TOKYO METROPOLITAN ART MUSEUMS&Tokyo University of the Arts Tobira Project


What is Tobira Project?

Tobira Project is a program co-organized by Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Tokyo University of the Arts to foster community through art. Art communicators – called “Tobira” – are widely selected from the general public each year.
The Tobira work mainly within museums as members of the Tobira Project team, which also consists of museum curators, university faculty, and experts who are at the forefront of their respective fields. The project aims to connect people with people, people with art, and people with spaces by communicating carefully to all of the types of individuals who visit Ueno Park museums, and also aims to spread the new values that visitors discover across society at large.

What is the TOBI Gateway Project? concept image

Mission of Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum aspires to become an "Entryway to Art", open to all people for compelling art experiences—a place where children can visit, budding artists can debut their works, and people with disabilities can come to enjoy art without hesitation. The Museum will strive to build an “art community as a place for creativity and coaction,” where people can encounter new values, re-examine themselves, and deepen their bonds with the world. It will seek to be a place where people engage in art as “nourishment for living.” The Museum will strive to become “a haven for enrichment of the heart.”

Message from Tokyo University of the Arts

Building communities through art inspires creativity in artists and art enthusiasts alike. That creativity becomes the power by which a lively society is generated. Tokyo University of the Arts supports not only physical “things,” the basic elements of art, but also engage with art as “events” by presenting opportunities for the general public to enjoy art and contribute to society at large.

Tobira Project Annual Calendar of Events

Who are these art communicators, Tobira?

Art communicators, “Tobira” are community builders – they connect people with a variety of value systems by fostering communication through art. Their primary objective is to realize an ever more inclusive society by fostering healthy environments for the exchange of different opinions and values. Tobira as a word carries double meanings: Tobi is the Japanese abbreviation for the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, but it also implies the action of “opening a new gateway (in Japanese, tobira)” to the world. Tobira consists of adults over the age of 18, who usually work as office administrators, teachers, students, freelancers, housewives and retirees. Their various duties include: facilitating art appreciation classes for students, planning and conducting architectural tours in the museum, assisting those with disabilities to visit exhibitions and workshops. Tobira are more than volunteers: they independently plan and facilitate their own events. More than a hundred Tobira are currently involved with the program, and they are working on equal footing with museum curators and university faculty in search of the new social role of a museum.

Study and Practice

Tobira develop their skills as an art communicator by attending a series of lectures and activities called the “Principal Session” and the “Practical Session” and through learning the museum’s mission and the university’s main message. The third year Tobira can hold their “Down the Road” Seminars to plan their activities after the formal term of service concludes. Through cycles of study and practice, the activities they lead in the museums become ever more refined.

1First,the Principal Session (April to June, 24 hours total over 6 sessions)

In the Principal Session, Tobira learn the basics of how to create a new community. First year Tobira must attend these sessions. What kind of activities can be conducted in the museum? How can we foster a situation in which creative dialogue and communication occur? By attending participation-focused events, they learn the basics of how to conduct program activities and excursions.

First, the Principal Session

2Next, the Practical Session (from July)

Tobira select courses to learn about one or more of the following themes, based upon scenes that could take place during the program: “Art Appreciation,” “Accessibility,” and “Architecture.” Visiting expert lecturers, museum curators and university faculty conduct these courses, which draw from hands-on training and evaluation meetings.

program1Art Appreciation
Learn how to appreciate works of art with others through dialogue.

Learn about activities that enhance our art appreciation experience through dialogue. Discuss how to create an environment in which visitors may freely enjoy and interpret the art around them.

You can take part in:

“Special Monday Course”

Tobira accompany school children visiting museums on a Monday, when the museums are otherwise closed to the public.Museum Start iUeno

Special Monday Course

Consider the accessibility of a particular museum and inclusive programs

Think of an ideal museum environment where everyone can easily gather, regardless of the presence of any disabilities. Try to recognize possible situations and matters in search of making a museum where everyone can visit without hesitation.

You can take part in:

Nobi-nobi Yuttari Inclusive Workshop”

This is a program open to everyone, including children with disabilities. Each Tobira provides one-on-one support to a child throughout the program.

Museum Start iUeno

Nobi-nobi Yuttari Inclusive Workshop

You can take part in:

“Special Group Visit for Individuals with Disabilities”

A group visit program designed specifically for those with disabilities. It takes place on a day when the museum is otherwise closed to the public. Tobira provide program support and serve as a sounding board for appreciating the art.

Special Group Visit for Individuals with Disabilities

Consider the importance of each museum’s unique physical form.

Learn basic facts about the physical form of a museum to enhance the museum going experience. This is not limited to just historical facts and trivia about the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, as participants also visit other museums in order to consider the charms of various types of architecture.

You can take part in:

“Architecture Tour”

Tobira serve as tour guides as they introduce architectural charms of Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Each designs his or her own tour.

Architecture Tour

3Finally, “Down the Road” Seminars

Tobira who complete their formal terms may consider activities that they can continue to independently arrange. They are encouraged to design and implement programs according to individual objectives and needs, such as organizing study sessions with guest lecturers and conducting workshops. Designed as a means of polishing one’s skill as an art communicator.

Gather and Cultivate

Let’s organize a “Tobi-Labo”!

STEP 1 Start with “Everyone gather around”

STEP 2 Goes with Tobiras “Who are there.”

“Tobi-Labo” consists of meetings that the Tobira organize on their own initiative in order to discuss and adopt new projects. These cooperative efforts between people from such diverse backgrounds often cultivate unique activities that, in turn, widen the very possibilities of communication through art. Tobi-Labo also serves as a place to have relaxing, albeit enriching dialogue between Tobira, which fosters a new sense of value for the Ueno Park museums.

Let’s organize a “Tobi-Labo”!

1st STEP: Tobi-Labo starts with with “Everyone gather around”.

If one of the Tobira have an idea that they would like to develop, that persons raises his or her hand and asks if others are interested. A project begins when more than three people join together to form a team.

2nd STEP: Tobi-Labo goes with Tobiras “Who are there.”

When a team is formed, a Tobi-Labo is born. It is important to incorporate ideas from all participants. Listening to each other and discussing freely will generate new and rich ideas. Museum curators and university faculty help Tobira develop their unique activities.

3rd STEP: Dismissed for the next activity!

The Tobi-Labo concludes upon achieving a project’s objective, and Tobira review their completed activities with program participants. When another new idea is born, somebody else raises a hand in order to form a new team for a new project. This cycle of forming and dissolving teams keeps relationships and communications fresh for the duration of the program.

Allow us to introduce some of the activities we have conducted in the past!

Picture Story Show Project

Picture Story Show Project

Tobira created their own picture stories based on exhibitions taking place at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and then presented on them. A performance on museum trivia also proved popular.

Tobikan Map

Tobikan Map

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum —often called Tobikan— was designed by renowned architect Kunio Mayekawa. Tobira researched the space and created their original map to help users appreciate their time within the museum. The map is now distributed within the museum.

Go with the Tobira Board!

Go with the Tobira Board!

This workshop allows children to draw on magnetic drawing boards within the exhibition rooms. Their drawings are then imprinted on take-home, colorable postcards.

Museum Quest

Museum Quest

Participants walk around the museum solving riddles and discovering the unique charms of the museum architecture and sculpture garden.

Drawing up a Smile Project

Drawing up a Smile Project

Tobira distributed hand-made bookmarks to participants of the program “Special Group Visit for Individuals with Disabilities.” These bookmarks, bearing a design inspired by the artworks at the exhibition, serve as a take-home memory of the visit.

People at Tobi

People at Tobi

Employees at Tobi, also known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, were interviewed about their work. Articles were then written about the duties of the restaurant manager, the museum shop manager, and several curators, and all articles were later published on a blog.

Stopping by the Museum

Stopping by the Museum

Tobira invite visitors to join in on a dialogue about appreciating art exhibitions. This program attempts to enrich communication between visitors who they meet for the first time at the museum.

Strolling Library

Strolling Library

A Tobira-produced magazine introduces books related to ongoing exhibitions. These books recommended by Tobira are available on view in the museum library.

Tobira Project and Museum Start iUeno Collaborative Work

A stage set for even more activities

Tobira Project has expanded its range of activities to include working collaboratively with Museum Start iUeno, an education-oriented program conducted between the nine museums and cultural facilities of Ueno Park, with Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Tokyo University of the Arts at the project’s helm. This program primarily aims to enrich children’s first visits to museums, and fosters an environment in which children and adults can learn hand-in-hand. Tobira facilitate and support the execution of this program.

Museum Start あいうえの Gateways to iUeno[PDF]

Organized by: Tokyo Metropolitan Government / Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Arts Council Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture / Tokyo University of the Arts
Co-organized by: The Ueno Royal Museum / Ueno Zoological Gardens / The National Museum of Nature and Science / International Library of Children’s Literature, National Diet Library / The National Museum of Western Art / Tokyo National Museum / Tokyo Bunka Kaikan

You can take part in:

“After School Museum”

Children visit cultural facilities across Ueno Park after school and work together with a Tobira to create something new. Ueno Park transforms into a huge site of adventure for both the children and the Tobira.

After School Museum
Museum Start iUeno Activities for Children Tobira Project Activities for Tobira