Touring Little Tokyo as a 2017 Getty Intern

by Heidi Kim

I am so fortunate to be able to participate in The Getty Foundation’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program. The MUI Program helps culturally underrepresented students in the arts find full-time summer internships and work opportunities in the Los Angeles area. The Program partners with over 90 museum and arts organizations in Los Angeles in order to host up to 100 interns.

 Photo by Josh Jiang

Photo by Josh Jiang

Because there are so many interns in the Los Angeles area, The Getty creates what is called a "hub." A hub is a group of student interns who work at organizations relatively near each other. Our most recent hub meeting last week took us on a walking tour of Little Tokyo. Our Hub leader Gina organized the whole trip starting from La Plaza de Culturas y Artes. Before starting our day, the other interns and I introduced ourselves to each other and mingled.

We proceeded to take the Metro Gold Line to the Japanese American National Museum where we met with Scott Oshima, a member of Sustainable Little Tokyo. Scott gave us a tour of Little Tokyo and explained its history and importance. He led us back to the Japanese American National Museum where we met Clement. He gave us a tour of JANM’s first exhibition called Instructions To All Persons: Reflections on Executive Order 9066. We watched a video displaying testimonials of those affected by the order and viewed many documents during that time period. The second exhibit Clement showed us was called New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei. This exhibit displayed and explained Takei’s past and how he became an icon to all.

Afterwards, we had lunch at a sushi restaurant called Tenno Sushi. This gave the interns another chance to mingle and get to know each other further. It was interesting to learn about everyone’s background, major, and college experience. Coincidentally, the guy I was sitting next to happened to know a friend of mine who goes to his school as well.

Once the group finished eating, we made our way to Visual Communications, where I am an intern. My co-interns in the office gave a presentation about VC, explaining VC’s history, significance, and current projects such as Digital Histories, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, C3, and Armed With a Camera.

After the wonderful presentation at VC, we made our way to the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. There, we met JACCC’s artistic director, Hirokazu Kosaka. He is a United States Artists Fellow and one of the most recognized artists in the nation. He gave us a presentation on his brushes and its history. He also explained how certain characters and words came about. For example, he drew a few lines and asked us if it looked like a tree. We thought it did. He then rearranged the lines to create a Japanese character meaning tree. It was fascinating to see how different characters were formed by how they were visually viewed.

Once he was done with his presentation, we met with the Alison De La Cruz, who is the Director of Performing Arts and Community Engagement. She talked about her role at JACCC and the events they host.

Overall, it was a very informative day. I am glad that I got to be educated about the Little Tokyo community and its significance in LA’s history. 

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Heidi Kim is a college student from Dickinson College in pursuit of her BA in American Studies. She is half Filipino and half Korean, loves working in the arts, and is a huge advocate for arts education. She loves being involved with the community, especially under-represented communities.