2020 Artists

For the 2019-2020 fellowships, teams of artists were selected from the United States and Japan and worked together on a project that reflects the themes of the Olympic Games: unity, collaboration, and the long-time friendship between the United States and Japan.


Gene Coleman, Composer

Gene Coleman

Gene Coleman is a composer, musician, and director. A 2014 Guggenheim Fellow and the winner of the 2013 Berlin Prize for Music, he has created more than 70 works for various instrumentation and media. The innovative use of sound, image, space, and time allows Coleman to create work that expands our understanding of the world. Since 2001 his work has focused on the global transformation of culture and music’s relationship with science, architecture, video, and dance. He studied painting, music, and new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Website)

Coleman collaborated with Adam Vidiksis, a composer/technologist; Akikazu Nakamura, a shakuhachi player; and Sansuzu Tsuruzawa, a Gidayu-style shamisen performer. Their project KATA combines Japanese martial arts with music, video, brain scanner technologies, and other digital media. Martial arts was one of the earliest cultural elements that migrated from Japan to the United States and came to influence American culture post-World War II. A key element of that influence was the value of using martial arts to build character and to understand the responsibilities we have towards other people in society to create a just and peaceful world. Digital technologies were used to translate martial arts movements into sounds, which formed a landscape over which musicians played.

Cameron McKinney, Choreographer, Dancer

Cameron mcKinney

A New York City-based choreographer, dancer, educator, and author. He founded Kizuna Dance in 2014 with the mission of creating works that celebrate the Japanese language and culture. He recently received a three-month individual fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council to travel to Japan and continue his studies on the intersections of street dance and butoh. He has presented choreographic work nationally and internationally, as well as leading workshops, master classes, and residencies. He is currently on the faculty at the Gibney Dance Center. (Website)

McKinney will collaborate with Toru Shimazaki, a choreographer based in Kobe, Japan. They will produce a 30-minute contemporary dance work for a five-person ensemble. The work will be rooted in an embodiment of the personal histories of dancers both in the United States and Japan and is meant to resonate on a deeper level with the dancers of both casts. By specifically focusing on the connection between United States-based artists and Japanese artists, the work will portray the bond of friendship that has developed between the two nations over the last several decades by accenting the similarities between the two seemingly disparate cultures.
*This project is currently suspended due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Sue Mark and Bruce Douglas (marksearch), Interdisciplinary Artists


For more than 20 years, the Oakland-based creative team marksearch has been designing interactive opportunities for communities to publicly share personal histories for empowerment. From neighbor-led walking discussions to sidewalk performances, commemorative plaques recognizing generations’ old collective knowledge, and collaborative murals, their global projects preserve neighborhood narratives. (Website)

Marksearch collaborated with another artist duo, Natsuka Endo and Hiroyuki Abe. These two wife-husband artistic teams worked on The Journey Itself Home, a project of poetic exploration to recognize and honor survivors of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. During the pandemic, The team developed a virtual process to engage with young adults in the Tohoku region when it was not safe to travel. Using a trusted relational network, they recorded stories about safety, strength, and hopes for the future. From these recorded voices, the artists have created sonic haiku that is amplified through a trio of interactive, mobile sound monuments in the shape of tsunami stones.

Jesse Schlesinger, Visual Artist

Jesse Schlesinger

A multidisciplinary visual artist working in sculpture, site-specific installation, drawing, and photography. His work is fundamentally concerned with place: how the natural environment, architectural context and engagement, and historical precedent contribute to experience and understanding. His upbringing as a second-generation carpenter (with a focus on traditional craftsmanship) and involvement with a small farm have jointly influenced the philosophy of his work. He has exhibited in galleries and museums in the U.S. and Japan. (Website)

Schlesinger collaborated with Masayo Funakoshi, a chef based in Kyoto, Japan. They planned to create an installation and performance-based work engaging food, architecture, agriculture, and craft through a temporary, experimental, and functional restaurant. However, the ongoing pandemic forced the artists to make significant changes to their project, which eventually led them to re-examine the essence of the artistic experience they create while serving dishes. The short documentary A Sense of Place explores sustainability through the lens of food and agriculture.

Benjamin Volta, Visual Artist

Benjamin Volta

Ben Volta creates intricate public murals and sculptures, working within the fields of education, restorative justice, and urban planning. His practice stands on the belief that art can be a catalyst for change. As a young artist, Volta was a member of the groundbreaking art collective Tim Rollins and K.O.S. and was awarded a Pew Fellowship in 2015. For almost two decades, Volta has been developing a collaborative process with Philadelphia public schools to create participatory art rooted in an exploratory and educational process. (Website)

Volta collaborated with Cho Kuwakado, an educator, and Yasuyuki Sakura, an artist/muralist. Through engagement with youth in the U.S. and Japan, Volta, Kuwakado, and Sakura created collaborative public artworks. The project draws inspiration from the works of great innovators and educators, such as Benjamin Franklin and Fukuzawa Yukichi. The research focused on the accomplishments of distinguished Japanese and American individuals in the sport, science, and education. These accomplishments were introduced to youth in the United States and Japan during workshops, which inspired them to create individual artwork that will come to make up the collaborative piece. The project United By Emotions expressed how art, innovation, and sport have the power to change the world and our future.

For profiles and photos of previous artists, please click on the year
Artists’ Profiles TOP JAPANESE