Natori founder and CEO Josie Natori brings her passion for Asian culture and other related arts to her new role as the Chairman of the Asian Cultural Council
The Asian Cultural Council’s (ACC) grantee database is expansive. From the time the non profit organization was established by John D. Rockefeller in 1963 up to the present, creative dialogues across oceans have been established through cultural exchange activities in both Asia and the United States. It was the ACC’s unique programs and “grant-making style” for empowering artists that first drew its newly elected Chairman, Josie Natori, to the organization in 1994. She explains, “I was attracted to the more focused goals of the ACC, making a difference to mostly individuals pursuing cultural exchange between Asia and the US.”
Active participation in the ACC was a seamless and natural progression for the CEO and Founder of luxury lifestyle brand, Natori. She details, “I have a love and passion for Asian culture and all related arts, which is very much reflected in the DNA of the Natori brand.” As the organization’s Chairman, Josie shares the same passion, respect, and appreciation for art forms across various cultures with grantees of the ACC.
A variety of unique programs
The ACC covers a wide range of art forms from visual to performance arts, The organization aims to support all disciplines across a widening creative spectrum, including newer, cutting-edge and tech-powered expressions. “ACC grantees are endlessly inventive and include many artists who are on the cutting edge of their disciplines,” she describes. “Technology in art is something that crosses over all disciplines today.” And the ACC, now under Josie’s leadership, emphasizes an openness towards applicants who integrate technology with their art forms.
Programs offered by the ACC are not only limited to fellowships and grants. Josie shares, “ACC’s approach has always been to provide more than just grant funds, but also to try and provide access within the grantees’ destination countries to help them establish their own networks that will outlast their grant periods.” Exposure to other creative expressions around the world, and network expansion empower their alumni in their artistic journeys outside for the program. “It is significant in broadening their worldview and perhaps informing their works as well,” adds the Chairman.
Artist process and freedom
The focus for ACC’s programs are also unique in that they celebrate the process over the product. Josie observes, “Artists today can feel pressured to produce, and one of ACC’s primary goals is to relieve that pressure in terms of funds and time.” The ACC’s granting style emphasizes the importance of artistic freedom to explore, reflect, discover new experiences, and process. She elaborates that, “Grants help artists, art scholars, and arts professionals focus on themselves and their process.”
To support the funding and artistic liberties afforded by grants, the organization also opens new avenues for artists to expand their networks through the ACC alumni. “I would venture to say that the true fruits of their cultural exchange experience through ACC are evident after their grant period is over.” states Josie. Enriching experiences and inspiring encounters during cultural exchanges and programs bear fruit when grantees begin to deepen their creative practice or venture beyond their creative comfort zones.
An exciting future
“We have a remarkable history over the last 60 years,” the designer, fashion icon and chairman declares. “And today, we have a very robust and engaged board.” Under Josie’s leadership, the ACC endeavors to “evolve and expand ACC globally in its mission of supporting individuals and institutions focused on cultural exchange.”
Having established the ACC’s Manila office in 2000, Josie discloses that there are plans to raise enough funds for continued and increased levels of support for Filipino artists. Since the Manila office opened 23 years ago, the ACC has welcomed almost 200 artists from the archipelago into the fellowship program.
The ACC will also mark 60 years in November with an anniversary gala to be held in Manila. It will coincide with the launch of a new grant cycle. Josie intimates, “I’m looking forward to our global work over the next year as well. I hope many in the arts and culture fields will consider applying to take this unique opportunity to experience other cultures in the US and another country or region in Asia.”