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Tokyo Artpoint Project + Otomachi Project (Senju)

Next Tokyo Discovery Squad!

No.012
Program officers and directors of Tokyo Artpoint Project, Arts Council Tokyo. Each program officer has on-site experience and unique expertise in art projects and accompanies the project site. Photo: Hajime Kato

Next Tokyo Discovery Squad! is a series of interviews with people who creatively uncover the history and culture of various parts of Tokyo. We introduce the Tokyo Artpoint Project, a project that aims to create many “art points” in Tokyo.

Tokyo Artpoint Project is Arts Council Tokyo’s wide-ranging program of art projects organized with Tokyo Metropolitan Government as well as nonprofits and other partners. Since launching in 2009, Tokyo Artpoint Project has worked with 56 organizations and carried out 45 projects in the city. Here we will cover three of the nonprofit organizations that have participated in this project and report on them in a series of articles.

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2023.12.22

Tokyo Artpoint Project is a project to create a base for culture to be born

Tokyo Artpoint Project was initiated with the aim of creating various “art points” (places where culture is born) in Tokyo. Launched in 2009 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Arts Council Tokyo (then known as the Tokyo Culture Creation Project Office), the project’s purpose was to bolster the city’s art leadership by collaborating with NPOs involved in local communities, in light of Tokyo’s bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Based on the design concept of “creating a new intermediary support system for public cultural projects to connect communities, people, and activities,” the most distinctive feature of this project is that it is executed as a “jointly organized” initiative involving the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Arts Council Tokyo, and NPOs. The advantage of this jointly conducting activities lie in the ability to proceed deliberately in line with the progress of both the project and the organization. Their focus is on fostering a team for sustainable projects.

Arts Council Tokyo’s program officers, who are specialized staff in art projects, have been involved with project from their inception and a mechanism that accompanies the process over multiple years, which is a rare case both domestically and internationally. Program officers support organizations and staff running newly born art projects in the city in various aspects such as networking, information, and expertise, helping these projects to sustain their activities.
Through this mechanism, they have nurtured organizations and hubs responsible for cultural and artistic activities in various regions while engaging with citizens.

Art Access Adachi: Downtown Senju—Connecting through Sound Art, which started as an unconnected society

The nonprofit organization, Otomachi Project, which we are introducing this time, has been part of the Tokyo Artpoint Project since 2011, operating the art project “Art Access Adachi: Downtown Senju—Connecting through Sound Art” (“Otomachi”) in Senju for over a decade. What progress has it made and what journey it taken to develop a sustainable art project until its graduation from the Tokyo Artpoint Project in the spring of 2022?

We spoke with Takeshi Yoshida, who serves as the director of “Otomachi” at this nonprofit organization, and Shinsuke Ouchi, the program officer of Arts Council Tokyo, at the cultural hub Nakacho House operated by the NPO.

At the Nakacho House. Takeshi Yoshida, director of “Otomachi” (right), and Shinsuke Ouchi, program officer.

“Otomachi” is currently being conducted by a collaboration of three parties: Adachi City, Tokyo University of the Arts, and an NPO. Its notable features include having “sound” as the central theme and involving the residents of the town in its activities. In 2022, four projects were conducted such as the Senju Pun-filled Music Festival (2011-), a project that creates music from puns by musician Makoto Nomura, and Senju Ninjou Art Festival 1DAY Performance Expression Town (2021-), which allows a variety of artists to participate.

The “Otomachi” project started in the early 2010s. It was around the time when the term “muen shakai” (a society disconnected individuals) became a buzzword, and issues of isolation and loneliness were widely discussed as social problems.

Mr. Yoshida served as the "Otomachi" secretariat director from 2015-2017 and has been in his current position since 2018. In his previous role, he was also responsible for “Otomachi” as the program officer of the Tokyo Artpoint Project.

In preparation for Adachi City’s 80th anniversary in 2012, the City Promotion Division of the city began exploring the possibility of a project that would use the power of culture and the arts to reconnect Senju with “en”(bonds). Consulting with the Arts Council Tokyo (then the Tokyo Culture Creation Project Office), which implements the Tokyo Artpoint Project, has led to the current “Otomachi.”
Mr. Ouchi, the Arts Council Tokyo program officer responsible for “Otomachi,” says, “They wanted to create opportunities for people who wouldn’t typically encounter each other in their daily lives to meet. They wanted to make this an event not just a one-time event for the 80th- anniversary celebration but a long-term initiative aimed at expanding and deepening the connections that would form there.”

Mr. Ouchi has been involved as a program officer with the Tokyo Artpoint Project since its inception. He has also been in charge of "Art Access Adachi: Downtown Senju—Connecting through Sound Art" from the project’s early days. “To put it simply, the Tokyo Artpoint Project is an initiative to create a ‘secretariat’ for operating art projects,” says Mr. Ouchi.
Memorial Rebirth Senju 2018 Nishiarai, a project by artist Shinji Ohmaki that has been ongoing since 2011.
Photo: Ryohei Tomita

Then, they consulted with Professor Sumiko Kumakura (Department of Music Creativity and Environment, Faculty of Music, Graduate School of Global Arts), who has a laboratory at the Senju Campus of Tokyo University of the Arts, and together with students who specialize in cultural support and arts management under Professor Kumakura, these students also carried out the project.

“Professor Kumakura’s laboratory values both theory and practice, and ‘Otomachi’ serves as a practical platform. Students go out into the town and are involved in the planning and management of the project together with NPO staff members, and gain diverse experiences while receiving encouragement from artists and citizens. They then translate these accumulated experiences into theoretical research in the form of papers. Every year, about 20 students, from first-year undergraduates to doctoral students, contribute to the projects,” says Mr. Yoshida.

An issue of Tokyo University of the Arts' university public relations magazine “藝える” (ueru) with members of Otomachi on the cover (No. 3, 2018).

Establishing the groundwork for a secretariat to preserve activities in the town

However, students from Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) and Adachi City officials naturally undergo changes due to graduations, transfers, and other reasons. To ensure that the activities persist in the town, there is a need for an organization (secretariat) to autonomously take on the planning and continue the operation of art initiatives. In this regard, “Otomachi” began as a project jointly initiated by five parties: the newly established NPO (predecessor of NPO Otomachi Project), Adachi City, Geidai, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and Arts Council Tokyo.

Each though it’s a joint effort by five parties, each co- organizer has its distinct roles. For example, the secretariat handles the planning, and co- organizers exchange ideas within regular meetings to discuss and refine the project’s direction and operation based on the proposed content. In this process, Arts Council Tokyo, in particular, places emphasis on ensuring that the activities and organizations became sustainable and present new challenges for co- organizers. “From the standpoint of art management expertise, they provided advice after understanding what we wanted to achieve,” Mr. Yoshida reflects.

Mr. Ouchi cites risk management as an example of their advice. “Instead of just saying ‘no, there’s a risk’ to proposals like ‘I want to do this,’ we engage in a dialogue, questioning the necessity of the plan, why they want to do this. We work together with the secretariat, offering support throughout the process, until we find common ground, asking, ‘Could it be possible this way?’” As an intermediary support, they have been accompanying the secretariat.

A scene from “Senju, Ninjou Art Festival 1-Day Performance Expression Town” held in 2022. On November 6, 2022 (Sun.), the second edition of the program, a total of 68 groups of performers gathered at the Senju Honcho shopping street, a place of exchange since the Edo Period, and performed their expressions at various locations. (※)
Photo: Ryohei Tomita

Skills and methods are shared and taken to the next level

In the spring of 2022, NPO Otomachi Project graduated from the Tokyo Artpoint Project, but the skills and methods developed there are being shared with other projects within the Tokyo Artpoint Project.

“When creating an event, we start by preparing organizational charts and schedules, making plans, and refining them. These charts and documents also serve as examples for other organizations, suggesting, ‘Let's prepare something like this.’ In the field of event planning and management, we actively share methods that can be somewhat standardized with other organizations. The accounting system developed in ‘Otomachi’ is now being use by all of our organizations, providing to be quite useful,” says Mr. Ouchi.

It is not uncommon for small NPO offices to lack a dedicated accountant. Handling it as a part-time task or dividing it among multiple people can become quite cumbersome. To alleviate the burden for both those doing the checking and those being checked, “Otomachi” has created a standardized format for documents and systematized the process.

Additionally, they actively engaged in “business evaluation,” which is necessary for the continuity of projects. The efforts made by “Otomachi,” including survey analysis and the creation of a logic model (an evaluation method illustrating the results and outcomes of activities), have been shared as good examples in study sessions with other organizations. The book published in 2022, “Serendipity in Japanese Art Projects: 11 Years of Memorial Rebirth Senju by Shinji Ohmaki Our project story, participant voices, and project evaluations”, records how to convey the value of art projects with less visible outcomes, and has garnered a significant response.

This book summarizes the progress of "Memorial Rebirth Senju" and the "bonds" that emerged from it to commemorate "Otomachi"'s 10-year journey. “Serendipity in Japanese Art Projects: 11 Years of Memorial Rebirth Senju by Shinji Ohmaki Our project story, participant voices, and project evaluations " (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Arts Council Tokyo, 2022).

In the Tokyo Artpoint Project, the skills and methods that have been accumulated through practical experience are not only being shared with other organizations, but they also serve as a training ground for participating organizations to take the next step.
“When applying for grants, I realize that the skills honed during the Artpoint era are still valuable. Grantors pay attention not only to the project plan and budget but also to the operational skills. It may be that our history of conducting public cultural projects has contributed to the credibility of our organization,” says Mr. Yoshida.

(Photo: Installation view of Multinational Art Exhibition "Cultural BYO...ne!" 2022)
The multinational art exhibition “Cultural BYO…ne(ね)!" (2022) by the project “Immigration Museum Tokyo (IMM Tokyo)" (2013-), which promotes interaction with foreign residents in the local community. The exhibition was held at Nakacho House from December 3 (Sat.) to 25 (Sun.). (※)
Photo: Ryohei Tomita

“We are here together to create a ‘foundation’ for the sake of this activity to take root and continue in the community,” says Mr. Ouchi.
“Otomachi, which continues even after moving away from the Tokyo Artpoint Project, has become an indispensable presence for the Senju area.”

In “Otomachi,” even after graduating from the Tokyo Artpoint Project, the Otomachi Project has taken the lead, and projects with Adachi City and the Geidai continue. Those involved in the project autonomously plan activities, gather regularly for interaction, and foster proactive engagement. Collaboration with institutions within and outside Adachi City has also increased. “Otomachi” has begun to take on the role of a hub for diverse communities and people. By continuing its activities in the community, it may further creative enriching “bonds.”

In the next issue, we will cover a project in Kouzushima, which is still participating in the Tokyo Artpoint Project.

Nakacho- House (29-1 Senju-Nakacho, Adachi-ku, Tokyo) is an indispensable part of Otomachi. It serves as an exhibition space, a venue for film screenings, and planning meetings, among other uses. It is open on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. For the latest information, please visit the Nakacho House Facebook page.

Japanese original text: Emi Sato
Photo: Aya Hatakenaka (excluding ※)

Tokyo Artpoint Project
https://tarl.jp/en/about/tokyoartpoint/

NPO Otomachi Project (Secretariat for Art Access Adachi: Downtown Senju—Connecting through Sound Art)
TEL:03-6806-1740 (1 p.m.-6 p.m., excluding Tuesdays, Thursdays)
MAIL:info@aaa-senju.com