Call for artwork and stories from WWII camps

ART BEHIND BARS — Portrait drawing of a Rohwer, Ark. art student, artist unknown. From the Gould/Vogel Collection, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

About five years ago I met Mrs. Rosalie Gould, the former mayor of McGehee, Ark. and a strong advocate for teaching and visiting the Japanese American concentration camps in her community. Mrs. Gould told me she had a collection of children’s artworks in her spare room and welcomed me to see them. I was absolutely amazed. For a former K-12 art teacher and now an art education professor, it was a bit like walking up to an old box and finding a treasure chest inside — only better. I’m a history buff. I love learning and teaching about our history, but I especially love it when I can leave the textbook behind and open new doors for dialogue and discovery. When Mrs. Gould brought me to the collection, I felt like those doors had opened for me.

After I saw this collection I asked myself, “I wonder if there are any other examples of children’s artwork within the confinement of the camps and I wonder if anyone has stories to share?”

I wish to learn as much as possible about the young artists in the camps. If you have your own little treasure of a child’s artwork; a story of your own that talks about an art teacher, an art exhibit or making art; or if you think you might have some advice for me, I’d love to speak with you. Many researchers have looked into the adult artworks from the camps and Delphine Hirasuna’s exhibit, “The Art of Gaman,” was an amazing tribute to these artists.

However, little has been written about the children’s art-making and how art was taught in the War Relocation Authority (WRA) schools. My study presently includes stories about camp survivors and their families, teachers in the WRA schools and reviews of existing art collections. I would love to learn more from anyone who recalls art-making as a child, teen or young adult. I am also searching for the young artists who created the eight murals while incarcerated in Rohwer, Ark. These include: Masumoto Kinoshita, Teruyo Kishi, Mary Ihara, Nobi Tanimoto, Kik Toyofuku, Michi Tanaka, Motohiko Hori and Arthur Okusu.

My goal is to share the stories I learn with teachers and students in order to develop a much more thorough curriculum on American history and education during World War II. I am currently working on a manuscript and I want to be as detailed as possible. The information that you have speaks volumes about your heritage and our history. Like an episode on “Antiques Roadshow,” the value in many objects is what we learn about our past rather than its monetary value. I look forward to all communication and can be reached at: Gina.Wenger@mnsu.edu, (507) 382-8115 or:

Dr. Gina Wenger
Professor of Art Education
Minnesota State University, Mankato
136 Nelson Hall
Mankato, MN 56001

Dr. Gina Mumma Wenger is an associate professor of art at Minnesota State University Mankato. Her research focuses on curriculum mapping for K-12 education and the history of art education.

 

Comments

  1. Kathy Yukie (Hori) Leon Guerrero says

    My older brother Mike copied me on an email sent to my younger brother who lives near my mom with a link to view your article (https://www.nichibei.org/2011/06/call-for-artwork-and-stories-from-wwii-camps/) for him to print and give to her to read. They live in Stockton, CA; I live in Cupertino, CA. Our dad was Motohiko Hori, and he passed away in December 2005 with complications from Parkinson’s Disease.
    In 2002, they sold their Linden, CA walnut ranch which included my dad’s huge workshop with many woodworking tools and moved closer to his doctors in Stockton, CA. FYI, he built the house for my mom and him to live in after they were married around 1950.
    My dad was a farmer until a welding accident in the early 60’s forced him quit farming and go to college where he studied drafting. At least he had survived the accident; the doctors told my mom he couldn’t survive the burns all over his body.
    He had many artistic hobbies including painting, duck decoy carving from the walnut trees on our ranch, as well as furniture making. My mom still possesses and cherishes many paintings, pieces of furniture as well as many of the duck decoys he made over the years. I also have a few paintings, pieces of furniture, and duck decoys. He was an extraordinary man who excelled at both left brain/right brain functions; he retired as a weapons designer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory around 1987.
    There is a photo of him and his large mural he painted at the camp. I guess it was an assignment as there are photos of other students with theirs. I think they are part of a Smithsonian exhibit… maybe they were in L.A…? I was able to print the one of my dad. Here’s a link (my dad did Center Occupations): http://americanhistory.si.edu/PerfectUnion/collection/search.asp?CampID=11&Keywords=&Page=3&ThemeID=&View=

    Regards,
    Kathy Y. (Hori) Leon Guerrero

  2. Vivienne Schiffer says

    Hi, Kathy –

    So sorry to hear of your father’s passing. The photo you reference was taken at Rohwer in 1944 and is now in the hands of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, as part of the Jamie Vogel/Rosalie Santine Gould collection. Here’s a link to the collection: http://www.butlercenter.org/rohwer.
    Unfortunately, the photos are all the remain of the murals, which survived long after the camp was dismantled – the murals were eventually destroyed by fire.
    There is at least one other piece of art by your father in the Rosalie S. Gould collection, a pencil drawing of the camp.
    If I can tell you anything else, feel free to respond.
    Regards, Vivienne Schiffer, daughter of Rosalie S. Gould

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