The Japanese American National Museum was honored to be chosen by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Metro Art Program to participate in the design of decorative banners to cover the Regional Connector Transit Project construction site. Over a year in the making, the banners can now be seen on Hope Street between 2nd and 3rd, just around the corner from The Broad.
JANM was commissioned by Metro to identify professional artists to mentor local high school students in creating the artwork for the banners. We chose the wonderful Ako Castuera and Edwin Ushiro, both of whom have exhibited their work at JANM, to work with an excellent group of students at Boyle Heights High School.
Students were first asked to learn about the history and iconography of the neighborhood so they could incorporate it into their art. We took a walking tour of Bunker Hill, during which the students documented the area with sketches and photographs. The tour was led by Metro’s Senior Transportation Planner Steve Brye, who is a longtime resident of Bunker Hill. Students then reviewed their own images as well as some historical photographs, and came up with imagery that was inspired by Bunker Hill past and present. Ushiro worked to compile their artwork into larger pieces for the banners.
During the course of this project, JANM staff had the opportunity to visit the students at their school in our neighboring community of Boyle Heights and the students came to visit us here in Little Tokyo as they created art inspired by Bunker Hill. I can’t help but think how great it is that we’re in Los Angeles, where so many diverse and interesting communities can intersect to create something that makes our city a little brighter. The next time you’re in the Bunker Hill area, be sure to check out the work of the students from Boyle Heights High School!
Thank you to Metro, the students of Boyle Heights High School, Principal Leigh Ann Orr, Ako Castuera, and Edwin Ushiro. We had a great time working with you all!
Like many individuals and organizations across the nation, JANM has been stepping up its efforts to raise public awareness and provide support in the wake of recent public policy initiatives that pose potential threats to immigrant communities.
The museum’s first “Teach-In” took place on December 8, 2016. We invited three speakers to share their perspectives. JANM volunteer Mas Yamashita spoke about being incarcerated as a child during World War II in Topaz, Utah; Betty Hung of Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles provided an overview of the political climate; and Mary Hendra of Facing History and Ourselves shared ideas for encouraging dialogue between students and teachers. What emerged was a shared understanding that teachers, school administrators, and community organizations like JANM must combine our efforts to ensure that our students feel safe.
You can watch a video of the entire presentation above. The speakers also provided downloadable handouts:
Following the Teach-In, members of JANM’s Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, and Education Department traveled to the White House to participate in “Generational Experiences of Asian Americans,” a program that examined the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II as well as contemporary challenges facing the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) and Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian (MASSA) communities today. Discussions of fears and obstacles evolved into coalition building, action, responsibility, and education.
JANM representatives who attended were inspired by high school and college students from around the country who are working hard to make an impact in their communities. Although fears persist, these young leaders made them feel grateful to educators who are encouraging young people to learn from the past and stand up against hatred and discrimination. A video of the event is available here.
At the end of March, JANM will be hosting a special two-day teacher workshop in conjunction with our current exhibition, Instructions to All Persons: Reflections on Executive Order 9066. Supported by a grant from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, this workshop will bring scholars, experts, and first-person voices together in an effort to gain a better understanding of how the current political climate impacts educators and students, and to create lesson plans to facilitate self-guided student visits. This event is currently at capacity, but interested educators may be added to the waiting list at this link.
Stay tuned for more news on JANM’s ongoing educational programs. To subscribe to our quarterly Educator’s E-Newsletter, click here.
When eighth-grade teacher Staci Yamanishi visits JANM with her students, she takes them through Common Ground: The Heart of Community, our ongoing exhibition on the Japanese American experience, and Fighting for Democracy, our appointment-only interactive exhibit on civil rights. Before they leave to return to their classroom however, the students receive one very special bonus assignment: find their teacher’s name engraved on the JANM courtyard.
Since JANM’s Pavilion building was opened in 1999, the museum has engraved the names of its youngest constituents in the Children’s Courtyard. For JANM, the Courtyard is a way to connect to each new generation, with the hope that being a part of the museum in this way will inspire a lifetime of sharing and discovery. As the young visitors grow into adults, we hope that they will continue to return to this institution and feel that they are a part of this community.
For Staci, the engraving was a gift from her grandparents. She remembers coming to the museum with her parents when she was young to look at her name, and she has returned many times over the years. She remembers visiting JANM on a school trip in the eighth grade and again when she was a student in UCLA’s Teacher Education Program.
Museum staff began getting to know Staci during her UCLA years, and soon after, she contributed a poem titled “I Come from Many Memories” to JANM’s experimental exhibition Xploration Lab 2012, which explored issues of identity. Staci has also served on an educator committee, which the museum’s Education Unit convenes on occasion to help brainstorm ways JANM can better serve teachers and students.
Now, in addition to occasional visits with her family, Staci returns every year on an eighth grade field trip—no longer as a student, but as a teacher. When asked why she brings her students to JANM, she replies that it’s important to her that the students understand her history—a unique history that is not found in their textbooks.
Much of Yamanishi’s knowledge of her history comes from conversations she had with her grandfather before he passed away. Having served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team while his wife (Staci’s grandmother) was incarcerated at Manzanar, he was an advocate of sharing the Japanese American World War II experience. He ingrained in Staci the importance of being proud of one’s history and passing it on to the next generation. Now, as a teacher herself, she encourages her students to explore their own stories through family history projects.
JANM is proud to know Staci and we are thankful for people like her, who share our mission to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.
If you are interested in purchasing an engraving for a child or youth (21 and under) in your life, visit our Children’s Courtyard Engraving page for complete details.
The Civilian Exclusion Order poster, which announced the evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry, is seen at left. The full text can be read here. Take a close look at this document and consider some of the euphemistic words used by the government—”non-alien,” “evacuation,” and “temporary residence.”
In 1942, these posters were placed in public areas all along the West Coast of the United States. With an average of seven days’ notice, thousands of individuals of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated in American concentration camps without due process. Many of these individuals were United States citizens. They could only bring with them what they could carry and their lives were irreversibly disrupted.
In 1983, the artist Qris Yamashita created a silkscreen poster titled Redress/Reparations Now!/Little Tokyo. Inspired by the Civilian Exclusion Order, this work looks critically at the language used, and makes notes to draw our attention to certain words and phrases, helping us to consider what they really mean.
Yamashita’s work points out that the phrase “non-alien” really meant U.S. citizens. The United States government gathered and imprisoned its own citizens based on the fact that they were of Japanese descent. The government also stated that it would provide “temporary residence” elsewhere. As it turned out, the citizens were first held in horse stables that had been transformed into temporary detention centers, and then transported to hastily built barracks in remote, barren areas.
There is far more to explore in both of these pieces so feel free to take a closer look. The next time you’re in downtown Los Angeles, come to the Japanese American National Museum and see Common Ground: The Heart of Community to learn more about this period in our country’s history.
For more about the Civilian Exclusion Order as it relates to Executive Order 9066, read this past blog post that explains the difference between the two.
JANM’s School Programs Developer Lynn Yamasaki and her family recently had the opportunity to view artworks by her great uncle, Jack Yamasaki, that are part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Jack Yamasaki, my father’s uncle, is someone I only have the faintest memories of seeing on occasion and visiting during holidays. I always knew he was an artist though, because I’ve been surrounded by his artwork my entire life—drawings and paintings by “Uncle Jack” have always hung on the walls of my parents’ and grandmother’s homes. Looking back, his artwork was probably my earliest exposure to art as a child.
A few decades later, I find myself fortunate enough to have studied art and to have worked in museums. I’ve had the opportunity to see some incredible artwork in the various institutions in which I’ve worked, including the Japanese American National Museum, where I currently spend my days. Recently, I had the great privilege of bringing several members of my family to the museum, where staff in the Collections Management and Access (CMA) Unit were kind enough to bring out five works by Uncle Jack for us to look at.
Most of these were pieces that my family and I had never seen before. In some cases, they were gifted to the museum by donors who are not family members. And it was a little odd for me to see Jack Yamasaki’s name among the other great artists in JANM’s collection. Though always appreciated by my family, it wasn’t until recently that I gained respect for the broader significance of his artwork and the events documented in them.
This 1942 painting was really interesting for us to see. It is a depiction of life in the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming, where Jack spent the war years. Reminiscent of JANM’s recent Colors of Confinement display, this work depicts camp life in bright, vivid colors; a rare and striking thing when you’re used to looking at black-and-white photographs. We noticed that it is still in its original frame, made by Jack.
I was also attracted to this pencil and ink drawing. In a busy scene, again from Heart Mountain in 1942, men are laying bricks in winter. On the left, one figure tosses a brick to another, with the brick depicted in mid-air. The cloudy sky and the way the figures are bundled up and hunched over as they walk really conveys a sense of the cold climate.
This one is a definite favorite for more personal reasons. The figure in pink in the foreground is my grandmother, someone I spend a great deal of time with. At 99 years old, she is one of the most impressive people I know. She says this was painted when the family was farming in Utah after the war. The other figures in the painting are family friends from pre-war days in the Imperial Valley. Her account doesn’t quite match the official description on file at the museum. However, my grandma is pretty sharp and has a great memory, so I prefer her version of the story.
My family had seen a reproduction of this painting, but it wasn’t until the CMA Unit staff brought it out that we saw the original. We were all struck by how the colors were much brighter than we thought they were. It was the first time my grandma had seen it since Uncle Jack painted it so many years ago.
At first, seeing it again brought up an old annoyance. According to her, she had told Jack she wanted to buy the painting and he said she could. But after one of his exhibitions, she found out that he had sold it to someone else! I remarked that this painting’s journey brought it to JANM, where it is now professionally cared for in a controlled environment. It is probably better off than it would be at her house, and she agreed!
The new year is almost upon us! What better time to set some goals and start hoping for a 2015 that is filled with good fortune and wishes come true?
In Japan, the Daruma doll is a traditional figure that helps people with their new year hopes. When a Daruma doll is new, it just has two white circles for eyes. The doll’s owner must make a wish or set a goal while drawing in one of the pupils. When the wish comes true or the goal is accomplished, the owner can fill in the second pupil, giving the doll a complete set of eyes.
The Daruma doll was inspired by the Indian priest Bodhidharma, who founded Zen Buddhism in the 6th century BC. According to one version of the story, Bodhidharma sat in silent meditation for nine years without moving or blinking his eyes. This lack of movement caused him to lose the use of his arms and legs, which is why Daruma dolls don’t have limbs. Despite this fact, the dedicated priest continued to travel through China to spread his teachings; thus, the Daruma is seen as a symbol of determination and perseverance. If you try to push a Daruma over, he will spring right back up!
Perhaps you’ve seen Daruma dolls before. If not, all you have to do is take a look around Little Tokyo and chances are good that you will spot a Daruma or two… or more! The JANM Store is stocked full of Darumas just waiting for their new owners’ wishes and goals. You can even make your own by joining us for the Oshogatsu Family Festival on January 4, where I will be leading a Daruma doll-making craft table.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what’s become of the JANM staff as we labor to bring you Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. We’ve had Hello Kitty on our minds for quite some time and perhaps now, more than ever, we’re all starting to feel a bit “supercute.”
Hello Kitty desk décor, fashion, and flair are EVERYWHERE in our museum. There’s no denying that this group of hard-working professionals has caught a highly contagious case of Hello Kitty fever. We’re sure you will too when Hello! opens to the public on October 11, only four days from now!
Reserve your timed entry tickets now using our online system! We look forward to seeing you all decked out in your own Hello Kitty finery. In the meantime, we’re getting back to work—there’s still a lot to do!
Are you a student in the Los Angeles area? Are you a parent of a student in the Los Angeles area? Have you heard of Los Angeles Summer of Learning? Well this is something that you should definitely know about!
Los Angeles Summer of Learning is a great new initiative that seeks to engage young people with hands-on learning activities at museums, parks, libraries, and other organizations during the summer months. Think of Los Angeles as one giant summer classroom where students can earn digital badges for participating in fun and educational activities throughout the city.
JANM is proud to participate in this initiative with our 2014 Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, August 9th. Students can earn a digital badge by coming to our popular annual summer celebration and checking out an array of traditional Japanese and Japanese American performances, crafts, talks, workshops, and special events. Admission is FREE all day!
To participate in Los Angeles Summer of Learning, all you have to do is sign up on the website and browse for activities that interest you or your children. You will be on your way to earning digital badges in no time! To get your Natsumatsuri badge, be sure to come to JANM on August 9th and ask for your badge claim code at our survey table.
You can read more about Los Angeles Summer of Learning here.
Aloha! Are you ready? It’s the first Target Free Family Saturday of 2014 and we are excited to see you!!
On Saturday, January 8th from 11am – 4pm, we’ll be celebrating Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele, who will be leading performances, workshops, crafts, and all things ukulele…and it’s all FREE! (If you have an ukulele, be sure to bring it to join in the fun.)
Not only is Hawaii on our minds, but, we’re also thinking about Valentine’s Day which is right around the corner. All kids can come and think sweet thoughts as they construct a candy lei. We will also have a variety of supplies available for you to make Valentine cards. It’s going to be a fun one so we hope you can join us!
We are so excited about our upcoming participation in a National Youth Summit with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and 10 other Smithsonian Affiliate organizations across the country.
On February 5, 2014 students from around the country will participate in a live webcast originating from The Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The program will reflect on the 1964 youth-led effort for voting rights and education known as Freedom Summer and will include a panel of activists, experts, and scholars.
Following the webcast, JANM will have our own on-site program. Tamio Wakayama, a Nisei Japanese Canadian who joined the American Civil Rights Movement as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), will share his experiences and the documentary photographs that he took from 1963 to 1964.
Now, here’s the great part: all youth and educators are invited to participate from their classrooms through the magic of the web! Teachers… this means you! Just take a look at this fantastic site for the program.
The Smithsonian has provided teaching resources and other tools for you and your students. You can pre-register and join in the conversation along with us and view the program streaming live from the Old Capitol Museum.