Artist Mai Miyake Meets ASIJ Students

Japanese contemporary artist Mai Miyake recently visited with high school students to speak on art, inspiration and being a professional artist. Japan center co-director Mariko Yokosuka introduces Mai’s trip to ASIJ.


Japanese contemporary artist, Mai Miyake, is a rapidly ascending star in the international art world whose work fuses contemporary approaches to fine art and design with traditional Japanese visual culture. She is a professor at Kyoto University of Design and Art (Kyoto Zokei Daigaku) as well as a published novelist and poet. She is quite comfortable with words, eloquent whether speaking in Japanese or English, and describes her creative process with illuminating examples.

Mai has also participated in solo and group exhibitions and conducted workshops at renowned institutions and galleries such as Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), OPAM (Oita Prefectural Art Museum) with world-renowned architect Shigeru Ban, and Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art (Shanghai). In addition, she has worked on commissioned works, such as for Ginza Maison Hermès and Shiseido.

Over the course of two visits she made to ASIJ in November and December, Mai worked with high school students in teachers Mike Nelson and Sarah Sutter’s fine arts and 2D/3D design classes and spoke at a general assembly for interested high school students—participating classes included Kyoko Inahara’s (high school Japanese teacher) Japanese comparative culture class, as well as Ryosuke Suzuki’s (high school Japanese teacher) innovation, Grade 9 design and fabrication classes. She also spoke with Brendan Sarsfield’s (high school art teacher) AP studio art students at a roundtable lunch to take a closer look at her intricate works of art.

During their sessions with Mai, students raised questions such as: “How does an artist retain authenticity of their work/concept when engaged in the commission or collaborative experience?” and “How did she find her passion?” Interestingly, Mai shared that while she recalls having a profound interest in arts and culture growing up, she didn’t always know she wanted to be an artist. In fact, not until after college and a year into working in a completely different and unsatisfying career field, did she come to the realize that something was missing in her life. Sometimes it takes a wrong or unexpected turn to get you on the path that feels right to you. Mai closed by reiterating her key message of, “Originality derives from your roots and origins. Explore that. It will set you apart from everyone else,” which clearly resonated with everyone in the audience.

3D art student Sakiko Miyazaki (Grade 10) took the opportunity to introduce and emcee Mai’s assembly presentation. She writes on the experience.

“….I learned so much on what it takes to pursue one’s love of art but also create something original that anyone can appreciate and enjoy. In the in-class session, I was able to show her some of my work from 3D Art as well as some of the other art projects I’ve done outside of school. Ms Miyake guided me on what message I wanted to convey to my audience with my work. It was such a rare experience to receive advice from a real artist who tackles these challenges everyday for a living. I’m happy that I was given this opportunity with Ms Miyake, and I hope that I can use her guidance with my art projects in the future.”

We want to thank Mai again for coming to ASIJ and we look forward to nurturing this new partnership and possible collaborations with the elementary or middle school students next time! A special thanks to FOFA for helping to arrange the roundtable lunch. If you would like to view some of Mai’s work, check out her website.