In 2017, Teriha Yaegashi ’04 got a call from Google. They had a problem with an installation of 400 artworks in buildings on their Sunnyvale campus. Could she fly to California the next day and solve it for them? As head of her own art advisory firm based in New York, Teriha was used to traveling nationally and internationally and consulting with clients on art acquisition and installation. She booked a flight and arrived in California 24 hours later. Just 72 hours after that, the artworks had been re-hung under Teriha’s direction with the help of a six-person team. Though art emergencies are not exactly her specialty, this pop-up project drew on her expertise in art curation and design psychology, and, no less significantly, her uncanny ability to hit the ground running in new situations and forge connections between people.
“Google felt very exciting and very different,” Teriha says of her quick trip there. “I thought that I would like to work for Google, but because I didn’t have a tech degree, it wouldn’t happen.”
A year later, Teriha landed a position at Google for a job, she says, she did not know existed before she stepped into it. As a program manager on the Google Engagement and Experiences team, Teriha develops talent engagement programs for historically underrepresented communities in the technology field and designs spaces for Google events like AfroTech and the International Women’s Day summit.
The seeds of Teriha’s interest in art, design, and psychology, and how they intersect, were planted at Spence. “I discovered and fell in love with art at Spence,” she recalls. “I was a freshman during 9/11. It was very traumatizing. The only way I could process what had happened was to be in the art studio making things.”
Teriha remembers the ceramics and sculpture studios as her favorite places at Spence. “I loved seeing other people’s work in the art studios, the positive energy coming from an object or something hung on the wall. I was very interested in this. How does an object or image change how people feel?”
This question led to Teriha's double major in art history and psychology at Columbia. After graduating from Columbia at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, she managed global marketing strategies for Shiseido, a skincare and cosmetics company. A call from a Columbia classmate led to a shift in direction when she joined the New York studio/office of the artist Takashi Murakami. Bilingual in English and Japanese, which she grew up speaking at home, Teriha brought her knowledge of Japanese art and culture to this position.
“I was 23 when I started this job. Absolutely bonkers. I was able to see how the art world actually functions, from the point of view of an artist.” Teriha managed Murakami's personal art collection and assisted with special projects, including planning an exhibit at the Chateau de Versailles. This plus a later job as an art consultant for the Ace Hotel Group opened her eyes to what she could do as an independent art advisor with her own firm, which she continues to maintain while working at Google.
Among her roles at Google, Teriha is in charge of transforming corporate spaces into spaces that foster meaningful dialogue for the conferences and events she helps manage. This takes on particular significance with the underrepresented populations in tech the events reach. “I want the person who comes into a space I have designed to feel incredible. How can I design an experience that makes them feel uplifted, inspired, empowered? I love design psychology, how differences in design influence people’s experiences in an event space. How something as simple as a carpeted or uncarpeted room changes how people feel.”