.

“We have a lot of exciting projects in the works that document both historical and present-day Japanese American stories. It’s a true privilege to work with the JANM staff and the Little Tokyo community to share these stories with the world!”

“Jim and Tad bring exactly the expertise and experience we need to implement a strong vision for the future of the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at JANM and the Watase Media Arts Center, respectively. I couldn’t be more thrilled that they have joined us,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO.

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