Art and Mini Golf Converge in Little Tokyo

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Noguchi Plaza, one of Downtown Los Angeles’ most enduring landmarks, will be transformed when golfers and art enthusiasts come together for the Little Tokyo Open: The Art of Miniature Golf, starting Saturday, April 21.

Helping to launch the two-weekend attraction will be Mayor Eric Garcetti along with other government officials and community leaders. The Little Tokyo Business Association, in partnership with the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center and Sustainable Little Tokyo, are presenting the event. Open play will begin April 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Children ages 3-12 play for free. All others will be asked to pay a nominal fee. Although walk-ups are welcome, player slots are filling up quickly. Pre-registration is recommended by going to www.visitlittletokyo.com.

Seven local artists are lending their talents to create each of the nine holes as a visual tribute to Little Tokyo’s past, present and future.

Among the participating artists are Mario Correa and Zen Sekizawa of Mano Ya, a studio and woodshop embracing Mexican and Japanese cultural traditions. The two will be honoring the memory of sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, for whom JACCC’s plaza is named.

Noguchi was living in New York when Executive Order 9066 forced the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast during World War II. He voluntarily entered the camp in Poston, Ariz., and found bleak conditions. Noguchi developed an elaborate blueprint for new buildings and recreation areas, including a miniature golf course. When none of his proposed changes were implemented, Noguchi gave up and went back to New York.

Correa and Sekizawa will imagine how Noguchi-designed course might have looked back in the 1940s.

Artist Lina Cheng creates a colorful mini-wonderland that celebrates Little Tokyo’s 134-year cultural history by incorporating iconic places, sculptures, and monuments. She began pursuing art as a child, focusing on classical drawing and painting, and more recently has turned toward design and media arts.

Dan Kwong, known for his award-winning multimedia creations, will employ a variety of themes for his contribution to the mini golf course. His favorite approach is through personal storytelling, contextualized within a broader historical perspective. “Although very serious in essence, my work employs strategically-placed humor to help make difficult topics and themes more digestible,” he explains.

Inspiration for Mei Zhao’s piece is drawn from the Metro Gold Line train, connecting the present to the future. Zhao feels that the use of public transportation “is a great opportunity to make the environment a greener place… to commute to work (and) provide access to the various forms of art, music, culture, and food around the neighborhood.”

Andrea Aguilar focuses on the working-class and communal values that created Little Tokyo and that helped create the diverse fabric of Los Angeles through her art piece, entitled “Mochiman. “ Her golf hole will feature a rice-pounding hammer that moves up and down to block the golf balls. Aguilar is a 30-year-old Pasadena City College art student who plans to transfer to CSU Long Beach to study drawing and painting.

Inspired by the beauty and tranquility of JACCC’s Irvine Japanese Garden, Brie Wakeland combines her experience as a professional gardener with her art training to replicate elements of the garden for the miniature golf hole. She also teaches gardening and culinary arts to children for the L.A. Unified School District and L.A. County Arboretum.

In anticipation of the planned Paul I. Terasaki Budokan, former volleyball coach Adina Mori-Holt creates a basketball-themed tableau, tapping into fond memories of visiting Little Tokyo to create a reminder that the Terasaki Budokan will soon be a reality. She earned her bachelor’s degree in studio art from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and MFA in digital photography/video from Baltimore’s Maryland Institute College of Art.

Little Tokyo Open: The Art of Mini Golf is made possible by a grant from the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and KABOOM!. a national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that all kids get a childhood filled with the balanced and active play needed to thrive.

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