Help Paint JANM’s New Mural This Saturday

Katie Yamasaki's Moon Beholders
Katie Yamasaki’s Moon Beholders


JANM has commissioned a new mural to be painted on the north wall of the museum’s National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. Titled Moon Beholders, the mural is designed by artist, author, and illustrator Katie Yamasaki. Based in Brooklyn, Yamasaki has painted more than 60 murals around the world. JANM visitors may know her as the author and illustrator of Fish for Jimmy, a children’s book that she read from at a Target Free Family Saturday event this past June.

Moon Beholders is intended to evoke various contemporary and historic concepts within Japanese American culture while connecting with the community around the museum. Against a bright gold background, a smiling young girl lies clothed in a variety of furoshiki—traditional cloths long used to preserve, protect, and transport items. The pattern and color on each furoshiki represents a unique moment in Japanese American history, such as a pale blue sky covered in yellow barbed wire symbolizing the WWII incarceration camps.

Surrounding the girl are floating lanterns, signifying transcendence and the concept of akari—light as illumination. Near the top of the mural, a 17th-century haiku by the Japanese poet Basho reads, “From time to time / The clouds give rest / To the moon beholders.” With the spectrum of interpretations possible in this mural, Yamasaki’s hope is that “the viewer will have the space in this image to become their own moon beholder.”

As part of the next Target Free Family Saturday on November 8, the public is invited to help the artist complete the Moon Beholders mural. Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., adults and children alike can sign up to paint for 30-minute intervals; up to 12 individuals can paint per interval. Participants should wear closed-toe shoes and other attire appropriate for an exterior painting project. The artist will be on hand to provide guidance.

Come to JANM this Saturday and become your own moon beholder! In addition to mural painting, the museum will be offering a variety of fun, hands-on activities to engage the whole family. For a complete schedule, visit

UGLARworks Art Collective: Telling Stories Through Art

UGLARworks painting a mural on S. Western Ave. and W. 2nd St. as part of their 2012 Public Works billboard project. Photo courtesy of UGLARworks.

Murals are hard to miss in Los Angeles. From the larger-than-life orchestra players who loom over the Harbor Freeway to the paintings on the side of your local store, they’re woven into so many parts of our landscape.

Artists Chris “Horishiki” Brand, Espi, and Evan Skrederstu—who all contributed to JANM’s Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World exhibition—started collaborating on art in the early 2000s as members of UGLAR (Unified Group of Los Angeles Residents). Altogether, the group comprises six local artists: Skrederstu, Brand, Espi, Steve Martinez, Jose A. Lopez, and Ryan Gattis. Later, their name was changed to UGLARworks as a nod to the Works Progress Administration, which supported the creation of many of the great public murals of LA. UGLARworks’ art can be seen throughout the city, whether on billboards or in the galleries of the Wende Museum. They’ve been honored by the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and reviewed in the Los Angeles Times.

The members of UGLARworks consider themselves storytellers as well as artists. In 2008, they created The Ulysses Guide to the Los Angeles River (the original source of the acronym UGLAR), a book that showcases the wildlife and art of the iconic LA River. Narrated by the fictional Angeleno character Ulysses L. Zemanova, the dense book includes stories, interviews, and artwork. With the addition of writer and visual artist Gattis in 2012, UGLARworks now focuses on creating constantly unfolding narratives in their art that reflect their urban environment.

Come watch Brand, Espi, and Skrederstu paint a new artwork live at JANM’s Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, August 9, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The UGLARworks members will also sign copies of the Perseverance catalogue following the painting.