Yuko Taniguchi: Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarship Winner

(Yuko Taniguchi)

Yuko Taniguchi, a native of Japan, is a rising BFA senior studying lighting design at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Her recent works include designing Luna Gale and Emerging Choreographers, as well as assisting on Photona 2019 and The Nutcracker 2018/2019. She was given the opportunity as a lighting intern at the American Ballet Theatre for their Met season this summer; however it was interrupted by COVID-19 closures. Currently, she and her classmates are rethinking creative strategies so as to re-imagine an annual student event in light of the pandemic. She enjoys introducing parts of her Japanese culture into her work and looks forward to opportunities to further diversify and expand these experiences. She is the first international recipient of the Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarship, which encourages diversity in the design community for live events, and is presented by Live Design in partnership with TSDCA and USITT.

Live Design: Why did you apply for the Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarship?

Yuko Taniguchi: I applied for this scholarship to help ease the financial burden on my family, especially on my mother who I look up to in so many ways. This scholarship along with countless other opportunities on and off campus have allowed me to help my family get me through school. The scholarship will also give me the opportunity to meet other young designers actively pursuing diversity in our industry—a topic I am very passionate about. I am very grateful to Pat MacKay and the scholarship committee for creating this opportunity and encouraging greater diversity to the industry.

LD: What made you interested in the field of lighting design?

YT: Finding a community in high school was important to me, and being backstage was a place I felt most comfortable. I began working in props, but during my sophomore year I was asked to help the lighting team. It was there I found my passion. I love being part of a creative team that is passionate about the art of storytelling.

LD: What are your career goals?

YT: International students face significant challenges that US nationals do not. I am very nervous about my ability to acquire the proper visa to allow me to pursue my career in the United States after graduation. That significant challenge aside, I would like to work as an assistant designer to further my education in the craft.

LD: How can the industry better serve underrepresented communities?

YT: It wasn’t until I saw a US national touring production of Kinky Boots during my senior year of high school did I know that careers in lighting or set design even existed. I would encourage theatre artists and the industry as a whole to do more outreach and education to middle and high school students across the world.

LD: Who or what are your influences, in terms of people or events?

YT: I have already had the opportunity to be mentored by many incredible and kind artist-educators. One of my biggest influences was my technical theatre teacher in high school. He introduced me to the world of lighting, and taught me that I could pursue this passion as a career. He guided me through the college selection process and continues to be a mentor and a friend as I grow as a young artist.

LD: Are there particular challenges you have faced?

YT: I was lucky enough to attend an elite international high school in Tokyo. When my friends were sharing their dreams and excitement of attending well-known colleges in the US, I sat nervously hoping their eyes wouldn’t land on me. When it came time to tell my parents of my desire, it was one of the most scary and emotional moments of my childhood. In addition, international students face unique challenges when applying for or even after being awarded internships, often requiring creative solutions and the assistance of their university. Currently, all students holding an F-1 visa feel like we are in limbo, and praying that we won’t be deported before or even when school resumes in the fall.

Meet additional 2020 Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarship winners



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