Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Launches the Irene Hirano Inouye Memorial Fund

Fund Honors an Iconic Arts Leader While Advancing Her Vision To Share the Asian Pacific American Experience
April 15, 2021
News Release

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Headshot of Irene Hirano Inouye

Irene Hirano Inouye

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) has announced the launch of the Irene Hirano Inouye Memorial Fund to honor the center’s late board chair. The fund has received leadership support of $1 million each from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation to seed the fund, which will endow the APAC’s directorship and help the center realize Inouye’s vision of creating the first-ever gallery on the National Mall devoted to Asian Pacific American history, art and culture.

Asian Pacific Americans have been critical contributors to the American story for nearly 200 years. Despite this long history, the Asian Pacific American narrative has been in many instances untold or invisible.

“Irene always understood how critical it was for these narratives to be told throughout the Smithsonian,” said Lisa Sasaki, the director of the center. “She dedicated her life to elevating Asian Pacific American stories as the founding president and CEO of both the Japanese American National Museum and the U.S.-Japan Council and as the board chair of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.” 

Through the fund, APAC will continue to carry on Inouye’s vision and belief that cross-cultural understanding and celebrating Asian Pacific Americans make the country richer and the Smithsonian stronger. Endowing the center’s directorship secures this vision, bringing to life a much-needed space for learning, discovery, creation and national visibility for Asian Pacific America.

“We are so honored that the Smithsonian has created this memorial fund,” said Jennifer Hirano on behalf of Irene Hirano Inouye’s family. “The intent of the fund perfectly encapsulates the legacy that my mother hoped to leave.” 

APAC acknowledges the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous contribution to the Irene Hirano Inouye Memorial Fund. For more information about the fund, the public can visit the center’s website. A tribute for Inouye on the year anniversary of her death will be held virtually Wednesday, April 28, at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, which will include an announcement of the fund. For additional information, follow this link.

About Irene Hirano Inouye

Inouye was the founding president & CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, which she led for three decades (1988–2008). She served as board chair for the American Alliance of Museums (2006–2008), the Kresge Foundation (2004–2006) and Ford Foundation (2010–2014). At the Smithsonian, she served on the Smithsonian National Board and on the boards of the National Museum of American History and APAC. In 2010, Inouye co-founded, along with her husband, the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the U.S. Japan Council. She served as the founding chair of the board of advisors for the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at UCLA from 2012 until her death in April 2020. 

About the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center 

Established in 1997, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is a museum without walls that presents innovative, community-centered museum experiences throughout the United States and beyond. For over two decades, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has advanced the Asian Pacific American experience throughout the Smithsonian Institution’s collections, research, exhibitions and programs. Follow the Center on Twitter and Instagram: @SmithsonianAPA. 

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