Cheryl Ikemiya, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer for the Arts

FUNDING AREAS: Performing arts, contemporary dance, and jazz and theatre artists

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Grantmaker, producer, art historian, Buddhist teacher—Ikemiya seems to do it all. She is regarded as "a woman who's been listening, thinking, and innovating around [the arts] for years."

PROFILE: As senior program officer for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and co-chair of the New York Grantmakers in the Arts, Cheryl Ikemiya has her finger on the pulse of non-profit arts in the United States. You won't find gobs of media coverage or speaking engagements featuring Ikemiya—her colleague, Program Director for the Arts, Ben Cameron, garners enough media attention for them both—but you will find her pounding the pavement, attending openings and performances, and sharing her wisdom with regional arts leaders. She attends the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care (NYZCCC), teaches at the New York Buddhist Church, and volunteers in Beth Israel Hospital's pastoral care program.

With a bachelor of arts from renowned liberal arts haven Oberlin College, and a master of arts from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Ikemiya is a scholar of Asian Art History. She remains connected to her former employer, the Japan Society Inc. in New York City, where she served as assistant director of the Performing Arts program, producing and managing Japanese cultural and contemporary arts events, residencies, education programs, performance series, and tours. She also has ties to the Asian American Arts Alliance in NYC, and the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia.

The Arts program at Duke awards short term grants, such as the nine-month, $50,000 grant to Three-legged Dog Media and Theater Group, but the foundation also likes to work with grantees for periods of four or five years. This is in part so that organizations can have a chance to research, develop, implement, and learn from new ideas. In a 2009 panel discussion on the effect of the economic downturn on the arts and charitable giving, Ikemiya gave invaluable insight into the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's funding strategies. To the Theater Communications Group Town Hall audience, Ikemiya said:

We plan in five-year arcs. We've completed field-wide conversations, first in the theatre community, then the presenting, dance and jazz communities. Across the disciplines everybody was talking about declining audiences; demographic changes; new leadership coming on board; and the challenge of technology and how we could harness it or the way that it could compete with the growth of audiences. We've built a strategy based on those challenges. We’re trying to make stronger artists. So we have many programs focusing on commissioning, residency, touring and professional development for artists.

Ikemiya and the foundation also invest in individual artists and artists in residency programs. In 2012, HowlRound grabbed her for a long phone call where she discusses the foundation's role in supporting these artists and programs.

Ikemiya is also interested in transformative leadership and seeing people think differently about what it means to lead in all areas of life, not just the arts. Writing for the newsletter of the NYZCCC, she reflected on the experience of caring for a dear friend dying of liver cancer. Her time as caretaker was "a challenge that tested [her] core values." "Several years ago at a year-long leadership institute," she continues, "I affirmed the values that I embody in my actions each day to be gratitude, balance/equilibrium, and open-minded/open-heartedness."

What do her Buddhist philosophies have to do with her role as grantmaker at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation? It is reasonable to expect that she will look for individuals and organizations who embody an open, compassionate, and human approach to arts. She values arts programming that dares to go beyond entertainment and engage people on a deeper level. In fact, speaking on Perserverance Theater, a 2006 recipient of the Leading National Theatres Program, Ikemiya said, "We view leadership in different ways. It's not just the dollar size of the annual operating budget, but it's really how they are leaders in the field. We see Perseverance as being a model theater for a specific kind of community."