A Japanese teacher and recent USI graduate in art will hold a semester-long internship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum starting in September. Wakako Mikami ’10 will work in an education-related area of the American Art Museum, and her assignments will include weekly workshops, seminars, and on-site facility tours. With her Bachelor of Arts degree and the Smithsonian internship, she hopes to become an art educator.
Mikami’s long-term goal is to help people understand and retain an interest in traditional art and culture. “I believe it is important to preserve the enriching aspects of art, especially when the economy concerns a huge part of the society,” she said. “I also know the Smithsonian Institution will teach me how museums can improve the richness of people’s lives,” she wrote in her internship application.
Before earning a degree at USI, Mikami received a baccalaureate degree in international relations from Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, a university which instills in its students a deeper understanding of international affairs among foreign countries. While an undergraduate, she volunteered in Mexico and lived in three separate locations in India for a one-year period while completing an internship.
After graduation from Kobe City, Mikami coordinated logistics for a trade company, maintaining quality and on-time delivery, with clients in Japan and the United States.
Through her extensive travel, museums became favorite educational places for Mikami.
She visited Naoshima, Japan’s art island, at a time when contemporary art was installed across the island. “I met and talked with the older generation of the island and found they participated in the art movement,” she wrote in an essay. “The island had suffered from de-population and emigration of younger generations. Nevertheless, the art project brought in numerous young artists and visitors from all over the world. Older members of the community, who now enjoy learning about contemporary art and guiding young tourists, have become active and motivated with the island life. I learned the power of art during that visit.”
She traveled to Indiana after receiving a scholarship from the Alliance for Language Learning and Education Exchange(ALLEX Foundation). Part of the scholarship required Mikami to teach at the Southern Indiana Japanese School, a program sponsored by the University of Southern Indiana, for children of Japanese executives who work in America. “The children inspired me with their creativity and openness to new ideas,” she said. “I am amazed at their potential. My efforts are rewarded when I see my students enjoying the class. This type of reward or satisfaction was what I could not get from business no matter how hard I worked.”
“I teach Japanese history and geography to students in third grade to seventh grade,” she said. “On Saturdays I feel like I’m in Japan with students and teachers all speaking Japanese.” Her parents and siblings live in Tokyo, the city where she grew up.
Mikami taught at the Japanese School on Saturdays, and she took USI classes in art and art history during the remainder of the week.
“I could talk to my USI professors easily,” she said. “I think of them as considerate they know the personalities of their students.”
Dr. Hilary Braysmith, associate professor of art history, was one of her teachers and helped Mikami to articulate her life mission on internship applications.
“Mikami is competitive, reflective, and expresses herself well,” said Braysmith. “Her ability to share ideas left an impact on other students in class.
“Her business experience gave her confidence, plus she is aware of the good at every moment. She does not cruise through a class. For Mikami, the focus of art is to solve community issues and problems. She is now going forward on her merit.
“And such accomplishment is good for all USI students. When she proceeds forward, the USI name goes with her.”
“I don’t plan to become an artist,” Mikami said. Her ambition is to interpret art for the common good. “Art has the possibility to help people. I want to be that help,” she said.