A new exhibition exploring the life and career of pioneering actor, activist, and social media icon George Takei will open at the Japanese American National Museum on March 12.
“New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” creates a portrait of a unique individual while offering an innovative means of engaging with the social history of America. The exhibition features numerous never-before-seen personal items through which visitors will learn not just about Takei but also about the constantly evolving fabric of America’s cultural identity, political outlook, social mores, and media landscape. It will be on view through Aug. 20.
In September 2016, Takei and his husband, Brad Takei, donated a treasure trove of materials from throughout his life to the museum and a selection of these items serves as the foundation for “New Frontiers.” Included are photographs, correspondence, scripts, campaign materials from his 1973 Los Angeles City Council bid, and one-of-a-kind artworks made by his legions of fans.
Of special note are a sculpture made by Takei’s father while the family was incarcerated during World War II at the concentration camp in Rohwer, Ark.; the walking stick Takei carried on his ascent of Mount Fuji in Japan; the Olympic torch he carried in the lead-up to the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles; photos of the wedding of George and Brad Takei; and the key to the city of Roanoke, Va.
Takei traveled to Roanoke in 2016 to meet with its mayor, David Bowers, after Bowers cited the use of Japanese American concentration camps to justify suspending the relocation of Syrian refugees to the city.
“New Frontiers” is curated by noted author, journalist, and cultural critic Jeff Yang.
“George Takei has blazed numerous trails for civil rights and social justice, serving as an inspiration to people of all backgrounds and across generations. ‘New Frontiers’ reveals how this one person has been at the center of significant changes in American society and has influenced the lives of countless people,” said Ann Burroughs, the museum’s Interim president and CEO.
“It shows the unflinching and courageous stand he has taken on many of the most pressing social issues we face today, including fighting against media stereotypes and for marriage equality, and I hope it motivates visitors to take action themselves in fighting for rights and protecting democracy.”
“I have been profoundly influenced by George’s life and being asked to curate ‘New Frontiers’ was an honor. Using the collection that he and Brad donated to the Japanese American National Museum to provide a unique lens on 80 years of American history was a humbling experience,” said Yang. “George has accomplished so much in so many fields. It’s my hope that people come away from seeing the exhibition with a real appreciation of just how important George has been and how we all, as individuals, can and should strive to make a difference in our world.”
“New Frontiers” will be accompanied by two publications. “Excelsior: The Many Lives of George Takei,” a 24-page comic book written by Yang with pencils and inks by Jamie Noguchi, will be available when the exhibition opens. It will be followed by “New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei,” a graphic anthology exploring Takei’s life, in May. Both will be available for purchase at the JANM Store and online at janmstore.com.
The George & Brad Takei Collection is JANM’s largest collection about any one individual. Takei has been involved with the museum since its founding over 30 years ago. He is a member of the Board of Trustees and its chair emeritus, having served as chair from 2000 to 2004. The volunteer center in the museum bears his name. JANM presented Takei with its Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and Public Service, the museum’s highest honor, in 2015.
JANM is located at 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. General admission is $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, free for members and children under age five. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from noon to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.janm.org or call (213) 625-0414.