November 10, 2015

The book I’ve been working on for the last few months is an introduction to some of the most innovative origami artists working today. Their work has been the subject of my two traveling exhibitions, Folding Paper and Above the Fold, both of which are touring museums around the Unites States. The first one opened in March 2012 at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles and the second will come to JANM May next year. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by the programming staff at JANM if I could come and do a presentation today to a group of potential sponsors for the exhibition. Even though I am desperately trying to finish the book this week, I knew the presentation was important, so I drove to the Museum this morning armed with a Powerpoint presentation that I hoped would impress them enough to help fund the exhibition.

When I arrived at JANM, the development director escorted me upstairs to the Board Room and we hooked my computer up to the projector. Outside the room in the museum’s large upstairs atrium, a group of children were being taught origami by some of the docents. Perfect, I thought. While I waited for her to head downstairs to greet the potential donors, I went out to see what the students were folding. I approached one of the docents and introduced myself and explained that we would be holding another origami exhibition next spring. As I was talking to her, I looked at the table full of kids struggling to fold an origami t-shirt and realized that I knew these kids. It was Ella (my friend Jane’s daughter – see June 3), Dahlia and Atlantis, three girls who had been at my son Theo’s school until last year. The kids were from the magnet program at the Middle School that Theo will likely be attending next year!

The coincidence put a smile on my face as I walked back into the Board Room and sat down with the potential donors, three warm, intelligent women with a love for the arts. I gave them my presentation, and they genuinely seemed to enjoy what they were seeing. We chatted with them briefly, answered their questions and then thanked them for coming to meet with us. As a little souvenir, I gave each of them an origami ring that I’d folded from a dollar bill – my origami party piece. (One ring had been sitting in my desk for two years; I folded the other two.) It was a slightly cheeky gift, as we were asking them for funding to support the exhibition, but they laughed delightedly and immediately put their rings on. One even said she would wear hers to the meeting at which they would decide which shows to fund. That sounded promising.


I have to admit that today’s Giveaway was a strategic one. To date, this is the first time I have given something away with the hope of getting something in return, but if they do give financial support, it will be to the Japanese American National Museum and not me, so I think that makes it ok. Besides, it felt good to give something to these women who grant money to museums, and a gift of origami seemed just right for this very origami moment in my life.


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