Reflexions on a Getty Multicultural Internship at USCPAM

August 21, 2015
USC PAM Getty Intern hard at work at her desk

USC PAM Getty Intern hard at work at her desk

My name is Loreinne Helena. I just graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Art History and double minor in History and Religious Studies. I am the Getty Multicultural Intern at USC Pacific Asia Museum and work as a Collections Management Intern in the museum’s Curatorial Department.

The decision to apply for this position came from my interest in the small institution experience. While taking a ceramics class, I had visited the museum for research and was impressed with the personal experience available to its visitors. This has been a wonderful opportunity which has allowed me to come in contact with objects from the collection on a daily basis. Every day, I work with our registrar to maintain and properly store collection pieces. I also get to work with our art preparator to install and deinstall works.

Aside from the hands on experience, I have been able to work on a few small research projects to help our curator prepare for the upcoming exhibition. It has been wonderful getting to know the museum staff and having unique experiences. I was even able to tour the Getty Research Institute and our conservator’s studio on a couple of field trips set up by Annie, the museum registrar. Despite these exciting trips, I have to admit that the most thrilling event has been the opportunity to witness the opening of the crates containing the pieces for the new Reshaping Tradition exhibition opening up in September. The chance to see these pieces up close and touch them (with gloves on of course), has been the chance of a lifetime.

Although my internship will be over this Friday, I will continue my relationship with the museum as a volunteer starting next week. Also, at the end of next month I will begin working on my Latin American Studies graduate program at CSULA to prepare for further research in modern and contemporary Latin American art which will be my focus.


Helping with the new exhibition.


May 20, 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 7:00 pm
Postwar Japanese Design and Ikko Style

John Maeda

John Maeda

“Mr. Tanaka was not affiliated with any academic institution as a design educator professionally, neither in Japan nor worldwide. Furthermore, Mr. Tanaka was well known for being a person that did not care for public lectures or guest appearances in academic circles. Those who knew Mr. Takana know as well as I that to simply watch – just once – how he carried himself in all situations with humility, grace, and natural expertise, was the opportunity to learn the pure spirit of design of living. His straightforward and unadorned manner of life was in striking contrast to the usual vanity and glittery lifestyles of the majority of designers. Mr. Tanaka was a regular human being — he showed us the simple fact that to speak to all humans, you have to be a human yourself.”

John Maeda is a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and former president of Rhode Island School of Design.


“Tanaka Ikko came into my life in 1987 when I helped on an exhibition entitled Ikko Tanaka: Graphic Design of Japan at the Doizaki Gallery of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. Instantaneously, we noticed our Kansai dialect and quickly became lifetime friends. After the JACCC exhibition, Tanaka helped to bring to the JACCC a monumental exhibition by Tokyo ADC, Design Tokyo, and Tokyo Illustration Society. My inspiration of Tanaka Ikko is his canon, ‘Stealing with your eyes and ears.’ He guided us on the Self to understand the action without intervening thoughts. I continue to embrace this conversation throughout my life.”

Lunch at Ikko Studio 1987

Ikko posters at JACCC 1987

Ikko posters at JACCC 1987

Hirozaku Kosaka is Artistic Director at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, curator, and an ordained Shingon Buddhist priest.


Panelists: Nikolaus Hafermaas, Chair of Graphic Design at Art Center College of Design; Noriko Aso, Associate Professor of History at University of California Santa Cruz; Andrew Kutchera, Lecturer in Design at USC Roski School of Art and Design.

Program is Included with Museum Admission, followed by reception.


American Alliance of Museums Conference 2015

May 14, 2015

Michael FritzenThe Social Value of Museums: Inspiring Change

When I was a child, my mother teased me about having so many interests: spiders, Japan, puppets, and the list goes on. I have always been a person who enjoyed learning new things. Just last month, I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for the annual American Alliance of Museums conference. The event attracts museum professionals from all over the country, as well as Canada, Mexico, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The conference is four days of workshops, networking, social events, lectures, and information gathering. For me, it is a time to discover about the latest trends in museums, reconnect with colleagues, make new connections, find solutions to pressing questions, and learn lots of new information. At the end, your brain feels full because it is packed with rich knowledge.

The conference was about diversity and inspiring change. Many of the workshops explored new ways that museums can reach out to audiences through public programs, exhibitions and community engagement. Multiple presentations stressed the importance of celebrating the people around us, so that no matter who is coming to our museums they could find themselves within the walls. I felt proud to work at the USC Pacific Asia Museum, because I know how hard we all work to celebrate the diverse cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands through our exhibitions and programming. We strive to create authentic experiences for our audiences and to make connections across cultures.

I could easily go on about all that was learned at the American Alliance of Museums conference, but be sure to keep checking our website and newsletters because my new found ideas will start popping up in the Museum’s future public programs.

– Michael Fritzen, Head of Education and Public Programs, USC Pacific Asia Museum

Create a Lasting Legacy by Supporting the Future of USC Pacific Asia Museum!

March 19, 2015

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USC Pacific Asia Museum is delighted to be hosting a Heritage Society event on Thursday, March 26 from 4-5:30pm in the auditorium of the museum. The event is open to anyone who is already a member of the Heritage Society or is thinking about making a legacy gift to the museum as part of their estate plan. Join fellow Heritage Society members in learning about future plans for the museum and hearing from special museum friends who are planning to leave their legacy at USC Pacific Asia Museum.

USC Pacific Asia Museum is dedicated to advancing intercultural understanding through the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. In today’s increasingly global world, this mission has evolved from a noble ideal into a pragmatic necessity, and USC Pacific Asia Museum is uniquely positioned to help Southern Californians of all ages and cultural backgrounds thrive in the 21st century.

All of the museum’s core activities require considerable financial support. Some of this financial support can be raised annually through earned income, membership dues, individual donations, special events and grants from government agencies, private foundations and corporate sponsors. But to ensure long-term operational stability, USC Pacific Asia Museum must maintain and grow its endowment, the income from which provides an important financial base for the museum’s mission.

More about the Heritage Society

The Heritage Society is open to anyone who intends to make a planned gift of any size to the museum, either as part of an estate arrangement or a living trust arrangement. Unless otherwise specified by the donor, all gifts made through the Heritage Society are directed into the museum’s permanently restricted endowment. USC Pacific Asia Museum is committed to protecting the principal of that endowment and allow it to grow by limiting the earned income that can be drawn from it. As the value of the endowment increases through gifts and investment returns, the amount of revenue it generates also increases and the better it is able to support the museum’s core activities.

Joining the Heritage Society is easy and requires no up-front contributions. Simply tell the museum staff that you have made, or want to make, a planned gift to USC Pacific Asia Museum, and we will enroll you in the society. If you wish to designate your gift to support a particular area or activity at the museum, we will be happy to work with you on those arrangements.

Heritage Society members receive regular updates on happenings at USC Pacific Asia Museum through automatic subscriptions to the museum’s bi-monthly e-news bulletins, quarterly newsletters and annual report. Members are also honored a special annual reception and are publicly recognized in the museum and in museum publications.

Gifts made through the Heritage Society are vital for securing the future of USC Pacific Asia Museum, and members of the society can enjoy the knowledge that their generosity will continue to enrich the experience of museum visitors for many generations to come.  If you would like to attend the Heritage Society event, RSVP to Nadiya Conner at or call (626) 449-2742 x 16. See you there!


March 4, 2015

Osmanthus tree, the new addition to the garden and a special gift to the museum from USC.

Osmanthus tree, the new addition to the garden and a special gift to the museum from USC.

The present day garden in the courtyard of the USC Pacific Asia Museum was first laid out in 1978. It remains close to the original plan except for some plant changes that occurred at the time the north side of the courtyard was torn up for a repair project in 2005. In early 2011, the gardener was laid off to cut expenses. In response, our Operations officer and myself, as a museum trustee and member of the Building and Grounds committee, along with a group of docents formed a volunteer group to maintain the garden until the museum could hire another gardener to take over. The group was mentored by docent Darlene Kelly, who holds a Master Gardener certificate and was employed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum for a number of years. During the two and a half years the volunteer group maintained the garden, we suffered the worst drought in California’s history along with a record breaking hot summer of 2013, A few plants were lost and the koi in the pond died from causes that were never able to be determined (they don’t like too much heat). Since then, the pond has been restocked and the new fish are doing well, and the garden is flourishing again with a regular gardener that now comes every Monday morning and is paid for by the museum. A few months ago, the garden received a new pine tree from Georgie Erskine, and more recently received a new Osmanthus tree as a gift from USC. The USC Arborist came to plant both last month.

As for me, I have been a member and supporter of this museum for about 24 years, serving as president of the Japanese Arts Council, trustee for three years, chairperson of the Building and Grounds Committee, and volunteer gardener. My background includes an engineering degree and career and a Masters degree in Asian Studies. I hope to continue supporting the museum for years to come.

Richard Suran working in the courtyard garden at USC PAM.

Richard Suran working in the courtyard garden at USC PAM.

CONVERSATIONS@PAM: 6 Questions with First Wave panelists Professor Richard Strassberg and ZHENG Shengtian

February 2, 2015

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First Wave Panel, the inaugural CONVERSATIONS@PAM event this Saturday, February 7, 2015, features a panel discussion with Professor Richard Strassberg and ZHENG Shengtian, moderated by USC PAM Director Christina Yu Yu. The discussion will focus on the first comprehensive exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art in the United States, originally shown at USC Pacific Asia Museum in 1987 and 1991, and now part of the current exhibition The First Wave: Modern and Contemporary Chinese Paintings in the USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection.

In preparation for the event, we took a few minutes to chat with Professor Richard Strassberg and ZHENG Shengtian about how they became interested in Chinese contemporary painting, how the art scene in China has changed since the 1980s, and much more.

When you began planning for Beyond the Open Door and I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne in the late 80s/early 90s, there was very little attention placed on the contemporary art scene in China. How did you become interested in contemporary Chinese painting?

ZHENG Shengtian:

The idea of exhibiting contemporary Chinese painting in the US was started by Waldemar Nelson (1917- 2005), an American expert on philanthropy who was a strong advocate of Chinese art in the 1980s.  He became fascinated by the new Chinese art emerging in the 1980s and recognized its great potential during his several visits in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanjing.  At that time, I was teaching at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou and arranged these trips and took him to art colleges and artists’ studios. Encouraged by Robert Anderson, the Chairman of The Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO), Mr. Nelson was able to collaborate with Pacific Asia Museum to launch the first exhibition of contemporary Chinese art in North America, Beyond the Open Door.

Richard Strassberg:

I have always been interested in Chinese landscape painting and calligraphy, both traditional and modern, and previously curated several exhibitions at Pacific Asia Museum.  In 1987, the ARCO Co. asked the museum to exhibit a group of recent Chinese paintings that it had acquired in China for its corporate collection, and I was asked to organize them into a show and compile the catalog.  This became Beyond the Open Door.  It was followed a few years later by I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne, which came about when the museum decided to mount more extensive exhibition on its own surveying the “New Wave” and “Avant Garde” movements.

Are there any particular anecdotes or encounters from your trips to China that helped shape the focus of these exhibitions?

ZHENG Shengtian:

In the 1980s China was not ready to fully open its door. The scope of cultural exchange with the West was very limited and Chinese government did not support contemporary art practice. Any exhibition going abroad had to go through complicated reviewing process by cultural officials. We found a way to avoid the censorship and that was to purchase the artwork and bring them back as personal items. Many Chinese artists remember how they met the unexpected buyer and how their first sale was conducted. It stimulated great excitement in the art community.

Richard Strassberg:

I had many wonderful encounters with artists and others involved in the art scene at the time and was deeply impressed by some of the younger artists who were working under a lot of constraints as well as by some senior artists who told me of their suffering during the Cultural Revolution.  It made me realize how much art matters to people and how, sometimes, creating it can truly be risky.

With so many artists to choose from and being the first comprehensive exhibitions of Chinese contemporary art in the United States, how did you determine the artists who would be represented in these first important shows of contemporary Chinese artists?

ZHENG Shengtian:

In mid-1980s Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing were the cradles of the “New Wave” art movement.  We focused on the art academies in those cities and were able to meet with some of the most important pioneers of contemporary Chinese art. For example, Beyond the Open Door introduced a young artist Wang Jianwei’s painting to American audiences for the first time. Now an immersive exhibition Wang Jianwei: Time Temple, the new work of this artist has been shown at the Guggenheim Museum since last October as the first commissioned artist for the museum’s Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative.

Richard Strassberg:

For I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne, the museum director and I visited China twice, in 1989 and 1990, working closely with Mr.Tang Qingnian of the journal Art Monthly (Meishu) and with Prof. Shengtian of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts as well as with other experts in the nine cities that we traveled to.  We discussed all the works that were included and the final choice of 40 from more than 300 emerged from a consensus among us.  Generally speaking, we were seeking works of high aesthetic quality that represented a range of styles and directions that could define the New Wave/Avant Garde movements of the 1980s, and we especially wanted to include artists working outside the major art centers.

How did the closing of the seminal China/Avant-Garde exhibition at the National Gallery and the Tiananmen Square massacre affect the preparation of the I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne?

ZHENG Shengtian:

After the exhibition in 1986, Mr. Nelson launched a non-profit organization the International Institute for Arts (IIA) to continue promoting art exchanges between China and the U.S.  But most activities were suspended after the Tiananmen Square massacre.  I left China in July 1989.  Around that time, David Kamansky, then the Director of Pacific Asia Museum asked me to help organize another exhibition of contemporary Chinese art. I recommended Mr. Qingnian Tang, an editor and art critic who observed the ’85 art movement to arrange a tour for them in China. Mr. Tang introduced many participators of the China/Avant-garde exhibition and their works for the second contemporary Chinese art exhibition I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne and Other Works: including Geng Jianyi’s famous painting The Second Condition, Wang Guangyi’s Big Dolls: Holy Mother and Child, Xu Bing’s original installation Book of Heaven, and Zhang Peili’s X, etc.

Richard Strassberg:

As the catalog to I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne describes, the exhibition was already being planned when these tragic events occurred, but we determined to proceed nevertheless.  In China, the atmosphere in the art world had become pessimistic, and amid the repercussions that followed many felt, that the possibility of publicly exhibiting and marketing this kind of art within the country had been closed by the authorities.  Hence, much hope was placed in showing this work abroad, and some artists and critics even emigrated. Despite the censorship, the authorities did not interfere with the private production of this art, so artists continued to produce it in their homes and studios.

How do you assess the contribution that both of these exhibitions have made to the study of Asian art?

ZHENG Shengtian:

The two exhibitions were the earliest ones that brought contemporary Chinese art to the West, even prior to the famous Magiciens de la terre in Paris and the China Avant-Garde exhibition in Berlin. On the other hand, these two shows in Pasadena also provided the opportunity for some Chinese artists to gain their first experience of international recognition.

Richard Strassberg:

It seems that these are now regarded as historical events among those researching contemporary Chinese art.  From time to time, I receive inquiries from art historians and from graduate students writing dissertations regarding details of these exhibitions.  The catalogs, unfortunately, are out of print, but the one for I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne contains several essays with valuable insights. Perhaps it will be reissued someday.

In what ways has the contemporary art scene in China changed since you first started to explore it?

ZHENG Shengtian:

Art critic Norman Klein from the California Institute of Arts wrote a favorable review on the 1991 exhibition.  He noted: “This work was clearly years beyond our simplified western notions of multiculturalism, or even post-colonialism. …… Clearly what was displayed here, casually in progress, contained possibilities for art of the next century.” Norman was one of the first Western critics to foresee the potential contribution of Chinese artists to the international art scene. In the past two decades, we have seen more and more Chinese artists being exposed in major international biennials and in Western art museums. The market for contemporary art has been also developed rapidly. No doubt it was a collective achievement contributed by many prior generations although they more than likely never anticipated that it would come so fast, and on such a scale.

Richard Strassberg:

None of us involved in these exhibitions could have conceived at the time how contemporary Chinese art has grown, both inside China and abroad.  It has become so huge, diverse, popular, and, for some, quite lucrative.  I doubt that such an exhibition as I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cézanne could be seriously presented today for the art scene is simply too extensive and complex to adequately survey in a single show.


First Wave Panel Discussion

Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 7 pm

Auditorium, USC Pacific Asia Museum

Included with museum admission

Join us for the inaugural CONVERSATIONS@PAM event, featuring panel discussion with Professor Richard Strassberg and ZHENG Shengtian, moderated by USC PAM Director Christina Yu Yu.

Special thanks to USC Pacific Asia Museum’s Chinese Arts Council for their support of this program.


January 12, 2015

복잔 내림

USC Pacific Asia Museum Assistant Curator Yeonsoo Chee recently interviewed preeminent Korean shamanism practitioner Kim Keum-hwa as she prepares for her unique two-day program in Pasadena and Los Angeles this month. This special program including a rare, live performance at USC Pacific Asia Museum on January 18, 2015 will offer the Southern California community a rare opportunity to experience and learn from Ms. Kim about the practice of shamanism in Korea today.

Yeonsoo Chee: You have performed internationally. What is the most important aspect of Korean shamanism that you hope to convey to new audiences around the world?

Kim Keum-hwa: Korean shamanism is deeply rooted in Korean history as the oldest belief system and has played a great role in curing deep wounds of the Korean people who went through colonization and the Korean War. It is also a form of performance art that is open to everybody.

Yeonsoo Chee: You have been through a great deal of adversity as a shaman. What was the most difficult ordeal in your life?

Kim Keum-hwa: In the 1960s and 70s the government pursued me with accusations that  shamans and shamanism were an obstacle to the modernization of the nation. People would follow me into the mountains and try to harm me.

Yeonsoo Chee: Now, more and more scholars and researchers pay respect to this tradition of shamanism. How do you foresee the future of Korean shamanism?

Kim Keum-hwa: It’s true that there’s been a growing interest among scholars and the Korean government, but the general public still has a big prejudice against shamanism, perceiving it as mere superstition. If we can break that mindset and people to see it as a great tradition from our ancestors, then the practice will survive.

Yeonsoo Chee: What is your advice to the young people who devote themselves to preserving and continuing this tradition?

Kim Keum-hwa: Young people should respect all aspects of this tradition and shouldn’t be selective in preserving it. Rather than ignoring people who don’t fully understand or respect this tradition, they should be patient with them.

Event details:


Screening of the critically acclaimed movie based on Ms. Kim’s biography Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits, on the USC campus at the Ray Stark Family Theatre on Friday, January 16, 2015, at 7 pm. After the screening, the audience will have an opportunity to have an intimate conversation with Ms. Kim.


Performance with Ms. Kim’s musicians in the courtyard at USC Pacific Asia Museum. Ms. Kim has generously loaned artifacts from her performances, which will be on view in the museum’s permanent Gallery of Korean Art.

The program is co-sponsored by Korean Cultural Center LA and is supported, in part, by the USC Korean Studies Institute, USC East Asian Studies Center, Mike and Sookie Garrison and the Korean Arts Council at USC Pacific Asia Museum.

Image courtesy of Kim Keum-hwa.