Art Works Blog

What's It Like to Do an Artist Residency in Japan?

Did you know that the Japan-United States Friendship Commission (JUSFC) has an artist residency program that can help you take your art practice to Japan? Today on the blog, we hear from poet and sound artist LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs who was a Japan Fellow in 2016. Diggs, who used her fellowship to study Taiko drumming, shares with us why she thinks it's important for artists to visit other countries and gives some practical advice for planning your application and fellowship project. 

Visit the JUSFC website to learn more about the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship and the application process. Applications for 2017 are due February 1, 2017.

We also invite you to join us tonight at 6:00pm ET on @NEAarts for a Twitter chat with JUSFC staff and a newly returned Japan Fellow. You can also follow the conversation at #JUSFC.

Ai Matsuda and Latasha Diggs take a selfie with some taiko drums

Taiko artist Ai Matsuda (left) instructed LaTasha Diggs in the art of taiko drumming during Diggs' residency in Japan. Photo courtesy of Ms. Diggs 

NEA: What was the most important way in which the Japan Fellowship benefitted you as an artist?

LATASHA N. NEVADA DIGGS: We, as artists, cannot understand ourselves nor the purpose of our creative work in relation to other cultures until we begin to engage and the Japan Fellowship is one way we enter the conversation.

NEA: What would you say to someone who’s thinking of applying for a Japan Fellowship?

DIGGS: Do not hesitate. Apply. That said, before you apply, think long and hard about why you want to go to Japan. What is it about Japanese culture that interests you? Also, take the time to research your curiosity. What makes your proposal different from previous projects? Do you know anyone in Japan connected to your proposal? Do you know anyone at home? Are you willing to allow the proposal to shift if things change once you are here? How committed are you to being in Japan for three-five months? Are you able to study the language beforehand?

NEA: Why do you think it’s important for artists to have experiences such as the Japan Fellowship?

DIGGS: It goes without saying that we need to leave our homes, our comfort zones, our daily lives to expand ourselves as human beings and as artists. We need to be actively aware of what other artists from different cultures are doing. At the same time, we need to also interact with those who are not artists. As an American, I simply cannot understand my place in this world solely from my living room and work place. As an American, I need to understand what “American/ess” means through the lens of others from afar. These experiences and exchanges, like those experienced through the Japan Fellowship, transforms our work, informing it in ways one least expects it to. And this is a good thing.  


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