Japanese American National Museum

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: CHRIS KOMAI
(213) 830-5648

JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM’S ‘BIG DRUM’ EXHIBITION SET FOR OREGON NIKKEI LEGACY CENTER JUNE 16 TO AUGUST 27

LOS ANGELES.— A traveling version of the Japanese American National Museum’s landmark exhibition, Big Drum: Taiko in the United States, will be installed at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center (ONLC) in Portland, Oregon, beginning Friday, June 16, and running through August 27.

Big Drum premiered in Los Angeles last year at the National Museum, coinciding with the 2005 North American Taiko Conference in July. Through the use of media presentations, artifacts, photographs and artwork, the exhibition told the remarkable story of how the transplanted Japanese cultural art of ensemble taiko (Japanese for “big drum” or “fat drum”) took root in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s in Japanese American communities and grew in popularity to the point that over 200 groups now exist in 24 states as well as Canada.

Unlike other Japanese cultural arts, taiko developed simultaneously in America and Japan in the post-World War II era and groups from both countries have shared influences for 30 years. The early Japanese American groups could not afford the costly drums from Japan, however, and created their own tradition of building their own out of wine barrels and available materials.

Portland Taiko was among the 80 groups who collaborated with the National Museum in the creation of the original exhibition, which was made possible in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The traveling version will feature artifacts and photographs from Northwest taiko groups as well as extensive video presentations, outlining how many Japanese American communities created their own taiko groups as an expression of their identity and a reconnection to their heritage.

Big Drum: Taiko in the United States tells a compelling story about an aspect of American history and culture,” observed June Schumann, Executive Director of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. “We wanted this exhibit to provide context for the Regional Taiko Gathering taking place in Portland, Oregon during the weekend of June 16-18 when over 100 taiko performers from the Northwest U.S. and British Columbia will be in town for taiko workshops and concerts. The Portland Nikkei community and ONLC has a strong working relationship with the Japanese American National Museum that started in 1992 with the development of an exhibition, In This Great Land of Freedom: Issei Pioneers of Oregon. The arrangements for the traveling version of Big Drum to come to Portland is another example of how a major national museum works with local organizations across the country.”

The opening of the exhibition at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center will coincide with the beginning of the Regional Taiko Gathering, hosted by Portland Taiko. The Portland presentation of Big Drum is made possible, in part, by the support of George and Nobuko Azumano, Dr. Toshio Inahara, the Naito Corporation, and Kelly and Melissa Saito. The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, located at 121 NW Second Avenue in Portland, is a Japanese American museum and center that preserves and shares the history and culture of Japanese Americans in Oregon. Exhibition hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday 12 noon to 3 p.m. The show is free to members of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center and the National Museum.

"The Japanese American National Museum is honored to have its landmark exhibition, Big Drum: Taiko in the United States, installed at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland,” explained Akemi Kikumura-Yano, Vice President of Programs for the National Museum. “The playing of taiko is an integral part of Japanese American culture and history in the post-war and it is important that there is a greater understanding that this popular art form grew directly out of our own Nikkei communities in the United States. The Pacific Northwest was a part of that development. The National Museum is delighted to collaborate with fine regional institutions like the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center to share these fascinating stories.”

For more information on the exhibition, contact the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center at (503) 224-1458 or visit www.oregonnikkei.org, or the Japanese American National Museum at (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.