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A Curator’s Wish for the Future

Photo by Jonathan Ley

Dear Members,

For many, a stroll through the Portland Japanese Garden is the closest they will come to experiencing Japan. The Garden is a living “classroom,” the lessons of which are many—not only about how trees
grow and moss forms on stone, but about the elegant beauty of the curved line of a branch and the lives and culture of those who designed and nurtured this art form.

The Garden grows and dies and is re-born, telling us life is short and must be appreciated in the moment – a message eloquently expressed in Japanese poetry throughout history. This work of art was planned by Tokyo Professor Takuma Tono to be a bridge between cultures. Its multiple styles represent not just a survey of the history of Japanese garden design but also a window to the aesthetics, culture, history, and spirit of Japan itself.

With the Cultural Village, our Garden includes traditional and contemporary design elements, incorporating the trees and topography of its Pacific Northwest location while pointing to the future with new design elements based on traditional Japanese concepts. Our educational programs reflect this diversity, providing grounds for fostering international understanding, bridging East and West, connecting tradition and modernity and expanding our awareness of the world.

From the moment I entered its gates, the Garden took me back to Kyoto, my home for 18 years, whose gardens I knew and loved. The Learning Center brings my life full circle. With the new classroom, gallery, and cultural corner come opportunities to work with partners in the community and in Japan who practice its living arts—tea, ikebana, calligraphy, music, and bonsai. The efforts of those dedicated people have kept our Garden vibrant for more than 50 years. At this defining moment in the Garden’s history, I see daily the eyes of visitors from all over the world opening to new ideas — just as my eyes opened more than 30 years ago. My gratitude to those whose vision and support brought this dream to life.

With Gratitude,
Diane Durston
Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education