Downtime with Steve Bloom


Live, Work, Play with the CEO of the Portland Japanese Garden.

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Live, Work, Play with the CEO of the Portland Japanese Garden

What I’m reading

I just picked up a copy of The Commoner, by John Burnham Schwartz. It’s a novel based on the life of Empress Michiko of Japan, the first commoner to marry into the Japanese imperial family.

Latest download

A new running app — for when I actually have time to run! I also follow the garden on Instagram. As for gadgets, I love my iPhone 6S.

What I’m watching

Who has time to see movies? The only time I have to actually watch a movie is when I’m on an airplane, so I’m usually a little bit behind the curve. However, I did see A Year in Champagne last year, which was lovely, as we’d just had a visit to France.

Family time

When I was a kid, we’d go to Lake Nipigon in Canada. It was great—summer vacation, weeks away from home, fishing with my grandparents. I have some great memories from that time.

No place like…

Tokyo! I love the people and the energy.

When I’m not working

Since the Garden is such a beautiful place, I started studying photography so that I could learn to appreciate landscapes. When I traveled to Japan, I noticed that some of the images I found most compelling weren’t wide, empty spaces — they had people in them. So I’ve switched my focus to portraits. I also travel a lot; to date, I’ve visited 39 countries, and added four more this summer. Travel is a big part of my job — I need to build the connections and relationships that will ultimately help the garden to thrive — but I love it, too.

How do you market traditional Japanese arts in the 21st century?

In today’s society, everything is digital; everything is delivered instantly. It’s powerful to take a moment for ikebana, or the tea ceremony, chado. Mindfulness, intention, deliberately slowing down — as a culture, we need this more than ever. The garden and its new International Institute for Japanese Garden Arts and Culture will share those things, making them accessible to people who would never have those opportunities otherwise.

What do you have to say to detractors who say construction on the garden isn’t necessary?

I’m looking at helping the garden take on its new role, in a global sense. This is a world-class garden, and I plan to make it internationally accessible as a place for education, culture and community. Forming the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) was the first step, but we have so much more to offer. Much like the changing landscape of the garden, our purpose has come to evolve, too.

Business role model

Lynn Osmond, my friend and mentor, hired me for my first job at the Buffalo Philharmonic. She’s my role model. She has always supported and believed in me.

Long-term vision

We will be the most dynamic, leading Japanese garden in the world. We’ll set the pace for other organizations in this industry—though I hate to use that word. It’s really more of a holistic relationship, and we have this unique work that we do here, with the garden at the heart of it all.

Advice for young people entering the industry

It’s relationships, relationships, relationships. Even though I’m no longer working in the same industry — I started at the symphony and ended up in the garden — I’m still connecting with the same people. The world is a very small, friendly place, thanks to the connections I’ve made on my path.

What motivates you to come to work every day?

Passion. This place is my passion, this work. I think that the amazing strides we’ve made reflect that passion. I know the best is yet to come.