Kuma Foundation was established for the purpose of discovering and supporting the development of creators in 2016 by COLOPL Inc., a company widely known for its popular GPS-based mobile games designed for playing on mobile phones and the like, such as “Coroni na seikatsu” and “Shironeko Project.” Serving as Representative Director of the foundation is Naruatsu Baba, the founder of COLOPL Inc.
The foundation defines “creators” as people who create contents themselves. In line with its vision of encouraging “a resonance of creativity” in an increasingly multidisciplinary world, the foundation engages in programs in the three core areas of (1) providing financial support for the creative activities of creators, (2) providing places and venues where creators can interact with each other, and (3) providing places and opportunities for creators to connect to the society at large. With regard to financial support, the foundation does not limit the applicable genres of creation, and in addition to its financial support, there is also a focus on the providing connections and points of contact with other creators, mentors and businesses that are important for the development of the creators’ activities.
The core of these support efforts is the “Creator Scholarships” program, which is open to student creators up to the age of 25 and provides scholarships (1,200,000 yen/year) with no obligation to repay. Recipients are free to use the scholarship as they wish, and although the number varies by year, there are normally about 50 scholarship recipients per year. As of 2021, a total of 248 people have received these scholarships. Since there are no limitations on which fields the recipients are to study, they range widely from visual arts, stage art, literature, music, media art, etc., to the sciences and technology as well as the AI field. The scholarship recipients are also introduced to mentors, and companies in their fields as well as being provided with spaces for their creative work and for showing their works. They are also given the opportunity to attend the biannual “Kuma Camp” retreats to meet and network with other creators in their fields and to show their creations in the annual KUMA EXHIBITION held in March.
Also, from 2021 a new program for supporting the activities of the scholarship recipients, including program “graduates” (up to five years following their scholarship), has been launched. Based on the proposals for projects that the applicants submit on an open-call basis, the accepted proposals can receive up to 5,000,000 yen in financial support. In April of 2022, the new “Kuma Foundation Gallery” was opened in the Roppongi district of Tokyo for the purpose of providing the recipients of this support program a place to show their works on an ongoing basis.
It should also be noted that among the scholarship recipients of this Kuma Foundation Creator Scholarship program are the leader of the theater company Gekidan Awai, Kentaro Otsuka, as well as Hirotaka Fukui, who was appointed Associate Artist for THEATRE E9 KYOTO from 2022, and Yae Yamamichi, a Futozao (thick neck) shamisen performer and composer.