February 6, 2015

When I first moved out to California and started working at Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, I met a kind-hearted and very focused woman called Jane. She and her husband Eugene had recently moved to Pasadena to establish the US headquarters of the Shinji Shumeikai, a Japanese spiritual organization that has as its central tenets the appreciation of great art, natural agriculture and a type of energy healing called jorei. Shumeikai also owns and operates one of the world’s most beautiful museums, the Miho Museum, an architectural gem in the hills of Shigaraki, an hour’s drive from Kyoto. Now, over 15 years later, Shumei America has an art gallery, a concert program and music education classes for children in the Pasadena area, ranging from Western classical music to taiko drumming. Thanks in large part to Jane’s passion for the arts and her gentle but determined approach to her work, this organization has become a valuable cultural resource in the area (http://www.shumeiarts.org).

Meher phone 1444

The Curious Art of Origami exhibition at the Shumei Hall Gallery in Pasadena, 2014

Over the years, Jane and I became friends working on various collaborations between our respective cultural organizations, and we have had shared the goal of promoting Japanese culture and art here in Southern California. Not once in all these years has she pushed the philosophy of her organization on me, which speaks volumes about her and the Shumeikai. Two years ago, when she asked me to curate an origami exhibition in their space, I was delighted to be able to work closely with her and get to know her organization better. Despite the small space, we were able to put on a sweet, little exhibition that brought new people to their space and introduced a new audience to the origami artists. One day while we were planning the exhibition, she told me that she had studied weaving in Japan and had woven silk fabric on her own loom. On one level, I was surprised to learn she had trained as a textile artist, but on another, it made perfect sense. Working with Jane reminded me that it takes not only hard work to build a successful non-profit organization. Hard work provides the foundation, the warp of the cloth, you might say, into which we must constantly be weaving creativity, patience and compassion, qualities that Jane has in abundance. With her love of fabric in mind, I gave Jane a beautiful, crumpled-look blouse in shades of dark blue and purple that I know she will wear well – maybe at the opening of our next exhibition together.

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