I work to expand the fields of urban design, public art and historic preservation by bringing the experiences and voices of people who have been left out of “official” histories into the fabric of communities they have built. My primary focus is working with local communities to reveal, document and activate the history of the places they live and to forge a more just future. Working as director and historian for projects that reshape the urban environment, I bring designers, artists and other professionals together with community members and public agencies. Major projects include conceptualizing, establishing and developing Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, and directing the statewide project Preserving California’s Japantowns. Both efforts uncovered histories previously ignored or actively obscured and reclaimed space for neglected community heritage in the built environment.
In concrete terms, the Fellowship offered me time and support to research strategies for taking some of my current projects to the next level. I developed a conceptual plan for a regional heritage network connecting the 3 remaining Japantowns in the US to historic remnants we discovered across California and the state’s WWII internment camps. I’ve begun a dialogue among Japanese American community leaders, elected officials, NGOs, public agencies and the National Park Service to pursue this concept. More broadly, the Fellowship has given me wider perspective and connections that expand my practice to develop more robust strategies for supporting cultural vitality and preservation in historic communities that have not been valued. It has also allowed me to imagine working in other regions of the US and internationally.