Naomi Sawada

Region: Vancouver BC
Generation: Yonsei
Nelson, BC


Naomi Sawada is Manager of Public Programs at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia (UBC) where she has developed programs and collaborated with researchers, artists, and others since 1995. Two of her abiding concerns is to include discussions about diversity and social justice in her programming and to mentor university students, many who have become curators and programmers in cultural organizations. One of her heroes is Rosa Ho (1949-2001) who was Curator of Art and Public Programmes at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. “I didn’t identify as Japanese Canadian when I was working with her. This may seem odd given that I was born in Nelson, BC, less than an hour’s drive from the Slocan Valley where many Internment Camps were located; I knew nothing about my families’ experiences there. Understanding one’s identity is a process and it takes time. Looking back, Rosa recognized that I was only at the beginning of this and I am grateful to her.”

Sawada has assisted in exhibitions and programs at Science World British Columbia (1986-1991), the UBC Museum of Anthropology (1991-1995), and as Curator of Exhibitions and Programs, helped to shape the mandate and operating policies at the Japanese Canadian National Museum (1995-2000). From the University of British Columbia, she has a BA in Anthropology (1995), a Diploma in Art History (1996), and graduate courses in Art History (2007-2009). Sawada co-edited with John O’Brian and Scott Watson, All Amazed: for Roy Kiyooka (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, and the Vancouver Art Forum Society, 2002) and co-edited with Scott Watson and Jana Tyner, Thrown: Bernard Leach, His British Columbian Apprentices and Their Contemporaries (Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, 2009). She serves on the Board of Directors of 221A, the Asian Canadian Studies Society, and the Northwest Ceramics Foundation.