The Portland Japanese Garden had ambitious plans for its art program as it started 2020. A new curator, Laura Mueller, joined the staff in early 2019 and sharpened and refined exhibitions that had already been scheduled for the year. For 2020, which was to be Mueller’s first full year of programming, she and Akihito Nakanishi, the garden’s curator of culture, art and education, planned five exhibitions around the theme of a “year of peace” to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. Her first exhibition was a haunting series of photographs by an internationally recognized artist, Ishiuchi Miyako, documenting the personal objects of victims of the bombing of Hiroshima. That show closed March 15. On March 18, the garden closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and laid off more than 100 staff the next day.
The garden reopened to visitors in early June, and Nakanishi says they’re