Democracy Center Announces the Second Annual Irene Yamamoto Fellowship for Emerging Arts Writers of Color

February 6, 2024

The Daniel K. Inouye National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (Democracy Center) at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) announces the second annual Irene Yamamoto Arts Writers Fellowship, with a focus on theater, dance, and performance art. The fellowship encourages emerging arts writers of color to write about works from their own cultural and political perspectives, enriching and broadening cultural criticism as a practice and profession. 

The Yamamoto Fellowship will focus on a different artistic discipline each year. Theater, dance, and performance art were selected for 2024 because these art forms are still struggling in the wake of setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yamamoto Fellowship will award two $5,000 unrestricted awards to two emerging arts writers of color who write critically about theater, dance, and/or performance art. Each writer will receive a $5,000 award to be spent over six months. Submissions will be open from February 1 – March 18, 2024, and selections will be made in June 2024. Applicants can submit their materials here. There will be a virtual information session about the fellowship on February 12th, so be sure to attend if you have questions about the application process. 

“This fellowship gives theater, dance, and/or performance art writers the power to fight the erasure of contributions and accomplishments by people of color in America. It also gives them the opportunity to shape how art created by their own communities is represented today and throughout American art history. By highlighting their voices, this fellowship strengthens ties within diverse communities and expands public discourse around art,” said James E. Herr, director of the Democracy Center. 

“This award serves as a vote of confidence for emerging writers, a way to say ‘keep going!’ despite the challenges they face. I received a similar award as a young art critic and it helped me to take myself more seriously as a writer and encouraged me to take bigger risks and grow. It also convinced me that there is an audience for arts writing that recognizes and supports social justice. I hope this fellowship rewards a writer’s potential as much or even more so than their previous accomplishments,” said Sharon Mizota, who funded the fellowship through a gift to honor her late aunt. 

Eligible applicants must: 

  • reside in or be a citizen of the US 
  • be at least 18 years of age 
  • identify as a member of a community with ancestry in one of the original peoples of Africa, Asia, the Americas, Oceania, or Pacific Islands 
  • have less than 2 years of publication experience, which may include a blog or self-publishing 
  • have demonstrated a commitment to writing about theater, dance, or performance art 

All eligible applications will be reviewed by a panel of professional writers and editors who cover the performing arts. More information will be available at

The Irene Yamamoto Arts Writers Fellowship is made possible through a gift from Sharon Mizota to honor Irene Yamamoto. This project is also supported by Critical Minded, an initiative to invest in cultural critics of color cofounded by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Ford Foundation