A New Face, A Bright Future at Morikami

There’s a new face here at Morikami. She comes to us all the way from Indiana, by way of New Mexico – and Japan along the way – so we are excited to finally introduce you all to our new Chief Curator – Tamara Joy! Tamara has an impressive history of working to preserve and promote Japanese art and culture, and we’re glad to have her on our team.  To help you all get to know her a little better, we asked Tamara a few questions – so without further adieu:

Q: Tell us a little about your background – education, professional experience, etc.

As a freshman at Indiana University, I was interested in languages and art, in general.  However, after a spending time living and traveling in Asia for a year, I returned to I.U. with a focused interest in East Asia and an absolute passion for all things Japanese.  I earned a degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures, viewed primarily through the academic disciplines of art history, anthropology and folklore.  I went on to get a Master’s degree, which combined continued study in Japanese arts and culture with a specific focus on textile traditions.

While a grad student, I stumbled upon the idea of museum work through independent study practicums in various museums at Indiana University.  I was hooked.  My first two jobs out of school included working with Middleton Place Gardens in Charleston, SC and the Wisconsin State Historical Museum in Madison, WI.  Anxious to return my focus to Japan, I moved to the city of Yamagata, Yamagata Pref. in northern Honshu to teach and conduct research, specifically on traditional paper-making and various textile dyeing traditions such as indigo and safflower.

After a year, I returned to the States and took a position as Curator of Asian and Middle East Collections with the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM.  After several wonderful years there, I was excited to expand my horizons with different types of institutions and collections of Japanese material and was fortunate enough to work with both the Japan Society Gallery in NYC and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

 In 2011, I had the special opportunity to purchase 10 acres of my grandfather’s property in Bloomington, IN that had been sold out of the family and was in dire need of attention.  My husband, Paul, and I embarked upon a two-year vigil of clearing invasive plants and planting trees.  During that time, I was hired as Executive Director of the Brown County Art Guild, an organization that was established by a handful of artists in 1927 in the tiny village of Nashville, nestled in the hills and valleys of Southern Indiana.  By the 1930s, Brown County had become renowned nationally and internationally as one of the most important art colonies in the U.S.  The current Guild Member Artists are still devoted to the tradition of plein air painting and the style of American Impressionism that made the area famous.

Q: What brings you to a Japanese museum and garden in sunny South Florida?

Being invited to be the Chief Curator at Morikami Museum is not only a dream job for me, but it feels as though I’ve been working my way toward this opportunity my entire professional museum career.  It will allow me to bring together all of my hard-earned experience and skills, and apply them to this truly unique institution.

Q: You’ve  only been with us a short time, but what has been your favorite part of working at Morikami so far?

Even though I am overwhelmed at the moment, I also feel a sense of calm – as if I’m right where I should be – the art, the gardens, the cuisine – I’m enjoying all of it.

Q: Cuisine is one of our favorite things to talk about, so we just have to ask – what is your favorite food?    

Having lived in the Tohuku, or the Northern, region of Japan, I’ve become a big fan of soba, a specialty of Yamagata.  It’s the ultimate comfort food, served hot or cold.  Perhaps I can persuade the Cornell Café to include some dishes!

Q: As you look to the future, are there any projects you are particularly excited to start working on here?

 From the start, I’ll be working on AAM (The American Alliance of Museums) museum re-accreditation and collections refinement.  I am thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Q: How do you spend your free time?

My free time used to be devoted to long trail rides on horseback.  That’s been replaced by long excursions on the back of a motorcycle with my husband Paul at the helm.

Q: And remind us one more time – how do you pronounce your name?

 Tah-Mah-Rah – accent on the Mah. I used to tell people in New Mexico to think “manana”  (tomorrow) and they always remembered after that.

We’re excited for all of you to meet the newest member of our team, and we hope you’ll give her a warm welcome to the family!

2013 in Review : Thanks for Making 2013 a Great Year to Blog!

We want to say a special thank you to all of our readers, and a Happy New Year! Below are some of our blog stats that wordpress helped us put together. We couldn’t have done it without you, so let’s make 2014 bigger and better together 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy 35th Birthday to Us!

Just about 35 years ago today, the Morikami Museum opened its doors for the very first time.  We’re celebrating three-and-a-half decades of bringing Japan to South Florida on Tuesday, June 26 with a day of discounts, special tours, and extended hours.  If you follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you’ve noticed we’ve been counting down the 35 days to our 35th anniversary with a fascinating Morikami fact, one for each day.  Here’s the complete list, with  a sneak peek to the Morikami tidbits we have yet to reveal this week.  We’re sure you’ll learn something new about us!

1. There really was a George Sukeji Morikami, who in his 80s, donated land to Palm Beach County for a park to honor the memory of the Yamato colony. Yamato Road in Boca Raton is named after the Yamato Colony.

2. Yamato is an ancient name for Japan.

3. The Morikami is a living monument, building a bridge of cultural understanding between George Morikami’s two homelands, Japan and the U.S.

4. Roji-en, literally the Garden of the Drops of Dew, celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.

5. There are six diverse gardens in Roji-en, each inspired by a different historical period and style of Japanese gardening.

6. Morikami membership has its benefits, from free admission to the museum and festivals to discounted pricing and VIP access to exhibits and amenities.

7. Volunteer opportunities abound! Be a docent, tend to our bonsai, or just help us with our special events or summer programs.

8. The Morikami hosts an average of 48 weddings each year.

9. More than 1000 bowls of tea are served each year at the Japanese Tea Ceremony in the Seishin-an Tea House, an ever-changing demonstration rich in seasonal subtleties.

10. The Bento Box is the favorite menu item at the Cornell Café, which was judged by the Food Network as one of the top three museum dining experiences in the country.

11. For audio tour lovers, there is a self-guided garden audio tour in both English and Spanish.

12. 135! That is the number of exhibits the Morikami has hosted in the past 35 years. That doesn’t include the online exhibits, an alternative way to sample an authentic Morikami experience.

13. A portion of George Morikami’s remains are in the museum’s collection, which also includes Japanese articles of daily life from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) to the present.

14. Japanese artifact ID is one of the many specialty services the museum provides for free to members and at a nominal fee for visitors.

15. Books, glorious books! The Donald B. Gordon library houses 7,000 volumes on all topics Japanese.

16. What’s more than a thousand years old and sustained in a container? Bonsai – see over 50 of them, ranging from 5 to 500 years old in the museum’s onsite exhibit.

17. More than 13,000 visitors attend Hatsume Fair, the museum’s largest annual event celebrating the first bud of spring.

18. If munching on sushi with the sounds of Taiko drums playing in the background sounds like the perfect way to beat the heat, then the Morikami “Sushi and Stroll” program is the right event for your summer calendar.

19. Over the past 10 years, the Morikami has sailed more than 5,000 lanterns during Bon Festival. It takes approximately one hour to release the hundreds of lanterns handcrafted for each Bon Festival into Morikami Lake.

20. The Morikami received a donation of Okinawan cherry blossoms in 2003. The trees bloomed for the first time in 2009, a rare sight in South Florida.

21. Koi are a collection piece in Japanese culture. Morikami Lake is home to hundreds of Koi, who live harmoniously with numerous turtles.

22. Each rock/boulder in Roji-en was carefully selected and strategically placed throughout the gardens and were brought in from Texas and North Carolina.

23. The ponds in Paradise Garden roughly resemble the Japanese kanji for “heart,” a favored pond design occurring in many gardens in Japan.

24. Each summer, the Morikami’s MORY (More Opportunity to Reach Youth) program serves an average of 425 underserved children in our community.

25. If you spend some time in Bamboo Grove, you’ll likely hear the beautiful music made by the singing bamboo. This spot in the garden is a guest favorite!

26. The Morikami offers 100 educational offerings annually – ranging from learning Japanese to mastering the art of Sogetsu flower arranging.

27. Morikami’s galleries exhibit more than 500 artifacts per year.

28. The oldest artifact in our collection is a Jōmon Period pot, dating back to 5000 BCE – it’s about 7,000 years old!

29. There are 19 stone lanterns throughout the garden and no two are the same.

30. Morikami’s Challenger Lantern is dedicated to the seven Challenger astronauts, including Ellison Onizuka, a Japanese American and first person of Asian descent to travel to space.

31. Morikami goes through 15 pounds of rice for each mochitsuki, or rice-pounding ceremony, during our annual New Year’s celebration, Oshogatsu.

32. On a regular day in the garden you might see iguanas, bobcats, turtles, koi, armadillos, rabbits, squirrels, over 100 species of birds, and even alligators! Some animals we see so often we give them a name: “Harry the Heron” (technically an egret) likes to frequent the lobby rock garden.

33. Morikami’s Wisdom Ring was a gift from its sister city, Miyazu, Japan in 1997 to commemorate the museum’s 20th anniversary.

34. You can’t call Morikami camera shy! The museum and gardens have appeared in fashion shoots by Boca Raton Magazine, on the TLC show Four Weddings and even a Busta Rhymes music video.

35. Since its first Oshogatsu in 1978, Morikami has celebrated almost three complete cycles of the Japanese Zodiac calendar. 2012 is the year of the dragon and in 2013 we’ll ring in the year of the snake.