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OrigamiUSA (sometimes abbreviated as "OUSA") is the largest origami organization in the United States, with offices located at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was founded in 1980 by Michael Shall, Alice Gray, and Lillian Oppenheimer as the Friends of the Origami Center of America. Since its founding, OrigamiUSA has been fully non-profit and volunteer-based and is a 501(c)(3) corporation. OrigamiUSA organizes the largest origami convention in the world each June in New York City, and in addition publishes a magazine, The Paper, an annual collection of origami diagrams, and a website, and also provides educational materials and supports numerous other activities that spread the art of origami.


According to its magazine, The Paper, "OrigamiUSA's mission is to share the joy and appreciation of paperfolding, preserve its history, nurture its growth, bring people together, and encourage community among paperfolders."


Origami was relatively unknown in the United States until Lillian Oppenheimer discovered the flapping bird. That introduction, at a family gathering in the late 1940s, triggered a fascination that would dominate the rest of her long life. Oppenheimer wanted the world to share her love of origami. She sought to find or teach more folders in the New York area, and she also started corresponding with paperfolders around the world.

Gradually, through the 1950s and 1960s, Oppenheimer became more and more involved with origami, and gathered around her a small group of equally dedicated and talented people. They saw magic in the creation of beautiful objects from a simple sheet of paper, and they wanted to spread their love throughout the United States.

By the 1970s Oppenheimer was no longer young - she was born in 1898. Her colleagues wanted to make certain that the collection she had accumulated, and the business she had started to ensure rare origami books and papers would be accessible, would live on. Among those people was Michael Shall, a young teacher from Pennsylvania. He had an ambitious dream of a new group, with hundreds, or even thousands, of members all over the world, all dedicated to sharing Oppenheimer's original vision. With Alice Gray, Gay Gross, Natalie Epstein, Alan Kaplan, Robert Neale, Florence Temko, Gwen Williams, and other people, he founded The Friends of The Origami Center of America. In 1980 The Friends was incorporated as an all-volunteer, not-for-profit, tax-exempt, cultural and educational arts organization. OrigamiUSA is registered as a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation.

In 1987, the organization officially purchased Oppenheimer's supplies business, which is run as mail-order only. By the time Oppenheimer died, in 1992, The Friends had achieved and even exceeded Shall's dream. Effective July 1, 1994, The Friends of The Origami Center of America became OrigamiUSA.

Services and activities[edit]

OrigamiUSA provides a variety of services to its members and to the world origami community:

  • Annual Convention -- held on the last full weekend of June at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, it is attended by some 800 people each year and provides typically 30 parallel sessions of origami instructional classes for an entire weekend, as well as special seminars on design and folding techniques.
  • The Paper -- the magazine of OrigamiUSA, published roughly quarterly for all members, containing articles about origami activities and new, unpublished diagrams.
  • The Annual Collection -- An annual book of origami diagrams, containing instructions for typically 60-70 origami figures, most unpublished.
  • Special Folding Fun Sessions -- Six one-day special sessions of origami instruction, held at the American Museum of Natural History. Each session is one day, with both morning and afternoon sessions.
  • The Source -- A mail-order supplies center, selling common and hard-to-find origami books and paper.
  • Reference Library -- A visitation-only reference Library, housed at the American Museum of Natural History, where rare and out-of-print materials may be examined.
  • Lending Library -- A lending-by-mail library, whereby members can borrow origami books by mail for a nominal fee.
  • Origami by Children -- an annual competition that allows youths 18 and under to submit their models for exhibition across the country. Kids whose works are selected to be exhibited will win various prizes, including a free year's subscription to OUSA's magazine, The Paper.
  • Holiday Tree -- a tree in the rotunda of the American Museum of Natural History, which has become an annual tradition in the city of New York, each year decorated with hundreds of origami figures.
  • Website -- A website containing information about the organization, diagrams, and registration information for the various conventions and folding sessions sponsored by the organization.

In addition to its annual convention, OrigamiUSA supports smaller conventions on an irregular basis. These include:

  • The Pacific Coast Origami Convention (PCOC) -- traditionally held in odd-numbered years in western North America; past conventions have been in Phoenix, Arizona, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 2009 convention was in San Francisco, California, the 2011 convention was in Bellevue, Washington, and the 2013 convention was in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • The International Convention on Origami in Science, Mathematics, and Education (OSME) -- held approximately every 2-3 years: the third such convention was held in Monterey, California, in 2001, and the fourth was held at Caltech in Pasadena, California, in 2006.

Board of directors[edit]

The OrigamiUSA Board of Directors is elected annually, with members serving staggered two-year terms. The current Board (2010–2012) is:

  • Wendy Zeichner, President
  • Marc Kirschenbaum, Local Vice-President
  • Robert J. Lang, Remote Vice-President
  • Jean Baden-Gillette, Treasurer
  • Marcio Noguchi, Secretary
  • Ruthanne Bessman
  • Jason Ku
  • Anne LaVin
  • Jim Weir

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]