Art Projects – Individuals

sample application


Project Title

The Japanese Brazilian Diaspora

Short Description

My project involves:
Research and collection of oral histories of my family in Brazil
Visual interpretation of these personal stories
Encouraging preservation of family stories


Project Description

This project marks my return to visual storytelling and will also honor the stories of my Japanese Brazilian family. Last year, I left my full-time job of 12 years to focus on art, spending the past six months painting. I created a series of Japanese fairytale paintings, but thought it would be more powerful to illustrate real-life stories.

I have a deep interest in my family’s unique history and seek to give voice and visibility to their lives and experiences. My maternal grandmother married my grandfather and moved from a small fishing village in Japan to Seattle in 1918, while her remaining siblings immigrated to Brazil to seek opportunities. Japanese began immigrating to Brazil in 1908 to work in agriculture. In 2018, Brazil had an estimated Japanese population of 1.5 million, the largest population outside of Japan.

My grandmother maintained strong ties with her family in Brazil, bringing her children to visit. Her descendants have continued to stay connected through visits and family reunions in Seattle and Sao Paulo.

My plan is to work with family members, travel to Sao Paulo and collect stories and photographs about their lives and identities. All my grandmother’s siblings have passed, but I plan to interview their descendants to collect their memories and reflections. I will work with relatives who can assist with translation and will draw on particular quotes to create “fairy tale” type paintings that honor these real-life stories of our Japanese Brazilian family members.

I will share my process and artworks on my website and at a public presentation at Wing Luke Museum, and also provide resources for collecting and preserving stories. My hope is to bring to light the story of Japanese Brazilians through the collection of stories and creation of artworks and to also inspire and empower others to work on their own personal discoveries and preservation of family history.

Project Impact

I plan to do a presentation at Wing Luke Museum, sharing the inspiration, planning and process involved in this project including:
- Historic photos
- Photos/documentation of interviews
- Audio excerpts of oral history interviews
- Final artworks
- Discuss challenges and problem-solving
- Resources for oral history collection at The Wing Luke Museum’s Oral History Lab, a free space for public use

Potential audiences include Nikkei (Japanese emigrants or descendants thereof who is not a citizen of Japan), folks who live or work in the Chinatown-International District neighborhood, Museum members, artists, families/youth, folks who are interested in preserving their history.

Wing Luke Museum has offered to host this as a free event in their Tateuchi Story Theatre, which seats 80 people, at no cost, if it is held on a First Thursday, dependent on their schedule. Ideally, the program would be in June, 2020 (June 18, 1908, is the anniversary of the Japanese migration to Brazil.) The Wing will promote the program through their e-news and social media. I will promote the event through my contacts and website.

Relevant Expertise / Experience / Accomplishments

I have many years experience as an artist, including freelance illustration and design, fine art and costume design. I was on staff at The Seattle Times as a graphic artist for over a decade. My work involved daily and weekly assignments, as well as collaboration with editors, writers, photographers and other artists.

I recently concluded 12 years as Exhibit Director at Wing Luke Museum, where I worked with community members to develop exhibitions. The job required solid communication and project management skills. I oversaw over 30 exhibitions and projects, which involved outreach, recruitment, meeting coordination and facilitation, timeline and budget management, overseeing design, production, installation, maintenance and working collaboratively with community members, curators, artists, contractors, vendors, architects and other Museum staff. The majority of exhibition project budgets ranged from $4,000 - $20,000. I was able to stay on deadline and on budget for my projects.

I am process-oriented – I see projects from initial concept, through development and final product. I have learned to use my creativity to adapt and overcome challenges, whether they are logistical, budgetary or interpersonal.

Much of my work at The Wing was relationship-building: individual meetings, developing trust, and providing opportunities for ownership and empowerment. This is crucial for collecting oral histories – finding ways to gain trust so your subject feels comfortable sharing their personal stories. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing many community members and their stories were powerful tools to connect, enrich and deepen visitors’ understanding of the Asian Pacific American experience.

I will be building on my experiences in art, community relations and project management, but instead of helping other folks find ways to tell their story, I’ll be able to create a means to tell my own family’s story.

Project Implementation

Summer 2019
– Confirm oral history subjects
– Confirm travel arrangements
– Travel to Sao Paulo
– Conduct oral histories

Fall - Winter 2019
– Transcribe oral history excerpts

Winter - Spring 2020
– Work on paintings
– Develop presentation and web content

June 2020
– Complete paintings
– Presentation at Wing Luke Museum
– Project content on website

I would share this project and public program with my email contacts including friends, family, arts supporters, relatives in U.S. and Brazil. I would dedicate a section of my art website to this project with explanatory text, photos, excerpted quotes from interviews, sketches and final artwork. The Wing would promote the public program through their social media and e-news.

My Key Project Priorities are: traveling to Brazil to collect 6 family oral histories; creating 6 original paintings based on those stories; sharing my process with the public at Wing Luke Museum.

If I do not receive full funding, I could reduce the number of interviews and paintings and forgo traveling to Brazil and instead interview people by phone, Skype or other means.


Project Expenses

  • Planning - $1,500
  • People - $7,200
  • Services - $2,100
  • Supplies - $200
  • Promotion - $1,500
  • Transportation/Shipping - $2,650
  • Document/Assess - $1,200
  • Equipment/Fixtures - $20
  • Other - $2,905
  • TOTAL - $19,275

Project Income

  • Applicant - $3,360
  • In-Kind - $4,715
  • Other Income - $2,700
  • 4Culture Request - $8,500
  • TOTAL - $19,275

Project Budget Notes

The 4Culture Project Grant would help supplement my time collecting oral histories and creating artworks, my travel expenses to Brazil and the public presentation. Part of the budget will be In-Kind, at my own time and expense. Wing Luke Museum is offering In-Kind promotion and use of their theater for the public program. I am also fortunate to have family willing to support this project with their donated time and services. I plan to have the paintings scanned and give family members digital files, and also make art prints to sell.


PEOPLE - $7200
Self: 6 Interviews: prep, travel, interview, select transcription and edits - $3600
Self: 6 paintings - $3000
Self: Public presentation preparation/talk - $600

SERVICES - $2100
Family: Coordination assistance - $300
Family: Translation services - $1800

Paint and paper - $200

Self - $500
Wing Luke Museum - $1000

Round trip airfare Seattle to Sao Paulo - $2500.
Car service/mileage for interviews service – $150

PLANNING - $1500
Self: Research, outreach, phone calls, emails, coordination - $1500

International adapter for audio recorder/laptop - $20

Self: photos, notes - $1200

Family: Housing in Sao Paolo - $1000 (In-kind)
Self: Per Diem in Sao Paulo - $450 (In-kind)
Venue rental: Wing Luke Museum/Tateuchi Story Theatre - $615
Digital scanning of 6 paintings - $300
18 Prints of paintings - $540



4Culture Request - $8500

Applicant - $3,360

IN-KIND - $4715
Family (coordination assistance - $300, translation – $1800, housing $1000) – $3100
Wing Luke Museum (space use $615, promotion $1000) - $1615

Sales of 18 signed prints - $2700



Venue Name

Wing Luke Museum

Project Venue Notes

I have confirmed with Wing Luke Museum to have a presentation in their Tateuchi Story Theatre on a First Thursday, a free admission day. My presentation would be a free program. The space use will be In-Kind, valued at $615. This is a fitting venue for my program as The Wing focuses on Asian Pacific American art, history and culture. The Wing is located in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, a diverse, densely populated, economically challenged neighborhood. First Thursdays are well-attended and provide folks who can't afford Museum admission the opportunity to see The Wing's many exhibitions and attend their public programs.



Sample Description

This series of paintings are project-related and illustrate traditional Japanese fairy tales. For my project, I plan to create new works that illustrate my family’s lives as Japanese Brazilians in a similar style and approach:

Urashima Taro
Acrylic on paper, 12” x 18”, 2018
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Kitsune no Yomeiri / Fox Wedding
Acrylic on paper, 12” x 18”, 2018
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Tanabata / Evening of the Seventh
Acrylic on paper, 18” x 12”, 2018
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Additionally, I am including my Nihonmachi portraits, which show the vibrancy of Seattle’s pre-WWII Nihonmachi (Japantown) before the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West coast:

Stars and Stripes
Acrylic on paper, 5” x 7”, 2019
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Acrylic on paper, 5” x5”, 2019
Michelle Kumata, Artist

You and me both
Acrylic on paper, 6” x 4”, 2019
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Girl’s Day, Boy’s Day
Acrylic on paper, 8” x 10”, 2019
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Blue Lady
Acrylic on paper, 2.5” x 3”, 2019
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Pastel Sisters
Acrylic on paper, 8” x 10”, 2019
Michelle Kumata, Artist

Hope for the Future
Acrylic on paper, 8” x 10”, 2019
Michelle Kumata, Artist