Monday, June 22, 2009

Strategy of Enthusiasm Produced a Winner!

While searching the Internet looking for a friend of mine in the State of Washington, I came upon a site that led me to a businessman I had once worked with on a project about 20 years ago. I could not quite recall his name. He was once the Mayor of Vancouver, a high profile public servant. I figured there must be a clue as to what happened to him, so I googled "Vancouver, Washington".

A familiar Columbian newspaper article dated 2005 appeared titled, "Vancouver has found its heart and maybe its soul. They reside in the spirit that reinvigorated Esther Short Park." It was written by Tom Koenninger, editor emeritus. He wrote:

"Roots of Vancouver's coming of age may have started with former Vancouver Mayor Bryce Seidl and the Nihonga exhibit on Officers Row, and the survival of Officers Row itself in the mid-1980s. The goal was to re-energize the heart of the city, Esther Short Park and environs. Thanks to guts, energy, brains and no small amount of sweat, the objective has largely been met. What a change."

Yes, that's it! Bryce Seidl! I recognized his name. I remember that I liked him.

It was fairly easy to proceed once I knew his name. I found out that he is currently President and Chief Executive Director of the Pacific Science Center, a nonprofit organization in Seattle. This is the man I met and worked together with, on introducing the Nihonga (Japanese painting) exhibits in the City of Vancouver, Washington.

Why a Nihonga art exhibit in a small city like Vancouver, Washington? Kyocera International, my ex-employer, built a company called Kyocera Northwest there. Mayor Seidl was invited to the opening ceremony. He met then Kyocera President Kazuo Inamori and learned that Kyocera and Wacoal, another Kyoto based company, were jointly planning to bring a tour of traveling Nihonga exhibits to Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles and other major cities.

Bryce was interested in the project and asked Inamori to include Vancouver among the exhibit host cities. How well could Vancouver, such a small city, rank against those large capital cities in drawing visitors to the exhibits? Nobody listened seriously to the mayor, but Seidl had his ideas and a vision. He believed he could do it. He sent his plan to Kazuo Inamori, even advising him on the critical paths to take in order to make the project a success. Kazuo Inamori himself likes to do this type of thorough market research and simulation-proven studies, and he was moved by spunky Seidl. Gradually, Bryce's enthusiasm and persuasion took shape and weight, and moved the Kyoto people. Seidl's planning was superb - the selection of the venue at the historic Officers Row, the well-timed visit of a Japanese sailboat at the Columbia River basin, the invitation of several Nihonga artists to speak at the opening, even preparing souvenir pamphlets and prints, etc.

To our surprise, Seidl's plan culminated in attracting more visitors than any other capital city mentioned above. And can you guess why?

Bryce mobilized students in all the schools in the neighboring counties. I was dispatched for a few weeks from the Kyocera U.S. Head Office in San Diego to help in the preparation, and I saw Bryce rolling up his sleeves, working as hard as those involved at City Hall. I was very impressed. The event took place in 1986.

I saw a recent photo of Bryce Seidl on a Web site. His hair and eyebrows are turning white, same as mine. Maybe he is a bit younger than me. I found out he majored in ecology at UC Berkeley, and received an MBA from the University of Michigan. Between two careers, first as city mayor and currently as Executive Director at the Pacific Science Center, he has held many positions in the Seattle area: VP/General Manager at Simpson Papers, President of Fisher Mills, and President of Pilchuck Glass School, a glass art school that has much in common with Nihonga art.

I'm hoping to visit Seattle on my next trip to the U.S. and renew my acquaintance with the ex-mayor I admired.



Nihonga Exhibit
Kyocera jointly hosted the Exhibition of Modern Japanese Nihon-ga paintings with Wacoal Corporation in 1985 to promote international friendship and cultural appreciation by introducing Japanese paintings overseas and creating an international venue for exchanging art and culture. The exhibition was held in seven cities in five North American and European countries over two years and earned widespread acclaim.

Officers Row in Vancouver, WA
My friend Christine Kuramoto, an English teacher at Kyushu University, who was born in Vancouver, WA, sent me the following email:

"Hailing from Battle Ground Washington, a small city a few miles North of Vancouver, I grew up thinking that 'our' Vancouver was 'the' Vancouver. Of course later, when my travels took me farther from my roots in Southwest Washington, I learned that 'my' Vancouver was actually the 'other' Vancouver. The Vancouver that everyone else knew about was that one up North in Canada, or Vancouver BC. I often had to go through a long explanation of how there is also a Vancouver in Washington State just across the mighty Columbia river from the City of Portland, Oregon.

My City's name, Battle Ground, comes from a battle that never took place. In 1855, some Klickitat Indians escaped from Fort Vancouver. Captain Strong headed up the army in charge of bringing the Indians back to the fort. Upon meeting up with the Indians, the Indian chief, Chief Umtuch, promised Captain Strong that the Indians would return to the fort. There are different versions of what happened next, but somehow Chief Umtuch was killed. Captain Strong allowed the Indians to bury the chief. He returned to the fort with the Indians' promise to return. The Indians did return, and for not forcibly bringing them back, Captain Strong was presented a petticoat for bravery and courage. This area later became known as "Strong's Battle Ground". I went to elementary school at Chief Umtuch elementary and there is now another school called Captain Strong elementary school.

To me, Fort Vancouver and Officers Row was the place you went and spread your blanket early on the 4th of July if you wanted to get the best view of the fireworks display on the independence day holiday. As a child I never really noticed or realized the significance of the beautiful historical houses there along the row. But as a middle-aged woman, I now have more of an eye for the beauty that is there. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend that you take a stroll down Officer's Row in Vancouver. And if you have the time, take a little detour North and see my hometown, the city where a battle didn't take place near the 'other' Vancouver, Vancouver USA."

*Marshall House Photos Courtesy of Mrs. Nagano*

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