Japanese American National Museum
Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 11, 2016

Leslie Unger - - 213-830-5690


Los Angeles

The Japanese American National Museum will hold its annual Gala Dinner, Silent Auction, and After Party on March 19, 2016, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites, Los Angeles. The evening’s theme will be Moving Images, Telling Stories and the honorees will be award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns along with Karen L. Ishizuka and Robert A. Nakamura, who, among other notable accomplishments, founded JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center.

Recognizing that film and video are powerful tools used for generations to document, reflect, and influence people and culture, JANM’s 2016 Gala Dinner will focus on the museum’s significant collection of moving images. The program will demonstrate how these compelling first-person resources, especially home movies and video life histories, have helped portray the Japanese American story as an integral part of the broader American narrative.

Ken Burns will receive the inaugural JANM Founders’ Award, established to recognize an individual or organization that advances the mission and vision of the museum’s founders in a meaningful way on a national or international scale. The founders’ vision includes, among other goals, presenting the Japanese American experience from a first-person perspective and as an integral part of America’s heritage, and encouraging appreciation for cultural diversity.

Burns has directed and produced some of the most acclaimed and widely viewed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, Statue of Liberty, Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, and Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. In particular, Burns’s The War, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, and The National Parks: America’s Best Idea utilized the unique home movie assets of JANM to represent Japanese American experiences within the broader subject matters these documentaries examined.

Burns’s films have earned fourteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Academy Award nominations. Burns received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 News and Documentary Emmy Awards. His future projects include films on Jackie Robinson, the Vietnam War, the history of country music, Ernest Hemingway, and the history of stand-up comedy. He served as Grand Marshal of the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day.

Karen Ishizuka and Robert Nakamura will receive the inaugural JANM Legacy Award, established to recognize individuals and organizations that have made a lasting contribution to the museum’s institutional legacy and helped to distinguish the museum as a unique, vital, and valuable community resource.

Ishizuka and Nakamura each played pivotal roles at JANM, especially in establishing and guiding the development of what is now the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center (MAC). Together and independently, Ishizuka and Nakamura have lengthy careers that have helped preserve and share the history of Japanese Americans and other Asian American communities.

Ishizuka held several roles at JANM, including curator of the museum’s America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering the Japanese American Experience exhibition; co-founder, with Nakamura, of the Photographic and Moving Image Archive; and director of the Media Arts Center. Ishizuka is the author of Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties (Verso Press, 2016) and Lost and Found: Reclaiming the Japanese American Incarceration (University of Illinois Press, 2006), as well as co-editor of Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (University of California Press, 2007). She served on the National Film Preservation Board and was one of the first people in the United States to study and advocate for the historical and cultural significance of home movies. She successfully lobbied for the inclusion of home movie footage shot at the Topaz, Utah, Japanese American incarceration camp during World War II on the National Film Registry. It was only the second home movie to be named to the annually updated list of culturally, historically, and aesthetically important American films; the first home movie named to the list was the Zapruder film of President Kennedy’s assassination.

Robert Nakamura served on the initial community advisory committee that helped establish JANM. He then co-founded the Photographic and Moving Image Archive and served as artistic director of the Media Arts Center. Incarcerated as a child during World War II, Nakamura is considered “the godfather of Asian American cinema.” His pioneering films include Manazanar (1972), Wataridori: Birds of Passage (1975), and Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (1980). In addition to his work at JANM, Nakamura was the founding director of Visual Communications in 1970, now the oldest community-based media arts center in the United States, and founding director of the UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications, which focuses on documenting ethnic minority communities.

Together, Ishizuka and Nakamura wrote, directed, produced, and/or executive produced more than 15 videos for JANM, including Though Their Own Eyes (1992), a three-screen video installation in the museum’s inaugural exhibition, and J-Town Rhapsody (1999), an eight-screen installation for the opening of JANM’s Pavilion building, as well as the award-winning Moving Memories (1993), Something Strong Within (1994), Looking Like the Enemy (1995), and Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray, which was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. Most of these incorporated the unique home movie holdings of JANM, which the pair actively sought out for the permanent collection, and paved the way for MAC’s future productions. Ishizuka and Nakamura also spearheaded the museum’s efforts to record video life histories of the Issei and Nisei generations to ensure that those stories were known and shared by future generations.

The Gala Dinner evening will include JANM’s popular Lexus Opportunity Drawing, for which a new 2016 Lexus RX 450h F SPORT vehicle will be the prize. Opportunity Drawing tickets are $25 each, $100 for five tickets, and $500 for thirty tickets. They may be requested by calling 213.830.5669 or sending an email to

Sponsorship and underwriting opportunities for the Gala Dinner honoring Ken Burns and Karen L. Ishizuka and Robert A. Nakamura are also available. Visit for details. Individual tickets for the event will go on sale in February.

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Giant Robot Biennale 4
Through January 24, 2016
Giant Robot Biennale 4, produced in collaboration with Giant Robot founder Eric Nakamura, examines the evolution of the Giant Robot aesthetic from its humble origins in drawing to its many celebrated manifestations in painting, installation, muralism, and photography.

Common Ground: The Heart of Community
Incorporating hundreds of objects, documents, and photographs collected by JANM, this exhibition chronicles 130 years of Japanese American history, from the early days of the Issei pioneers through the World War II incarceration to the present.

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About the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

Established in 1985, the Japanese American National Museum promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories and strives to provide a voice for Japanese Americans as well as a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public, JANM has presented over 70 exhibitions onsite and traveled 17 of its exhibitions to locations around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America.

JANM is located at 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. General admission is $9 adults, $5 students and seniors, free for members and children under age five. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from noon to 8 p.m. General admission prices and free admission times may not apply to specially ticketed exhibitions. Closed Monday, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information visit or call 213.625.0414.



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