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Japan Institute Special Venue

Peace Symposium New York 2023

The “Peace Lantern” (neko ashi yukimi), on the east bank of the Upper Strolling Pond.
Photo by Jim Reitz

Japan Institute is the global cultural initiative of Portland Japanese Garden, created to facilitate and inspire conversations about peace, art, and the human relationship with the natural world.

Our public Peace Symposia series features leaders from numerous cultural, intellectual, and diplomatic fields to come together.

Peace Symposium New York 2023 will be held on Thursday, September 21st, the United Nations’ International Day of Peace and is co-presented with Japan Society. This is a free, public symposium exploring the evolving role of art, cultural institutions, and public spaces as a platform for peace-building and community engagement.

Event Details


  • 2:30 | Doors Open
  • 3:00 | Opening Session
    • Opening remarks by Steve Bloom, CEO, Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden
    • Welcome address by Joshua Walker, PhD, President & CEO, Japan Society
    • Congratulatory address by Mitsuko Shino, Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
  • 3:30 | Keynote Address by Caryl Stern, Chief Impact Officer at LionTree & Former CEO, UNICEF USA
  • 3:50 | Panel Presentations on Peacemaking and Creative Dialogue at the Intersection of Community, Art, and Gardens
    • Ayanna Behin, Director of Training & Conflict Consulting, New York Peace Institute
    • Robert Lear, Senior International Producer, Global Arts Corps
    • Christopher Willis, Chief Director of National Botanical Gardens, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
  • 4:35 | Intermission
  • 4:50 | Poetry Readings by Winners of the 2023 Poetry for Peace Competition USA
    • Mayah Pico
    • Hana Widerman
    • Yvanna Vien Tica
  • 5:00 | Panel Discussion
    • Moderated by Thomas Hill, Clinical Professor, Director, Peace Research and Education Program Center for Global Affairs, New York University (NYU)
  • 5:30 | Commissioned Poetry Reading by Nomi Stone
  • 5:35 | Presentation: Discovering Peace Through Art by Hiroshi Senju, Artist
  • 5:55 | Closing Remarks by Steve Bloom, CEO Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden
  • 6:00 | Catered Reception

Speaker Bios

Opening Session Speaker Bios

Steve Bloom | CEO, Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden

Steve Bloom has been the CEO of Portland Japanese Garden since 2005. Beginning early in his tenure, Bloom led the formation of a comprehensive 10-year strategic plan, which has been transformational in its scope and impact. Bloom oversaw the completion of a $37 million expansion of the Garden and its facilities, created a curatorial department, expanded and improved programs in culture, art, and education, established an International Japanese Garden Training Center, formed an International Advisory Board, and has dramatically increased national and international visibility and recognition. 

Joshua Walker, PhD | President and CEO, Japan Society

Joshua W. Walker, PhD became President & CEO of Japan Society in December 2019. Previously, he worked at Eurasia Group, the world’s leading political risk analysis firm, where he served as global head of strategic initiatives and Japan in the Office of the President. Prior to that, he was CEO and president of the USA Pavilion of the 2017 World Expo in Astana, Kazakhstan; founding dean of the APCO Institute; and senior vice president of global programs at APCO Worldwide, a leading global strategic communications firm based in Washington, D.C. Before joining the private sector, he worked in numerous roles at various U.S. government agencies, including the State Department and the Defense Department.

He is Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, and professor of Leadership and the American presidency at George Mason University and the Reagan Foundation. He was also Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and co-founded the Yale Journal of International Affairs. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond, a master’s degree from Yale University, and a doctorate from Princeton University. Dr. Walker grew up in Japan where his parents still serve as missionaries, came to the United States when he was 18, and is bicultural and bilingual.

Mitsuko Shino | Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations

Mitsuko Shino has been serving as Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary and Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations since October 2022. Shino began her distinguished diplomatic career in 1987 when she joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA). Over the years, she has served in prominent roles abroad as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Iceland and Ambassador to the Permanent Mission in Geneva. Within MOFA, Ambassador Shino has made significant contributions and undertaken diverse roles such as Senior Coordinator of the Economic Partnership Division, Director of the APEC Division, and Director of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division. Furthermore, she has been the Deputy Press Secretary, Deputy Director-General for Press and Public Diplomacy, Director-General for Cultural Affairs, and the Chief of Protocol. Most recently, she also served as the Ambassador and Director of Protocol for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Keynote Speaker Bio

Caryl Stern | Chief Impact Officer, LionTree & Former CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF

Prior to joining LionTree in 2023, she served as the Executive Director of the Walton Family Foundation, and has more than 40 years of experience in the non-profit sector, including over 13 years as CEO of UNICEF USA. She serves on the boards of directors of The Container Store and the We Are Family Foundation, and is a member of the Advisory Board of Chime for Change.

Caryl earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art, a Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel Administration and completed her PhD coursework in the same field. She is the recipient of five honorary Doctoral degrees.


Moderator Bio

Thomas Hill | Clinical Professor, Director, Peace Research and Education Program Center for Global Affairs, New York University 

Dr. Thomas Hill is a clinical professor at the Center for Global Affairs, where he is director of the Peace Research and Education Program. He oversees the peacebuilding concentration within the Master of Science in Global Affairs (MSGA) program and is a member of the Institute for Economics and Peace. A former journalist, his research interests include: the role of universities as actors and sites for peacebuilding; the importance of community-centered approaches to civil society-led peacebuilding; and the use of conflict analysis and assessment as tools for integrating development and peacebuilding. 

Hill is a peacebuilding practitioner with more than 20 years of experience focusing on Iraq. Since 2003, he has made more than 30 visits to that country and has overseen the design, development, and implementation of a series of interrelated research and educational projects focused on the development of sustainable peace. Additionally, he has led a series of applied research projects in Colombia, Libya and Iraq.  

Hill has developed and teaches a variety of graduate-level courses, including Peacemaking and Peacebuilding; Networks as Capacities for Peace, and Peacemaking and Peacebuilding; the Workshop in Applied Peacebuilding; Conflict Assessment; Structures of Peace and the Joint Research Seminar in Peacebuilding and the Advanced Joint Research Seminar in Peacebuilding.  


Panelist Bios

Ayanna Behin | Director of Training & Conflict Consulting, New York Peace Institute 

The New York Peace Institute (NYPI) is committed to promoting community peace by empowering people to find creative, constructive, and durable solutions to resolve their differences. The NYPI has facilitated dialogue and understanding among a wide spectrum of public and private organizations in New York City and Brooklyn. Among other methodologies, the New York Peace Institute offers generous dialogue and conflict resolution training to communities and organizations.

As the Director of Training & Conflict Consulting, Ayanna Behin works with individuals, groups and organizations to design individualized conflict resolution skills programs to help them de-escalate conflict and facilitate complicated conversations. She also facilitates community discussions around core and sometimes controversial issues. Behin received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1993 and her Juris Doctorate from Fordham University School of Law in 1999.

Robert Lear | Senior International Producer, Global Arts Corps 

Global Arts Corps (GAC) began as a consortium of theater artists with a mandate to bring together performers from opposite sides of political, religious, ethnic, and racial divides. Its live theatre and documentary film productions have spanned more than 47 cities and 18 countries on four continents, reaching over 100,000 audience members and facilitating reconciliation workshops for more than 15,000 participants. Lear has served as an International Producer for GAC since 2006, with its first devised production from South Africa, Truth in Translation, based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and oversaw the 10-city, five-week tour of the production to Bosnia/Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo in the fall of 2008.

Along with the Company, he was named an honorary member of the TRC by Bishop Desmond Tutu. Bob has advised GAC productions around the world, including in Northern Ireland and Cambodia, and he is now focused on GAC’s current initiative, the Children’s Radio Network.

Christopher Willis | Chief Director of National Botanical Gardens, South African National Biodiversity Institute 

As Chief Director of National Botanical Gardens within the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South Africa, Willis has been responsible for managing and developing South Africa’s network of 11 national botanical gardens spread across eight provinces in South Africa for the past 23 years. He developed and championed South Africa’s National Botanical Gardens Expansion Strategy, which has included the establishment of new botanical gardens in South Africa’s provinces of the Northern Cape (2008), Eastern Cape (2014) and Limpopo (2021).

Willis has represented SANBI in various international workshops in developing the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and worked to support Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in the establishment of the African Botanic Gardens Network. Christopher has published various natural history books on biodiversity in South Africa’s national botanical gardens.


Art as Peacemaking Presenter Bio

Hiroshi Senju | Artist 

Hiroshi Senju was the president of Kyoto University of Art & Design from 2007 to 2013, and is presently a professor at Kyoto University of the Arts. He is a member of the Japan Art Academy. 1958, born in Tokyo, Japan. 1987, Tokyo University of the Arts, BFA, MFA, completed coursework in the doctoral program. 1995, 46th Venice Biennale, first Asian artist to receive an Honorable Mention Award (Italy). 2003, Paintings on Fusuma at the Jukoin of Daitokuji Temple, group exhibition, Tokyo National Museum (Japan). 2005, Milano Salone (Italy). 2006, Gwangju Biennale (Korea). 2010, Setouchi Triennale (Japan). 2011, Hiroshi Senju Museum Karuizawa opened; Chengdu Biennale (China). 2015, Frontiers Reimagined, 56th Venice Biennale (Italy). 2016, Paintings on Fusuma at the Jukoin of Daitokuji Temple open to the public; Foreign Minister’s Commendation (Japan). 2017, Isamu Noguchi Award (USA). Commemorating the Completion of Fusuma Paintings for Kongobuji Temple, Koyasan at multiple museums in Japan from 2018 to 2020; the Eagle on the World Award from JCCI. 2021, received the 77th Imperial Prize and the Japan Art Academy Prize; work acquired by the Yakushi-ji Temple, selected as one of the “Treasures of the Heisei Era” (Japan); work dedicated to Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, Exhibition Senju’s Waterfall for Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago.

Senju’s work is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Victoria and Albert Museum, London and other major museums.


Poetry Reading Bio

Nomi Stone | Poet 

Poet and anthropologist Nomi Stone is the author of three books, most recently the poetry collection Kill Class (Tupelo, 2019), finalist for the Julie Suk Award, and the ethnography Pinelandia: An Anthropology and Field Poetics of War and Empire, gold medalist winner in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) (University of California Press, 2022). Winner of a Pushcart Prize and a Fulbright, Stone’s poems recently appear in The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic, POETRY Magazine, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, among others. She was most recently a postdoctoral researcher in anthropology at Princeton University, and she is currently an Assistant Professor of Poetry at the University of Texas, Dallas.  


2023 Poetry for Peace Competition USA Winner Bios

Mayah Pico | Winner of the 2023 Poetry for Peace Competition – USA

Mayah Pico is a poet and visual artist. She has been selected as a finalist for the Patricia Eschen Prize for poetry and as a winner of a Young Poets Network challenge. Her work has been published by The Poetry Society and I, Science magazine. Most recently she has held a residency at Bethany Arts Community.

Hana Widerman | Winner of the 2023 Poetry for Peace Competition – USA

Born to a Japanese mother and an American father, Hana Widerman graduated from Princeton University with a degree in English and Creative Writing and won the James Richardson Award in Creative Writing. Her poetry has appeared in The Journal and The Washington Square Review. She currently lives in New York and is an MFA student at Cornell University.

Yvanna Vien Tica| Winner of the 2023 Poetry for Peace Competition – USA

Yvanna Vien Tica is a Filipina writer with a hearing impairment who grew up in Manila and a suburb near Chicago. In 2021, she was the Hippocrates Young Poet, the winner of the 1455 Teen Poetry Contest, a Gold Awardee in the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest, and the winner of the Young People Category of the Ledbury Poetry Festival Competition. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, The Kenyon Review, Princeton University’s Creative Writing Department, The Poetry Society UK, Polyphony Lit, and Aster Lit, among others. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly, Poetry Northwest, Redivider, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Her poetry has also been virtually performed in a 2021 UN Climate Change Conference event organized by the Young Poets Network. She tweets @yvannavien; in her spare time, she can be found thanking God for another day.


About the Peace Symposia Series

Japan Institute’s Peace Symposia series is the signature event of Japan Institute’s Peace Program. It inspires conversations about peace through the lens of cultural diplomacy by exploring the interplay between and convergence of landscapes, architecture, and arts. Ultimately, Japan Institute will hold six Peace Symposia on six continents – the first was in Tokyo, Japan, and the second was in London, UK. New York will be the third, followed by South Africa later this year.

Japan Institute’s peace programming is made possible through Robert and Deborah Zagunis.

See the highlights from our London Peace Symposium in December, 2022

Co-presented by:

Special support given by: