Mayumi Tsutakawa retires after long career as arts administrator

Ron Chew March 15, 2016 0
Mayumi Tsutakawa, daughter of George Tsutakawa, stands in front of her father’s restored fountain sculpture. • Photo by Alia Marsha

Mayumi Tsutakawa, daughter of George Tsutakawa, stands in front of her father’s restored fountain sculpture. • Photo by Alia Marsha

Mayumi Tsutakawa, longtime arts administrator and cultural diversity advocate, retired last month after spending the past 14 years serving as grants administrator at the Washington State Arts Commission.

Tsutakawa, a lifelong Seattleite, has been one of the most prominent Asian American arts administrators in the Pacific Northwest over the past 40 years, lending her professional expertise and finely-honed cultural sensitivity skills to a host of government and non-profit arts groups.

Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Museum of History and Industry, worked with Tsutakawa earlier in his career when both were at King County. “She has been a tireless and imaginative cultural leader, connecting our communities with the power of art,” he said. “Mayumi has been a national arts innovator, inspiring countless arts administrators like me with an understanding of how culture builds community and enriches lives.”

Huong Vu, an arts and culture grants administrator at the Boeing Company, is a long-time admirer of Tsutakawa’s work: “Mayumi is much beloved by many different communities because of her generous spirit, her rigor in asking the hard questions and her expectation of excellence. She has helped inspire the next generation.”

Tsutakawa hails from a family of artists. Her father was the acclaimed Northwest sculptor and painter George Tsutakawa, whose iconic bronze water fountains grace many urban settings, including the downtown Seattle Public Library. Her brother Gerard has followed in the footsteps of her father, also making his name as a sculptor. Mayumi’s brother Deems is a jazz musician and recording artist, while another brother Marcus is an orchestra conductor at Garfield High School.

“I am very happy to have been involved in diversifying arts participants and audiences in our state,” Mayumi said. “I enjoyed working with communities of color and arts organizations of all sizes to recognize the changing demographics of our state and to work on programs that advance cultural equity.”

She said she is now doing freelance writing and meeting facilitation for arts organizations. “I just completed five short articles for the Densho online encyclopedia,” she said.

While she was at the Washington State Arts Commission, she directed the 10-year Arts Participation Leadership Initiative, funded by The Wallace Foundation to teach and promote new methods of increasing arts participation in view of changing demographics and new social platforms in technology.

She was board member and past chair of a national advocacy organization, The Association of American Cultures, for 10 years. She also worked as executive director of the King County Arts Commission.

As an independent curator and then director of external relations for the Wing Luke Museum, Tsutakawa developed and produced several exhibitions of Asian/Pacific American historical and contemporary artists.

Tsutakawa has co-edited several multicultural literary anthologies, one of which, The Forbidden Stitch: Asian American Women’s Literary Anthology (Calyx Books), received the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award. For six years, she was a reporter and editor at The Seattle Times.

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