Imagine how it might feel to act upon one of your biggest dreams. Ayane Hida’s dream of living and working in America came true two years ago when she was chosen to work as the Japanese Outreach Initiative Coordinator at the Mazza Museum at the University of Findlay.
A native of Kyoto, Japan, Hida first realized her American dream after a trip to Hawaii in 2012 to learn English. “I immediately started researching ways to teach in America. That’s when I discovered the Japan Foundation’s Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI) program,” she said. According to their website, the JOI program aims to promote awareness and understanding of Japan in regions of the United States with relatively few Japan-related activities and opportunities for exchange and to nurture new leaders in the field of grassroots exchange. The Mazza Museum applied to the JOI program as well. Hida found out in May 2015 that she had been matched with a museum dedicated to children’s book illustrations in Findlay, Ohio. “I was nervous, but I love art so I was also very excited,” she said.
While she isn’t teaching Japanese to a classroom of children at the Mazza Museum, she has found ways to infuse the Japanese culture through specific exhibits and events there. Her most recent project was connecting with Japanese photographer, Kazuyoshi Miyoshi, through the Japan Foundation to coordinate two different local exhibits of 60 of his photos highlighting Japanese world heritage sites. She is responsible for working with the photographer, planning the exhibits and serving as the main point of contact for media interested in covering the exhibits. Twenty of Miyoshi’s photos were on exhibit at the Dudley and Mary Marks Lea Gallery in UF’s Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion May 8 through May 26 and 50 photos are currently on exhibit at the Marathon Center for Performing Arts until June 23, 2017. “It’s interesting to see the difference in cultural point of views based on how someone looks at the art. These photos help open conversation between our two cultures,” said Hida.
Another project last fall allowed her to connect with Japanese picture book author and illustrator, Momomi Sako, for the “Ohayo to Ohio” Funday Sunday at the Museum. The event included Japanese-themed stations designed to educate through art and literature. Families enjoyed face-painting, storytelling, origami, as well as Japanese music and dancing as a way to spark interest in art and literature and create a lifelong habit of reading.
Hida even worked with Sako to have some of her artwork sent to the Museum. “She told me she felt like she was sending her kids to us. When we showed her her artwork on the wall in the Museum she cried tears of joy,” said Hida.
Hida can relate. Having traveled over 6,000 miles to live and work in Findlay for the past two years, she is definitely a long way from home and family. Though it has been difficult, her co-workers make sure she stays busy and has fun. “Everyone has been so warm and welcoming. I’ve had so many adventures! They’ve taken me to parks, out to dinners and even out on a boat on the lake.”
She will travel back home in August, but has found her work here very rewarding. “I feel like I was able to accomplish my goal of bringing a sample of Japanese culture to the city,” she said.
Mazza Museum director, Ben Sapp, couldn’t agree more. “Ayane has incorporated so many wonderful programs that I hope the University of Findlay will be able to continue even after she has returned to Japan,” he said. “She has become a member of all of our families over these last two years and we will miss her greatly come August.”