Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Japanese Cultural
Center fires director

After a year at the helm of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, Keiko Bonk has been fired as president and executive director.

Susan Scott, a board member and interim director of the center, said yesterday the board of directors has "terminated the employment of Keiko Bonk because of, among other things, a difference in philosophies about how to best direct the future of the center."

Bonk, 50, said yesterday: "We had philosophical differences. And I am unable to discuss the nature of those philosophical differences."

Bonk said, "The work and programs were progressing according to the plans I had proposed, and they were very successful."

Scott said she was "holding down the fort until a new director is hired, but that from a program point of view" there will be no perceptible change.

Bonk, an artist and musician who has played shamisen (a three-stringed Okinawan instrument) and rock 'n' roll, took over as director in December 2003 after the August resignation of Susan Kodani. Bonk took over months after the center avoided foreclosure on its building with a fund-raising campaign that erased a $9 million debt.

In a 2003 interview with the Star-Bulletin, Bonk said she had been "hired to start doing a longer-term strategic plan -- both a business plan and a programs plan."

A graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a master's degree in fine arts from Hunter College in New York City, Bonk sang with rock 'n' roll bands in New York during the 1980s. She also worked as an artist, holding more than 60 exhibits.

In 1991, after having been away for 15 years, she moved back to Hawaii, home of her politically active parents, William Bonk and Fumie Matsuoka. The family lived mostly on the Big Island in the 1950s, where her father worked as an archaeologist.

During the 1990s, Bonk became politically active with the Hawaii County Council. When she became disillusioned with the Democratic Party, she switched to the Green Party and was elected to the Kau seat on the Council. She became chairwoman of the Council in 1995.

Later she switched to the Democratic Party and made two unsuccessful runs for Big Island mayor.

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

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