At the age of 18, Hideki Kihata moved to Michigan from Tokyo, Japan, to be a photojournalist. “I was inspired by the great American photojournalists working for Life magazine,” he said. After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and photography, and then a Master of Fine Arts in photography (the terminal degree in his discipline), he accepted a position at SVSU in 1987.
Kihata is passionate about art. “I tell my students that art reflects the basis of creativity that can be applied to anything. No matter what field you finally go into — whether business, law, medicine — creativity is what allows you to excel. And you create things by looking into yourself.”
In his own artwork, Kihata has used his internal focus to create photographic work that has been exhibited widely and has won numerous awards. He believes that exhibiting regularly is important for any artist in the same way that musicians need to perform in public. “Performing music in front of people is the end product of hours of practice for musicians; the performance is the end product,” Kihata said. “Exhibition is our performance.” For his efforts, he has been recognized with awards such as the Muscarelle Museum of Art “Purchase Award” and the Earl L. Warrick Award for Excellence in Research, SVSU’s highest award for scholarship or artistic endeavor.
Kihata is passionate about the mission and purpose of SVSU as well. “I consider myself fortunate to be part of this university,” he said, “because I believe teaching means understanding students, spending time with them, listening to their concerns.” Kihata has brought his experience and his understanding and listening skills to a leadership role within the art department. He has been elected and re-elected by his colleagues to serve as chair for the past 17 years. But he prefers the term “mediator” to “leader.”
“I have one vote, and it is the same as every member of the department. I have tried to be the person who gathers us together to discuss the important issues.”
Nevertheless, Kihata has been chair during a period of significant growth within the department, with the number of students increasing three-fold and the number of full-time faculty increasing at an equal rate.
A resident of Midland, Kihata lives with his wife Ayumi, 1997, B.F.A.; 2000, M.A. and their two teenage sons, Noah and Naoki, in a house designed by associates of famed architect Alden B. Dow.
With nearly three decades at SVSU, Kihata remains proudest of his work with students.
“We provide opportunities,” he said. “Students come to us from a wide range of backgrounds — academic, cultural, social. I marvel at where some of them are now. I suppose I’m proudest,” he said, “that some of my former students are now professors.”