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Anne Ishii is at once the host of WHYY’s Movers & Makers, executive director of the Asian Arts Initiative, co-chair of the Asian American Writers Workshop, and is a writer, entrepreneur, and translator. It turns out, Ishii notes, that the road to living the multi-hyphenate life is paved with “billions of meetings.” Fortunately, the prolific creator, curator, and advocate wouldn’t have it any other way. “I have this metaphor with hula hoops. Hula hoops are much easier when they’re heavier. For me, if I wanna stay gyrating, work needs to be pretty heavy. Something needs to be happening at all times. A day in my life is perpetual motion, but occasionally I’ll just sleep for 12 hours in the day.”
Prior to taking the reins of the Asian Arts Initiative, Ishii was already well known as a producer and translator of bara manga, Japanese erotica written for the gay male audience. Her translation of The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: Master of Gay Erotic Manga in 2013 facilitated Tagame’s official North American debut. The follow up to this, The Passion of Tagame: Volume 2, will be edited by Ishii and is scheduled for a Tuesday, April 5, release. And now, Ishii is hosting WHYY's new season of Movers & Makers.
New season, new worlds
Movers & Makers began its fourth season on Thursday, February 3, and airs every Thursday at 7:30pm. The WHYY docuseries continues to examine the many creative worlds that share space in and around Philadelphia. It’s not hard to understand the draw for producers of Movers & Makers to hire a prominent voice in the Philadelphia and New York cultural scenes, but there is more to this collaboration for Ishii.
“The show is very representative of the work I’ve been doing my whole life, shedding a light on undiscovered or underappreciated aspects of a community since I was a child translating for my parents, [to being a] younger adult looking for the next hot thing, to later in my career fully agenting and advocating for artists who needed support in professional industries.” Movers & Makers also allows Ishii to engage in something that was formerly a personal hobby: standup comedy and emceeing. Taking on hosting duties for the fourth season pulls all of Ishii’s interests together nicely.
The virtue of taking time
Ishii feels that there is value in how art is able to resist the immediacy of the 24-hour news cycle but recognizes the tension that is created when an artist feels a sense of responsibility to their community and desire to appease funders and stay relevant. Ultimately though, she feels that artists should lean into their role of being purveyors of context. It’s not necessary to always play to the frenzy and demands of a given moment. Artists have the unique opportunity to become long-term examiners of the human condition as opposed to first responders in a crisis. Patrons and funders can be invited into this process with authenticity and intention.
“Let’s take advantage of our ability to really look at a thing and respond to it but not react to it … Public media has such a specific way of engaging with the arts that’s pretty beautiful. Because it’s not a commercial enterprise and because it’s not news, it’s not trying to be super timely. It’s wanting to celebrate these evergreen creative cultures and economies.”
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