Jeanne Sakamoto, The James Irvine Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Arts

CONTACT: jsakamoto@irvine.org, 213-236-0537 

IP TAKE: Sakamoto is a vocal supporter of emerging arts leaders, a topic she likes to write and speak about. 

PROFILE: Jeanne Sakamoto has a long history working with big names in the California arts grantmaking world. Before becoming a Senior Program Officer of the Arts at The James Irvine Foundation in 2007, she spent three years there as a Program Officer and Program Associate. Before that it was six years with Los Angeles' Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. And before that she filled multiple positions at the J. Paul Getty Foundation, rising from Multicultural Intern to Director of Special Initiatives. Her focus at the Getty was on community development and participatory engagement—a background that serves her well in navigating The Irvine's new grantmaking strategies. 

"In an ideal world, well-funded arts organizations set aside a week or more every year for their emerging leaders to attend professional development workshops or conferences," writes Sakamoto. "And yet we all know...they are typically one of the first things to be sacrificed when budgets are cut and revenue is scarce." Sakamoto (and The Irvine) target next generation leadership development in order to prepare the future administrators for a different arts funding landscape. 

In a 40-minute presentation, you can get a crash course in Sakamoto's research and passions. Titled "Holding on to What We've Got: New Approaches to Retaining Emerging Arts Leaders in the Field," the webinar addresses challenges in getting young talent to stay committed to the low-paying, often frustrating roles at small and mid-sized community arts organizations.

Sakamoto studied communications with a specialization in business administration at UCLA. She then graduated from Georgetown University's Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program. She knows first-hand what it's like to be not only a young leader, but a young multicultural leader. As an Asian-American, she was invited to attend the White House's first-ever National Philanthropic Briefing on the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Community in April 2012. The briefing was intended to create dialogue on critical issues ranging from health and housing, to education and civil rights. Reflecting on the briefing, Sakamoto blogged:

Unfortunately, far too often when quality of life issues are discussed in a broad setting, the arts are left off the agenda and are instead seen as "nice" or "extra" and not at the same level of critical importance as education, health or housing. The fact that arts and culture was given a seat at the table in a national conversation regarding issues vital to the health of the AAPI community was both validating and refreshing. ...Irvine's goal for our Arts grantmaking is to promote engagement in the arts for all Californians in a way that strengthens our ability to thrive together in a dynamic and complex social environment. We believe we can improve the civic health and quality of life for Californians through arts engagement, including the diverse AAPI community in our state.

In response to the low retention rate of young arts administrators, The James Irvine and William and  Flora Hewlett Foundations teamed up to offer $1,000 grants for emerging leaders to attend conferences and receive professional development. Called the NextGen Arts Initiative, this joint effort has been issuing small grants since 2009. Sakamoto continues to act as a co-spokesperson for the program. A two part podcast on Arts Blog from 2010 details Sakamoto's thoughts about the initiative, and leadership development. Listen to Part I and Part II online.

These twin agendas of emerging and multicultural arts leadership inform her grant making at The Irvine Foundation. Under The Irvine's current umbrella of Exploring Engagement, Sakamoto will be looking for individuals and organizations who strive to engage all Californians and want to adapt their leadership to changing demographics and economics. 

By the way, if you get her on the phone or meet her in person, Jeanne is pronounced "Jeanie."