The San Leandro Public Library will open the traveling exhibit Topaz: Artists in Internment Their Visual Work and Words on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at the San Leandro History Museum & Art Gallery. A special opening reception will be held on Saturday, February 25 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm. Poet Lawson Inada, a poet-musician in the tradition of Walt Whitman and James A. Wright, will be reading excerpts from his book Legends from Camp, a masterwork of American poetry.
The exhibit will continue on weekends until March 31, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The San Leandro History Museum & Art Gallery is located at 320 W. Estudillo Avenue in San Leandro.
“I invite our community and visitors from throughout the Bay Area to take advantage of this rare opportunity to connect to Japanese American art and history," stated Mayor Stephen Cassidy. "San Leandro is one of two sites in Northern California to host this very impressive exhibit. We are also grateful that the grant funding for the exhibit will allow the opening to the public of our history museum, which has been closed due to budget cuts, during the same hours that the exhibit is on display."
Topaz: Artists in Internment will feature artworks created during internment at the Topaz War Relocation Center near Delta, Utah, on loan from the Topaz Museum. Artwork by Chiura Obata, Setsu Nagata Kanehara, Charles Erabu Mikami, Miné Okubo, Thomas Ryosaku Matsuoka, Yajiro Okamoto, Kenji Utsumi and Kaneo Kido will be shown alongside the poetry of Lawson Inada. Inada was interned with his parents in camps in Fresno, Arkansas and Colorado, and was Oregon’s poet laureate from 2006 to 2010. The traveling exhibit is made possible by funding from the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Arts & Museums, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“We are pleased to launch the traveling exhibit Topaz: Artists in Internment,”
A series of special activities will be held in conjunction with Topaz: Artists in Internment including a discussion of the Art of Gaman by Delphine Hirasuna (date to be announced). On Sunday afternoons in March, Japanese American documentary filmed stories of internment and Nisei WWII veterans, produced by San Leandro Library staff, will be shown from 1:00 to 2:30 pm in the museum auditorium. See the library website at: http://www.sanleandro.org/
Japanese-Americans interned in the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah brought with them the skills from their interrupted lives. Among their number was University of California-Berkeley art instructor Chiura Obata who founded an art school at Topaz that grew to 16 instructors teaching 23 subjects to over 600 students.
Over a hundred thousand Japanese-Americans were held in ten remote camps in the 1940s. These Americans were not convicted or charged with any crime, yet were incarcerated for up to four years in prison camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
The exhibited artworks are collected and cared for by the Topaz Museum, a non-profit, volunteer organization whose purpose is to preserve the history of Topaz.
For more information, call Addie Silveira at (510) 577-3991 or visit www.sanleandrolibrary.org. Follow the traveling exhibition at topazexhibit.blogspot.com.
About Utah Arts & Museums
Utah Arts & Museums is a division of the Utah Department of Community and Culture with a goal to promote innovation in and the growth of Utah’s arts and culture community. It provides funding, education, and technical services to individuals and organizations statewide so that all Utahns, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or economic status, can access, understand, and receive the benefits of arts and culture. Additional information on programs and services can be found at artsandmuseums.utah.gov or by calling (801) 236-7555.
About the Topaz Museum
Since 1994 the Topaz Museum Board has joined with former internees and friends to preserve the Topaz site and construct a museum in Delta, Utah. They now own 626 acres of the site. Their mission is to preserve the history of the Topaz internment experience during World War II; to interpret its impact on the internees, their families, and the citizens of Millard County; and to educate the public in order to prevent a recurrence of a similar denial of American civil rights.