JANM Staff Member Discovers Family Connection in JANM Collection

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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.

Jack Yamasaki, Untitled (1942), oil on canvas. Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Dr. Kenji Irie.
Jack Yamasaki, Untitled (1942), oil on canvas. Japanese American
National Museum, Gift of Dr. Kenji Irie.

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.

Jack Yamasaki, Untitled (building brick structure, Heart Mountain) (1942), ink and pencil on paper. Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Nobu Yamasaki.
Jack Yamasaki, Untitled (building brick structure, Heart Mountain) (1942), ink and pencil on paper. Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Nobu Yamasaki.

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.

Jack Yamasaki, Thinning Sugar Beets (1942), oil on canvas. Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Dick Jiro Kobashigawa.
Jack Yamasaki, Thinning Sugar Beets (1942), oil on canvas. Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Dick Jiro Kobashigawa.

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 grandmother looking at a painting in which she is depicted.
My grandmother looking at a painting in which she is depicted.

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!

Highlights from February’s Target Day with KoAloha Ukulele!

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On February 8, 2014, JANM held the Target Day Free Family Saturdays: Aloha from Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele family festival. Every corner of the Museum was filled with music as KoAloha Ukulele led free performances, workshops, and more!

Cartoonist Vishavjit Singh leads a cartoon workshop. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.
Cartoonist Vishavjit Singh leads a cartoon workshop. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.

In addition to the performances and workshops, guests also enjoyed ukulele-related film screenings of My KoAloha Story and The Haumana; and a variety of craft activities.

The Adventures of Sikh Captain America, a special program in conjunction with the Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 exhibition, completed the full day of free programming.

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Ryo Montgomery. Photo by Mike Palma.

Throughout the afternoon the Aratani Central Hall was filled with the sounds of spectacular ukulele performances by exciting young performers Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro (from Hawaii), and Ryo Montgomery (from Australia!).

JANM guests bring their own ukeleles for free classes taught by KoAloha Ukele artists and artist partners. Photo by M Palma.
JANM guests brought their own ukeleles for free classes taught by KoAloha Ukele staff and artist partners. Photo by Mike Palma.

Many guests brought their own instruments for free ukulele classes with KoAloha Ukulele staff and artist partners. These lively classes were enjoyed by guests of all ages and all levels as a number of classes were offered by different artists.

 

Check out these photos from February’s Target Free Family Saturday. Click on the thumbnails to see the full image larger.

The festival closed with an All-Star jam finale featuring Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro, Ryo Montgomery, and Brian Benevente! Photo by M Palma.
The festival closed with an All-Star jam finale featuring Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro, Ryo Montgomery, and Brian Benevente! Photo by M Palma.

 

Thanks to Russell Kitagawa, Mike Palma, Caroline Jung, Tsuneo Takasugi, and Tokumasa Shoji for taking amazing photographs!

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Save the date for JANM’s next Target Free Family Saturday on May 10th! In celebration of the new Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game exhibition (opening March 29!), bring the whole family out for free baseball-themed crafts & activities…sure to be a home run! Stay tuned for updates on janm.org/target.

“Winter Wonderland” Target Free Family Saturday on December 14th!

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Visit JANM for a winter-themed Target FREE Family Saturdays event on December 14th, from 11AM to 4PMAll day activities include: decorating a holiday picture frame; constructing a tiny winter wonderland to fill with seasonal cheer, and folding a winter reindeer in Ruthie’s Origami Corner.

December Target Day 8From 11AM to 2PM join Kidding Around the Kitchen for a simple, yet delicious, Winter Wonderland cereal mix that will make a delicious snack as well as a fun home-made present the kids will be so proud to give away to family, friends, and teachers alike.

December Target Day 5From 12PM to 2PM take a picture with Asian American Santa Claus, and don’t forget to let him know what you want for Christmas!

From 12:30PM to 2:30PM join a guided tour of JANM’s latest exhibition, Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts (on view through March 2, 2014).

December Target Day 7From 1PM to 3PM enjoy a ride on a horse-drawn carriage that will be fun for the whole family!

At 1PM and 3PM don’t miss Star in a Glass Jar, a winter-time story performed through kamishibai (paper drama), a Japanese art form of storytelling. The story is about an incredible adventure of one child’s letter with no address which finds its way to the other side of the world. Paper character craft to follow performance.

Photos by Russell Kitagawa, Richard Murakami, Tsuneo Takasugi, and Caroline Jung.

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Generously sponsored by Target, these special Saturdays are filled with fun activities giving families unique ways to learn, play, and grow together.

Check out our other fun and free Family Festivals!

Highlights from November’s Target Free Family Saturday

Crafts!

On November 9, 2013, JANM celebrated autumn with many guests at Target Free Family Saturdays: Awesome Autumn!

The day was filled with free activities such as putting together a festive fall salad, banging on a drum in a drum circle, sitting in on a reading of Thanksgiving at Obaachan’s, decorating a furoshiki (wrapping cloth) for a mini omanju (traditional confection), and much more!

Go For Broke - Veterans Day Weekend

The Go For Broke National Education Center also held an important event at their monument. 11 veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were reminded of France’s gratitude for their efforts during World War II and received the French Legion of Honor Medal. Words of remembrance and appreciation, followed by the pinning of the Medals were presented by Fabrice Maiolino, the Deputy Consul General of France in Los Angeles. Afterwards, exciting activities ensued at the Go For Broke Monument in honor of Veterans Day. Guests were able to view the monument, and enjoy various family-friendly activities as well.

It was an exciting Saturday to celebrate the season, and Veterans Day. Check out these photos from November’s Target Free Family Saturday!

Photos by Caroline Jung, Richard Murakami, Russell Kitagawa, and Tsuneo Takasugi

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Don’t miss our next Target Free Family Saturday, “Winter Wonderland” on Saturday, December 14th from 11AM – 4PM! It’s a Winter Wonderland of seasonal crafts & activities including photos with Asian American Santa, a horse-drawn carriage, and kamishibai story-telling! For more information, visit janm.org/target.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it already, JANM’s newest exhibition, Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts is on view until March 2, 2014. For more information on the exhibition please visit janm.org/goforbroke.

Join us for Target Free Family Saturday!

Our next Target Free Family Saturday is just around the corner!  We hope to see all our friends on Saturday, July 14th for a day filled with activities and crafts.  Our theme is Faces and Places so we will be exploring adventure and travel with a full schedule of programming.

Here’s a sneak peak at our craft activities for the day.  Using pieces of fabric,  customize a bag to take with you when you’re on the go.

You’ll also have a chance to decorate a travel journal so you’ll have a place to capture fun memories by writing and drawing about your summertime adventures.

Hope to see you there!

April Target FREE Family Saturday — Monster Mash!

Our next Target FREE Family Saturday theme is Monster Mash! Join us on April 14th from 11am-4pm for a full day of monster related fun & crafts for the whole family. It’s FREE ALL DAY!

At 2pm, artist, toy designer, and unofficial Kaiju* Toy and Art Ambassador Mark Nagata will talk about Kaiju toys and how they are made.

You may remember Mark from his participation in our Dreams to Dreams Custom Vinyl Toy Show in 2008 and the Year of the Labbit Custom Show in 2011.

Mark wrote an article for our Discover Nikkei website in 2007 that shared how he got interested in vinyl toys & monsters. (Read “Beyond Ultraman” >>)

 

In addition to Mark’s talk, join us for monster crafts, Kidding Around the Kitchen‘s Healthy Monster Mash Mix, face painting, caricatures, and origami.

Generously sponsored by Target, these special Saturdays are filled with fun activities giving families unique ways to learn, play, and grow together.

Check the full schedule >>

It’s our last Target Free Family Saturday of 2011

Bring the family to the Museum this Saturday, December 10th as we finish off the year by designing wrapping paper and making paper snowflakes to go with this chilly weather that we’ve had the past couple of days.

We’re big fans of origami here at the Museum so we’ll also be making origami hopping frogs.  After you fold yours, have a contest with folded frogs made by other visitors to see how far they can hop.

If frogs aren’t your thing, we’ll also have an area for you to sharpen your origami skills making other fun things. Join us for these activities as well as Japanese gift wrapping workshops throughout the day.  A full schedule can be found here.

As an added bonus, if you come on Saturday, you’ll have a chance to join artist Patrick Nagatani at 2:00 pm for a gallery tour of his exhibition Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani currently on view in the Museum’s Weingart Foundation Gallery.

Finishing off 2011, we look ahead to 2012 for another year of family fun, which we hope you’ll join us for.  Our first event of the year is our big Oshogatsu New Year celebration on Sunday, January 8th.  Bring the whole family as we celebrate the Year of the Dragon! [Check out the Oshogatsu Family Day schedule of activities >>]

Come back on February 11th for our next Target Free Family Saturday and then again on March 10th for Target Free Family Day as well as a celebration of the opening of our next exhibition Folding Paper: the Infinite Possibilities of Origami.  See you soon!

We’ll be “up in the air” at our next Target Free Family Saturday!

Autumn is here and that means JANM’s October 8th Target Free Family Saturday is right around the corner!  We took a little break in September to give everyone a chance to focus on the new school year. (Hope the year is off to a great start for all of our student friends out there!)  Now we’re ready for more fun with October’s “Up in the Air” theme.  Join us for kite making, a balloon artist, origami butterflies, and a tasty activity with Kidding Around in the Kitchen.  I can’t wait!  A complete schedule for the day can be found here.  Hope you can come!

Here’s a sample of one of the activities that we will be doing.  For now, this friendly balloon creature sits by himself in my at my desk but he’s looking forward to making more friends on October 8th!

Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo opens July 9th

What a pretty banner!

 

SAVE THE DATE:

On Saturday JULY 9, 2011, Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo opens to the public.

Admission is also free because July 9th is our Target Free Family Saturday! And for all you Stan Sakai fans–he will be at JANM for a demonstration, talk, and signing of his new book, Usagi Yojimbo Volume 25: Fox Hunt.

For more information about our Target Day, visit: yay, janm events!

Gettin’ arty at Target Free Family Day THIS SATURDAY!

Saturday (June 11th) is Target Free Family Saturday from 11 am – 4 pm! This month we join our neighbors at MOCA in celebrating Street Art.  We have a full schedule of painting demonstrations, sketching workshops, and art making activities. Our friends from the Mixed Roots Festival will be taking part in the fun with some art making too.

I always have so much fun thinking about art activities for Family Day but, sometimes, something seems like a good idea at first but it needs to be tested and tweaked before putting it into action at Family Day.  Yesterday I tried things out and made a few samples of our poster making and sticker printing activities for Saturday. Fortunately, everything worked out pretty well so, come on over!  We’re ready! I can’t wait to see what the creative minds of our Family Day visitors will come up with.  Hope you’ll join us!