Go Arkansas — woooooo pig sooie!

Parkview High School (Little Rock) Student Mural, 2005. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

 

It’s football season and the team that I follow is the University of Arkansas. No, I didn’t go to school there, but I am a huge fan. (Shall we call the hogs now?)

Why Arkansas?

Oddly enough, because Arkansas was the site for two government-run WWII concentration camps that unlawfully held 16,000 Japanese Americans. It was a virtually unknown story in the state for six decades. But thanks to a partnership between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and JANM, a multi-year project called Life Interrupted: The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas culminated in 2004 with a number of exhibitions, educational programs, and a national conference. We hope that we might have collectively learned a little bit more about the Japanese American experience in the state, and specifically more about Rohwer and Jerome. Definitely, JANM staff and volunteers learned lots from Arkansans of all ages.

Detail of quilt created by elementary school students at Little Rock’s Gibbs Magnet School of International Studies and Foreign Languages, 2004. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

You might be interested in a seven minute video of Arkansas students talking about what they learned. While you’re watching it, keep in mind that we arrived at these schools with a video camera and very little warning: major kudos go to these poised young people and their outstanding teachers!

Speaking of which, UALR’s Web site has all of the project’s teacher-created curriculum available for download–for free.

JANM, in 2005, followed up on the Life Interrupted project with an exhibition of murals made at Rohwer High School, Lasting Beauty: Miss Jamison and the Student Muralists. The murals on display here were just the tip of the iceberg of JANM’s holdings from the collection of student artwork and other camp-related memorabilia donated by former Rohwer art teacher, Mabel Rose Jamison Vogel–known to her students as Miss Jamison. This exhibition also proudly featured a new student mural, pictured at the top of this blog post. This beautiful mural was created by the students (shown below) at Little Rock’s Parkview High School as a modern-day response to the WWII-era murals. Painters of all ages pitched in to help, too.

Parkview HS students with their mural at JANM. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

And now we are excited to announce that more Rohwer artwork and memorabilia are on exhibit! The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies–the institution that holds the other part of the Vogel Collection–has created an exhibition called The Art of Living: Japanese American Creative Experience at Rohwer. We hope you can get to Little Rock before November 26 to see it!

And in case you miss the exhibition, there are also new and exciting Arkansas-based preservation efforts afoot, including restoring the Rohwer cemetery, as well as new signage and an audio tour in development from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Arkansas Delta Rural Heritage Development Initiative.

(Okay, seriously, now shall we call the hogs?)

Entrance to Rohwer, 2004. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

Allyson Nakamoto

Allyson Nakamoto is the Director of Education at the Japanese American National Museum.

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