Historic Higo Garden Hub

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Funding Received: 2012
Seattle, WA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
May 14, 2013

Funding from ArtPlace supports the reactivation of a hidden, historic outdoor space in Seattle’s Nihonmachi  (Japantown) as a safe, accessible and sustainable community hub that will serve as a new cultural destination for The Wing’s walking tours and an economic driver for the entire neighborhood.

ArtPlace spoke with Cassie Chinn, Deputy Executive Director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (The Wing), about this new project.

What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you have had during the course of your ArtPlace grant? Describe how this came about and why it was special. What lesson did you learn from this success?

We’re excited to announce selection of our artist design team for the project, artist Rumi Koshino and architect Yuko Kunugi. We issued a Request for Qualifications late last year, received submissions, and then interviewed applicants with a review committee made up of community stakeholders. Our selection criteria was based on artistic excellence, collaborative experience, and experience working with Asian Pacific American communities and/or the Chinatown-International District

It was a tough decision – you could really see the selection panel taking care to steward this responsibility well. Our community advisory committee (many also served on the selection panel) laid out inspiring goals and a clear vision for the garden. Now, which artist would be able to share in this vision, respond to community desires, and join the team?

We couldn’t be more excited by their selection. As Rumi – a resident of the Chinatown-International District – reflects,

"A transplant from Japan, I’ve spent the last ten years in Seattle which has largely influenced my creative process. My work mirrors the accumulation of my cultures, history and everyday experiences with recent activities centered in the Chinatown-ID, particularly Nihonmachi (Japantown). Behind the 1932 Jackson Building is a green lot once used to grow flowers for Japanese American funerals before the WWII internment. It was cared for by the Murakami family who owned the building and the historic Higo Variety Store (now KOBO at Higo) which was central to rebuilding the neighborhood after the War. This sacred space inspired me to further explore the connection between the Japanese and Japanese American community."

Both Rumi and Yuko have close connections to the Japanese and Japanese American communities, Japantown, and the Jackson Building, the Higo Variety Store and KOBO at Higo. Both are part of Artists for Japan, a group of artists and community members in Seattle who joined together in response to the tragic 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Tohoku, Japan to engage in activities that help support Japan. KOBO at Higo served as the home base for many of their activities.

They share in the same vision and passion for the garden, Japantown and the community. You can really sense their heartfelt connection to the project and its greater goals. Though we didn’t include it as formal criteria for the Request for Qualifications, what really locked it in for the selection panel was not only their excellence in all of the criteria but also their shared heart for the past, present and future of Japantown.