Dr. Jerry Hiura, arts leader and dentist, dies

Dr. Jerry Hiura. photo courtesy Hiura family

Dr. Jerrold Hiura, a San Jose Japantown dentist, leader in the arts community and co-founder of Contemporary Asian Theater Scene, passed away after battling late-stage esophageal cancer on Dec. 26, 2019. He was 72.

Hiura was born in Chicago, and he moved with his family to the San Jose when he was seven. At the University of California, Berkeley, he earned bachelor’s degrees in both biology and physiologic optics. After earning a master’s degree at Harvard, he earned his DDS in 1976 from Washington University in St. Louis.

He joined his father at his San Jose dental practice soon after, and later took over the practice in 1987. “In 2008, he fulfilled his dream to expand Japantown Dental by moving it across the street to a larger, completely renovated space,” an obituary said. “He took quiet but profound pride in the evolution of his practice and in the development of his team.”

As an active advocate for multi-cultural arts, Hiura spent his life passionately involved in bringing diversity to organizations at the local and state levels. He served as chair of the City of San Jose’s Arts Commission and as president of the Arts Council of Silicon Valley. He co-founded the Contemporary Asian Theater Scene, and the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose.

He helped establish the Japantown landmarks projects and Ikoinoba, quiet resting places, throughout Japantown. He was on the San Jose Museum of Art’s board of trustees. As a board member for Chopsticks Alley Art, he examined the intersection between Japanese and Vietnamese American art and history. In 2002, he was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the California Arts Council where he served as vice chair.

Bruce Davis, the former executive director of the Arts Council Silicon Valley, spoke about the expanse of Hiura’s contributions and work at a CATS gala honoring Hiura in September 2012, reported the Nichi Bei Weekly. He said that Hiura was one of only two San Joseans who has achieved the “triple crown” of the arts. Both of which are from the state of California and from San Jose.

“He served as the chair of the San Jose Arts Commission, the official city body regulating and dealing with arts and public policy, was president of the Arts Council of Silicon Valley, which is the largest nonprofit arts council of the state and appointed by then California Gov. Gray Davis to the California Arts Council. No one else aside from Consuelo Santos Killins has ever achieved this triple crown being the chair of the city, regional and member of the state arts council,” Davis remarked.

At the 2012 CATS gala, board member Leianne Lamb said “Jerry is someone that we all know for his generosity, and we admire him for his talent, his giving, his dedication for making the communities in Japantown and the Silicon Valley arts what they are and making that impact every day.”

When former Teatro Vision Executive Director Raul Lozano was new to the arts community, he was told to seek Hiura out. Lozano remarked, “Jerry understood the big picture. He was always concerned with the iniquities and lack of representation of people of color in the community art scene. Jerry has been fighting the good fight for a long time. We need more people like him.”

Addressing the audience of friends and family at the 2012 CATS gala, Hiura was warmed by their comments, which had added meaning because they came from those already invested in the cause. “You all know the kinds of fronts the arts have to fight,” he began. “And you know we’ll never leave the arts. We’re all in the trenches together. … I’ll always keep the arts alive in my blood and always keep the community in my heart.”

“As a dedicated artist himself, Dr. Jerry explored many forms of expression including paintings and drawings ranging from whimsical to impressionist to portraiture using a variety of media, oils, watercolor and acrylics,” the obituary noted. “As an author, poet and editor, he published ‘The Hawk’s Well’ in 1986, a unique collection of Japanese American art and literature. He even dabbled in jewelry design and his pieces were sold by high-end retailers. He loved playing guitar and golf with family and friends.”

Hiura was pre-deceased by his father, Dr. Thomas Hiura. In addition to his wife Lucia, he is survived by his sister Barbara and his mother Dorothy. He also leaves behind his stepchildren, Audrey and Larry, and their spouses, Evan and Heather. He nurtured his four grandchildren: Graham, Chloe, Caden, and Carter. Hiura also leaves behind the team at Japantown Dental and the patient community they serve.

A celebration of life is planned for June 6, 2020, 11 a.m., at Wesley United Methodist Church, 566 North Fifth St. in San Jose’s Japantown.

A showing of art by Hiura and his family is also planned for June 1-10 at ArtObject, 592 North Fifth St. in San Jose’s Japantown.

More details on the Celebration of life and the art showing will be posted when available at https://everloved.com/life-of/dr-jerrold-hiura/?flow=201.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Contemporary Asian Theater Scene, catsasiantheaterscene.org; San Jose Museum of Art, sjmusart.org; Japantown Community Congress of San Jose, jcc-sj.org; or Chopsticks Alley Art, chopsticksalleyart.org.

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