The Fine Arts Center has named Michael Sakamoto to the newly created position of associate director of programming. His primary role will be to help lead the curatorial and outreach activities around all performing arts presented by the Fine Arts Center. Moreover, Sakamoto will serve as director of the Asian arts and culture program, succeeding Ranjanaa Devi, who retired last year after over 25 years as the founding director.
“I am extremely excited to assume this unique position,” says Sakamoto. “UMass has made a bold statement in the American performing arts world by integrating Asian arts and culture within the core mission and function of its world-class Fine Arts Center. As an Asian American whose family was incarcerated in World War Two for being Japanese, and spent his entire career dedicated to fostering intercultural dialogue, not only across the Pacific, but nationally and globally, this job couldn’t be more important to me. I pledge to our audiences, students and artists that I will strive to create beautiful, provocative and transformative experiences, as well as safe space for difference among all. In this time of social crisis, the arts are needed to inspire us more than ever.”
Sakamoto is a longtime arts administrator, interdisciplinary artist, scholar and college/university professor with 30 years of experience. From 2000-2007, he was program coordinator at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA, one of the leading international artist residency centers worldwide. He has consulted on arts management and grant programs for numerous institutions, including the New England Foundation for the Arts, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Durfee Foundation, Los Angeles City Cultural Affairs Department and others.
Sakamoto holds an MFA in dance and PhD in culture and performance from UCLA. He is former co-director of Goddard College’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program and former assistant professor in dance at the University of Iowa, and has taught theatre at California Institute of the Arts and Bangkok University.
Sakamoto is also an interdisciplinary artist and curator in dance, theatre, performance, media and photography. His solo, ensemble and visual works have been presented in 14 countries throughout Asia, Europe and North America. From 1994-2000, he was also a featured soloist in the Rachel Rosenthal Company.
Recent touring works include “Soil,” a dance theater trio with performers from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam/USA, and “Flash,” a butoh/hip-hop duet with Rennie Harris. Michael is currently developing “George/Michael,” a dance theater duet with former American Ballet Theater and Broadway performer, George de la Peña, and “MuNK,” an autobiographical photo essay inspired by postcolonial and diasporic identity among Japanese Americans and butoh dancers.
Michael’s research and performance interests include contemporary imaginings of the butoh-based “body in crisis,” corporeal and mediated embodiments of self-reflection and social resistance, and performing the cultural commons and cultural sustainability. He publishes regularly in academic journals and is currently editing a book manuscript on butoh practice and social theory for Wesleyan University Press.