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Browse > Theme > Expression through art

45 articles

Songbird of Manzanar (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary, Biography
  • Everlasting love, Expression through art
  • Widely available

Short film by Cody Edison about Mary Nomura recounting her days as the "Songbird of Manzanar." Filmed at the Manzanar National Historic Site and at Nomura's home, she talks about how she took up signing at age sixteen under the urging of music teacher Lou Frizzell, her frequent public performances in camp, and meeting her husband, Shi Nomura. The film features two recordings of Nomura recorded at Manzanar , "I Dream of You" and "Can't Fool This Heart of Mine," and ends with Mary singing "Embraceable You" accompanied by Scott Nagatani on piano.

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Civil Rights and Japanese-American Internment (curricula)

  • Curricula
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Expression through art, Immigrant experience, Individual versus society, Injustice, Overcoming, Patriotism, Rights, War

Developed in 2000 by the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) and the Institute for International Studies (IIS) at Stanford University, this high school/college curriculum module presents civil rights in the context of the Japanese-American experience from immigration in the early 20th century to World War II, and on through more contemporary issues of redress, reparations and memorializing the incarceration. Organized into six lessons, this curriculum can provide up to three weeks of stand-alone instruction or select lessons can be used to augment U.S. history textbook coverage.

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Designing the Path: Japanese American Architect, Gyo Obata (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary, Biography
  • Circle of life, Expression through art, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Japanese-produced documentary film profiling Nisei architect Gyo Obata.

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Words, Weavings and Songs (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Role of women, Expression through art, Power of the past
  • Widely available

2002 documentary film profiling three Nisei women who drew on their experiences as teenagers in American concentration camps to pursue different types of creative expression both in camp and afterwards. The three artists featured are writer, playwright, and painter Wakako Yamauchi , weaver Momo Nagano , and singer Mary Nomura . A project of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center at the Japanese American National Museum , Words, Weavings & Songs was produced and directed by John Esaki and was funded in part by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program .

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Ruth Asawa: A Community Artist (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Power of the past
  • Widely available

Short documentary film on artist Ruth Asawa by Dianne Fukami. Produced as part of a follow-up project to the creation of the "Garden of Remembrance" at San Francisco State University, the documentary highlights Asawa's role in the garden and documents some of her other public art in San Francisco.

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Harsh Canvas: The Art and Life of Henry Sugimoto (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Immigrant experience, Injustice
  • No availability

A 2001 biographical documentary film on the life and work of Issei artist Henry Sugimoto , based on the artist's memoirs and testimony before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians . The film highlights Sugimoto's art through archival and contemporary footage and follows his life's journey from immigration to his incarceration with his family during World War II in Arkansas, and postwar relocation to New York. Actor Mako narrates the film in the voice of Sugimoto. Interviews with his daughter Madeleine Sugimoto and sister-in-law Naomi Tagawa provide additional information on his life, while fellow artist George Mukai and curators Kristine Kim and Stephanie Barron discuss the significance of his work.

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The Journey (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 3-5
  • Picture Book, Children's
  • Evils of racism, Expression through art, Power of the past
  • Widely available

A children's book by Sansei author and artist Sheila Hamanaka, published by Orchard Books in 1990. The Journey: Japanese Americans, Racism and Renewal is based on a 25-foot mural painted by Hamanaka that mixes the history of Japanese Americans with an emphasis on the American concentration camps of World War II with her own family's experience using a mixture of Japanese iconography, realism and caricature. The book features both close-ups of the mural as well as a panoramic view of all five panels, which are accompanied by the author's text, giving her perspective on history, tradition, and hope. It also includes a preface and afterword reflecting on these themes.

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Living in Color: The Art of Hideo Date (exhibition)

  • Museum Exhibitions
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Art, History
  • Expression through art, Injustice, Immigrant experience
  • Available

Retrospective exhibition featuring the work of Issei painter Hideo Date at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) that opened in 2001. Curated by Karin Higa, Living in Color draws on works Date donated to JANM as well as works held by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Smithsonian American Art Museum from the 1930s to the 1980s. An established artist by the 1930s, Date was sent to Santa Anita and Heart Mountain during the war, where he taught art and formed an Art Students League at the latter. Best known for his watercolor and gouache painting before the war, he turned to pencil drawings while incarcerated due in part to the difficulty of obtaining painting materials while in camp. The exhibition includes several of these drawings. Unlike artists such as Henry Sugimoto or Estelle Ishigo , Date's wartime drawings do not depict scenes from the concentration camps, most …

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Citizen 13660 (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir, Graphic Novels
  • Displacement, Evils of racism, Expression through art, Will to survive
  • Widely available

Published in 1946 as the last camps were being shuttered, Nisei artist Miné Okubo 's illustrated eponymous memoir, Citizen 13660 , has the distinction of being the earliest, first-person, book-length account of the American concentration camp experience. Always a vigorous booster of her own work, Okubo promoted the book that came to define her career as "the first and only documentary story of the Japanese evacuation and relocation written and illustrated by one who was there." [1] All told, Okubo produced an estimated 2,000 portraits of camp life in a range of styles and materials, including ink, charcoal, and gouache, while imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention camp in California and the Topaz concentration camp in Utah. Okubo's voluminous output notwithstanding, it was primarily Citizen 13660' s roughly 200 line-drawings that established her standing as a major chronicler of and historic witness to the camp experience.

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The Invisible Thread (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Memoir, Children's
  • Immigrant experience, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Expression through art, Facing darkness, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Widely available

Memoir for young adult readers by the acclaimed children's book author that covers her charmed childhood in Berkeley, California, and her wartime incarceration during World War II.

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Matsumi Kanemitsu: A Japanese American Artist (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art
  • Limited availability

Short profile of artist Matsumi "Mike" Kanemitsu that includes his own thoughts about his techniques and goals as an artist. Narrator Amy Hill provides a brief outline of his life and work accompanied by many photographs and the music of Miles Davis. His World War II experience as a Kibei in the U.S. Army is largely passed over to focus on his postwar art career.

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The Brighter Side of Dark: Toyo Miyatake, 1895-1979 (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Immigrant experience
  • No availability

A 1996 short documentary film by Robert Nakamura about the life and career of Los Angeles photographer Toyo Miyatake . Through Miyatake's personal and artistic life (he was very much engaged with other modernists of the 1920s and '30s), the film reveals the vibrant artistic and intellectual milieu of Los Angeles's Little Tokyo district prior to World War II as well as the impact Executive Order 9066 and Miyatake's wartime incarceration had on his artistic career. Using a camera lens that he smuggled into the camp at Manzanar where he was incarcerated, Miyatake reconstructed a camera and eventually became the official camp photographer, producing iconic images of camp life and the landscape of the Eastern Sierras. After the war, Miyatake was able to reconstruct his photography business and resume work at his studio in Little Tokyo. For generations, he was the community's most trusted portrait photographer, enlisted for weddings, graduations, …

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Jimmy Murakami-Non Alien (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Injustice, Expression through art, Power of the past
  • Widely available

Documentary film about the expatriate Nisei artist and animator Jimmy T. Murakami, focusing on his and his family's wartime incarceration at Tule Lake and his return to Tule Lake as part of the 2009 pilgrimage . The film mixes live action footage set in the film's present with animated segments recalling the eight-year-old Jimmy's experiences in camp and also notes his formative years, his Hollywood career, and his life as an expatriate in Ireland. The film was produced in Ireland by Loop Line Film and directed by Sé Merry Doyle. It has screened in numerous film festivals in both Europe and the United States.

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Shinkichi Tajiri: A Friendship Knot for Bruyeres (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Desire to escape, Expression through art, Self-awareness
  • Limited availability

Short video on sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri by A. T. Roberts, made to document Tajiri's gift of a sculpture honoring the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to the French city of Bruyeres, which had been liberated by the 442nd during World War II. Footage of Tajiri making the sculpture and footage of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the liberation in 1994 begin and end the video, with Tajiri's own first person account of his life and career starting from the attack on Pearl Harbor in between. Tajiri recalls his and his family's forced removal and incarceration at Santa Anita and Poston , joining the 442nd, and deciding to move to Europe after the war to pursue an art career and to escape from discrimination in the U.S. Tajiri's autobiographical narrative is accompanied by photographs of him and his family and of his many works of art.

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Eyewitness: Stan Honda: Reflections of a Photojournalist (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary, Biography
  • Expression through art, Facing darkness
  • Widely available

Short documentary film about photojournalist Stan Honda, who gained fame for the photographs he took of the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

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A Place Where Sunflowers Grow (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5
  • Grades 1-2
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Darkness and light, Empowerment, Expression through art, Importance of community, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Widely available

Children's picture book by Amy Lee-Tai and illustrated by Felicia Hoshino about Mari, a young Japanese American girl in Topaz , an American concentration camp during World War II. As the book begins, she plants sunflower seeds in the desert soil, hoping they will grow like the sunflowers in their old backyard. She recalls their prewar home, where she lived with her older brother and artist parents. At Topaz, she goes with her father to the art school he started. Initially unable to draw anything in the children's class, she slowly starts to find things to draw with the help of a supportive teacher, her father, and her new friend Aiko. After drawing a picture of her barrack with the sunflowers growing tall in front, she returns home to find little sunflower seedlings, giving her hope for the future. A final page provides biographies of the author and illustrator and …

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Ruth Asawa: Of Forms and Growth (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Nature as beauty, Role of women
  • Available

Documentary profile of Nisei artist Ruth Asawa produced and directed by Robert Snyder. Of Forms and Growth includes footage of Asawa at home, in her garden and at work, and features the artist talking about her artistic influences and techniques. In particular, she highlights the influence of artists Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller, and the film includes footage of Asawa and Fuller. She goes on to talk about the various media she has worked with, including ink and oil paintings, wire and paper sculptures, and sculptures made from baker's clay. The film also explores Asawa's community work, particularly in establishing art programs in schools as well as a community arts festival. Photographer Imogen Cunningham talks about photographing Asawa and her family and about Asawa's marriage to Albert Lanier. Asawa's early life—including her wartime incarceration—is covered only briefly, and her later work that is influenced by Japanese American history is not …

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Crossings: 10 Views of America's Concentration Camps (exhibition)

  • Museum Exhibitions
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Art, History
  • Expression through art, Desire to escape
  • No availability

2009 exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum featuring the work of ten artists, juxtaposing work created by Issei and Nisei artists in the concentration camps and works by contemporary artists that draw on that experience. The "crossings" in the title refers to the "crossing point between generations" that the exhibition strives to provide. Featured artists included Sesshu Foster , Masumi Hayashi , Hisako Hibi , Toyo Miyatake , Tadashi Nakamura, Benji Okubo , Mine Okubo , Shizu Saldamando, Renee Tajima-Peña, and Sadayuki Uno . Crossings opened on April 2, 2009.

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Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir, Art
  • Coming of age, Expression through art, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Immigrant experience, Oppression of women
  • Widely available

Concentration camp memoir by a Nisei artist. Ten years old at the time of the wartime incarceration, Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey was sent to Santa Anita Assembly Center and Amache with her older brother and Issei parents. Evolving from captions that accompanied displays of the author's postwar paintings, Gasa Gasa Girl intersperses stories of life in the camps with recollections of happier days with her parents, brother, and aunts in Hollywood, California, before the war. The book is illustrated by twenty-eight color reproductions of her watercolor paintings that depict both her external and internal lives during the war, as well as a like number of family photographs, archival photographs, and photographs of key objects mentioned in the text. Published by the University of Utah Press, the book includes an foreword by historian Cherstin Lyon.

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Masao and the Bronze Nightingale (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Expression through art, Lost love, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story by Rubén "Funkahuatl" Guevara about a Nisei zoot suiter and saxophone player in East Los Angeles before and after World War II. Masao Matsui and his buddies Lil' Joe Casillas and Isamu Imoto grow up in Boyle Heights playing jazz and dressing in elaborate zoot suits prior to the war. Masao dreams of leading a band one day. His dreams are interrupted by World War II and his forced incarceration at Manzanar. He passes time playing jazz records and plays in the Jive Bombers in camp. After the war, he returns to Little Tokyo and works as a janitor, while soaking up the local jazz scene that sprang up there as part of "Bronzeville," the African American settlement that formed during the war. Then, one night at a club, he meets a dazzling singer who called herself the Bronze Nightingale, and his life is turned upside down.

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You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Available

Feature-length documentary film on singer and actor Jack Soo . Based on interviews with friends and colleagues along with many clips from his film and television appearances, You Don't Know Jack also covers his time at Tanforan and Topaz during World War II.

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A Tribute to Ruth Asawa (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Power of the past
  • Widely available

Short documentary film on artist Ruth Asawa by Dianne Fukami. Released shortly after Asawa's death in August 2013, the film incorporates interview footage from Fukami's earlier 2008 film Ruth Asawa: Community Artist .

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We the People: The Stage Production (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Loss of innocence, Power of tradition
  • Available

Short film that documents the performance of the elementary school age students of Jan Ken Po Gakko in Sacramento on July 20, 2000. The production is highlighted by a play performed by the students based on Mary Tsukamoto and Elizabeth Pinkerton's book We the People .

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Relocations and Revisions: The Japanese-American Internment Reconsidered (exhibition)

  • Museum Exhibitions
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Art, History
  • Expression through art, Displacement, Injustice, Evils of Racism
  • Limited availability

Exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art featuring work inspired by the wartime expulsion and incarceration by contemporary Japanese American artists, most of whom were too young to experience the concentration camps firsthand. Opening on May 10, 1992, Relocations and Revisions also included a program of videos and well as a catalog with both print and video components.

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Sights Unseen: The Photographic Constructions of Masumi Hayashi (exhibition)

  • Museum Exhibitions
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Art, History
  • Expression through art
  • Available

Retrospective exhibition of the work of photographic collage artist Masumi Hayashi held at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Curated by Karin Higa, Sights Unseen included thirty of Hayashi's works—each of which are photo collages consisting of anywhere from five to one hundred forty individual photographs—including several from JANM's collection. This first survey of Hayashi's work included pieces from five different sets of work: abandoned prisons, EPA Superfund sites, Japanese American and Japanese Canadian concentration camps, sacred sites, and portraits of Nikkei . The five Nikkei portraits—of Fumi Hayashida, Yuri Kochiyama , Joy Kogawa, Miné Okubo , and Eji Suyama—were displayed for the first time.

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