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Retirement Announcement from Steve Bloom, CEO

Multi-color flowers in bloom next to lamp at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Dear Portland Japanese Garden Members and Community,

On May 6th, as I gave my report on the state of our organization at the Annual Meeting of the Membership, I announced that in January of 2025, I will be retiring. After 33 years of public service, during which time I was fortunate to see Portland Japanese Garden blossom into a world class cultural organization, the time has come for me to pursue and accomplish some of my other dreams and life aspirations. 

I believe in the philosophy that life is short, and I want to exact from my brief existence on this planet, as much as I possibly can while I am able. The past year has been personally transformational in several ways. Among them was the feeling of joy as I watched and celebrated two of my longest and dearest friends retire from hugely successful careers; a journey to South Africa for Japan Institute’s Peace Symposium and the remarkable, resilient, and embracing people that moved me in unexpected ways; and most recently, having the privilege to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday by taking her back to Europe for the first time in more than 60 years to reunite with family that she had lost many decades ago. Each of these experiences was a gravitational pull towards my decision.

When I began my career as a young aspiring symphony orchestra conductor 33 years ago, I never could have imagined that my life and work would take me on such an extraordinary path. Next year marks 20 years as CEO of Portland Japanese Garden and Japan Institute, where I have had the honor and privilege of serving this renowned place and its people, standing on the shoulders of those who preceded me.

Together, we have built a strong, vibrant, and leading organization that will continue to thrive for many generations to come. Portland Japanese Garden, and what it stands for, transcends any one individual and it will continue to heal, inspire, and bring peace to all who enter its gates. The organization has an exceptional and committed leadership team and Board that has my full support and trust, and I look forward to working with everyone on a transition plan over the coming months, with the goal of announcing more this September. I stand ready, not only through this period, but whenever needed, to help ensure this organization’s enduring success. 

What’s next for me? My passion lies in traveling and making meaningful connections around the world. Since I was a boy growing up in Buffalo, NY, I always dreamed of living in a foreign country and of traveling the world to meet people and explore cultures different from my own. How fortunate that I was able to achieve this in many ways through my career and with the support of those around me – and I plan to continue to pursue this in my next chapter of life! I am in the process of purchasing an akiya in Japan which I will lovingly restore so that Japan can serve as one of my bases. Retirement will give me the time and space to go forth in the world to practice and share the lessons that this Garden has taught me about the power of connection. 

There will be much to do in the coming months, and much to take stock in as we turn this new page, but for today, let me express my sincere gratitude to each of you for all you have done for the Garden, for our shared communities, and for me. I have always said that the greatest measure of a place is its people… in the case of Portland Japanese Garden, I truly believe its people are the reason we are the best in the world at what we do.

With gratitude,

Steve Bloom, CEO of Portland Japanese Garden and Japan Institute