United States and Japan Collaborate on Artistic Projects to Present in Tokyo During Summer 2020

two women play a taiko drum standing on either side of it
Taiko drumming was one of several traditional Japanese art forms that Latasha N. Nevada Diggs (right) studied during her U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Exchange fellowship. Photo courtesy of Ms. Diggs

Washington, DC—The Japan-United States Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and the National Endowment for the Arts are pleased to announce the selection of five artistic teams for the 2019-2020 US/Japan Creative Artists Fellowship Program. Each team of artists from the United States and Japan will work together on a project (for a total of five projects) that each reflect the themes of next year’s Olympic Games; unity, collaboration and the long-time friendship between the United States and Japan. The completed projects will be showcased in Tokyo next summer at the same time as the Olympic and Paralympic Games. [See disclaimer below.] This is the first time since the program’s inception in 1978 that artists were selected as a U.S.-Japan pair to produce a completed work to present to the public.

“We are excited to announce the 2019-20 artistic teams for the Creative Artists Fellowship Program,” said Paige Cottingham-Streater, executive director of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. “The program continues to be a priority for the Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts as we promote the value of cultural and artistic exchange between the United States and Japan.”

"The arts provide a naturally creative place for people to come together and share their unique perspectives -- so that they may learn from one another” said National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter. “On behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, I am delighted to see our long term partnership with the Commission continue with the Creative Artists Fellowship Program presentations in Tokyo next summer.”

The five teams of artists will each receive a $25,000 fellowship award and up to $2,500 for travel.  The teams' projects range across artistic disciplines, from music and dance to creative writing and visual arts, and explore subjects like martial arts, the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and sustainability through the lens of food and agriculture.

The American fellows are: 

  • Gene Coleman, Composer, Musician, Director partnering with Adam Vidiksis, Composer, Conductor, Percussionist, Technologist (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Cameron McKinney, Choreographer, Dancer, Educator (New York City, NY)
  • Sue Mark and Bruce Douglas (aka marksearch), Interdisciplinary Artists (Oakland, CA)
  • Jesse Schlesinger, Visual Artist (San Francisco, CA)
  • Benjamin Volta, Visual Artist (Elkins Park, PA) 

The Japanese artists are:

  • Akikazu Nakamura, Composer, Musician (Tokyo); and Sansuzu Tsurzawa, Shamisen Performer (Saitama) collaborating with Gene Coleman and Adam Vidiksis
  • Toru Shimazaki, Choreographer (Kobe) collaborating with Cameron McKinney
  • Natsuka Endo and Hiro Abe, Multi-media Artists (Tokyo) collaborating with Sue Mark and Bruce Douglas 
  • Masayo Funakoshi, Chef (Kyoto) collaborating with Jesse Schlesinger
  • Cho Kuwakado, Visual Artist, Educator (Saiki City); and Yasuyuki Sakura, Artist, Muralist (Saiki City) collaborating with Benjamin Volta 

Descriptions of each team’s project and artist bios are available here. Photos of the artists are available here

Since 1978, the Japan-US Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts have worked with the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan and the International House of Japan (I-House) to organize the US/Japan Creative Artists Fellowship Program. Prior to 2019, five leading USA-based artists, representing all genres, were selected and provided funding to spend up to five months in Japan, allowing them to research and experience both the traditional and contemporary artistic milieu of Japan. This year, in honor of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the fellowships have evolved into a collaborative team approach -- that better reflects the spirit of unity that animates the Games.

About the National Endowment for the Arts: Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more. 

About the Japan-United States Friendship Commission:  The Japan United States Friendship Commission (JUSFC) was established as an independent agency by the US Congress in 1975 (P.L. 94-118). The Commission administers a US government trust fund that originated in connection with the return to the Japanese government of certain US facilities in Okinawa and for postwar American assistance to Japan. Income from the fund is available for the promotion of scholarly, cultural and public affairs activities between the two countries. More about the history of the Commission can be found here. For additional information about the JUSFC, contact Paige Cottingham-Streater at pcottinghamstreater@jusfc.gov.

Disclaimer: In conducting  the US/Japan Creative Artists Fellowship Program, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Japan-United States Friendship Commission claim no affiliation with nor endorsement by the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 


MEDIA CONTACT: Victoria Hutter, hutterv@arts.gov, 202-682-5692

PROGRAM CONTACT: Guiomar Ochoa, ochoag@arts.gov, 202-682-5766