Santa Fe Internment Camp – Storytelling and Ritual Event

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During my artist residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I learned that the history of the New Mexico internment camps was not well known, and people wanted to know more.

My focus became, how could art bring understanding and connection to the communities in Santa Fe?  I wanted to inform the public about this history that has touched my own Japanese American family and invite people of other cultures to express their stories of displacement, unjust incarceration, and immigration journeys.

I decided to create an experiential space incorporating modalities like drawing, movement, speaking, listening, and re-enactment.

Participants were invited to create a presence for those they wanted to remember. Just the simple task of striking a pose of a loved one and being outlined in red crayon, connected the collaborators, and spontaneous memories were shared. These ancestor drawings on the gallery walls created a safe and sacred place for remembering.

It was a very moving event with many voices, quiet support, some tears, and an overall powerful energy of compassion. People traveled from as far away as Taos, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque to attend. The walking meditation lead by Eliane Allegre with the music provided by Glen Neff put the participants in a contemplative space to consider stories of incarceration, immigration, and displacement. 15 storytellers came forward to share internee memories and other difficult and heartfelt experiences.

The gallery event was followed by the visit to the Santa Fe Internment Marker. It was chilly, windy and clear beautiful day. We carried symbolic suitcases, like the prisoners traveling to a place unknown. Upon arriving the cases were opened and the folded cranes and flowers inside were used to embellish the marker. Historian and writer Nancy Bartlit and Victor Yamada of the NM Japanese Citizen League, spoke about the marker history and future plans to bring more visibility to the history of the New Mexican Internment Camps.

You may ask, why is it important to share this history from 73 years ago? In the United States today, we are still imprisoning innocent families, like those from Central America. In a world of terrorist atrocities, the backlash of racial and ethnic prejudice is rampant. We must find ways to understand and connect to each other and art is a powerful way to do it.

Thank you to all of you who supported this special sharing event. It couldn’t have happened without the team of Victor Yamada, Sue Rundstrom, Nancy Bartlit, Santa Fe Art Institute, Glen Neff, Eliane Allegre, and many others.

Thank you to the Santa Fe Art Institute for selecting me for the immigration artist in residence program.

 

 

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Light and honor the dark season with artmaking

 Light and honor the dark season with artmaking

Intergenerational accordion art book making

The Senior Coastsiders hosted my 2nd book making class offered in Half Moon Bay. Open to all ages with first class spots reserved for elders, we ended up with a mix of ages. Two women brought their daughters.

I first taught how to make the hard covers and how to integrate that with the accordion folded pages. Then the participants took off running, using collaging materials, pens, pencils, sequins, magazines to embellish their interior pages.

Everyone created something special. One woman created a memory book for a sick friend.

I especially enjoyed watching the mother/daughter interaction. What a wonderful way for them to spend a couple of hours together.

I look forward to offering more book making classes soon.

Happenings at Kitsune Community Art Studio, March/April

Kitsune Community Studio had a bit of a break, but things are getting rolling again.
I am expanding to conduct some talks and classes in other locations. So I hope to see you in some of these venues too. I’m planning an open studio evening in April and I’ll keep you posted!

Book Club Alive and Kicking! It’s the one year birthday of our club! This has been truly inspirational in getting many of us reading again.

Our next meeting is 3/10, 7pm in Half Moon Bay
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
“Instead of celebrating the mystical side of “sensitives,” the people who travel England’s contemporary psychic “fayre” circuit, Mantel (A Change of Climate, etc.) concentrates on the potential banality of spiritualism in her latest novel, a no-nonsense exploration of the world of public and private clairvoyance. Mantel’s portraits of the two leading characters as well as those of the supporting cast—both on and off this mortal coil—
are sharply drawn. This witty, matter-of-fact look at the psychic milieu reveals a supernatural world that can be as mundane as the world of carpet salesmen and shopkeepers.” – review from Amazon

Please join us, for discussion and snacks. Contact me at judyshintani@yahoo.com for more info.

Family Censorship Talk, 3/16, Oakland
Your Aunt Doesn’t Want Your Art Exhibited in Seattle, Now What?

Sometimes the ones you love are your toughest art critics or maybe they just don’t say anything about your work. But what do you do when they call at midnight and ask you to pull out of an art exhibit that is opening in a week? Come hear me talk about family censorship and how I dealt with it. We have a hunch others have stories about this touchy issue and want to hear your experiences too.

Wednesday, March 16, 7-9pm
Sponsored by Northern California Women’s Caucus for the Arts
free and open to public
Judy Johnson-Williams’ studio
347 Lewis St (2 blocks from West Oakland BART)
Oakland, Ca 94607

RSVP to Judy Johnson-Williams at judy_j-w@ix.netcom

Wellbeing Mandala Workshop, 3/26, Three Rivers, CA

Almost everyone is concerned about his or her health, but how often do we create art to honor our wellbeing?

In this workshop you will have the opportunity to focus on your health using meditation, writing, art making, and sharing. Artists can choose to give attention to on an issue or to honor their body. For example participants may choose their hands challenged by carp tunnel, or their heart due to sadness, or pay tribute to their strong legs that have carried them throughout their lives. We will explore and discuss the power of intention, and learnings that arise out of artistic concentration. Examples will be shown of how different cultures and artists have used art and symbology for healing, health, and expression. A variety of materials will be provided for artists to pick and choose and they may also bring their own media.

Three Rivers Art Center
3/26 10-4pm
Click here for more info: http://www.artsthreerivers.org/workshops/shintani.html

Book Making Classes, 3/28 and 4/25, Half Moon Bay
I’m teaching these two classes with the Senior Coastsiders at Ted Adcock Community Center. Seniors 60+ get first signups, but the class is open to others too. There is a very reduced fee for the class. Great way to get your feet wet making books and experience taking a class with me too.

Book Making 1, March 28th 10-11:30am
Learn how to make softbound books that can be used for journaling and make nice gifts too. Learn how to do pamphlet stitch binding, and decorate the covers with paint, and collaging.

Book Making 2, April 25 10-11:30am
Learn how to make an accordion book and embellish and collage the pages and cover.

Contact Vicki Cormack to sign up at: 650-726-9056

Thank you for your continued interest in Kitsune Community Art Studio! Contact me for more info on events and if you have an idea or need a venue.

Elder earth art mandalas in Half Moon Bay

I recently taught an Earth Art class at the Coastsiders Senior Center on Half Moon Bay. We had a brief talk about Andy Goldsworthy and mandala symbolisn. The elders had bunches of material to work: stones, flower petals, leaves, sticks, and more. Most of the materials were gathered during a walk and some donated by a flower shop in town.

We had an “instant art show” at the Senior luncheon for the enjoyment of the diners.

New green gyms make energy

Love this idea of connecting health, exercise, and energy!

In Detroit:

Converting the wasted the kinetic motion of treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes, into renewable energy is cost-effective and energy-efficient -that’s what a community organization in Detroit did this week with its new green gym, for people living in its transitional housing and other shelter programs, staff and volunteers. “Not only is this gym a good idea for the environment, but it will help build the general health of our clients who often struggle with diabetes or heart disease,” states Rev. Faith Fowler, the executive director. The Cass Green Gym’s facility offers weight machines, boxing bags, a treadmill, and stationary bikes featuring Green Revolution technology that generates electricity. Cass Community Social Services (CCSS), located on Detroit’s Cass Avenue, projects that full classes with ten people, is enough power to light three homes for an entire year. It will redirect it back to the building’s electrical grid, reducing operating costs. Read more at treehugger.

In China:

Six exercise bikes lined up in the street of Beijing’s Fengtei district look like toys with their bright purple and chartreuse components, and the senior citizens riding the bikes certainly don’t seem like they are trying to get anywhere fast – in the clip they are barely pushing the pedals hard enough to keep the bikes in motion. But these retirees are proud that they are not only getting exercise to maintain their health – they are also generating around 180 watts of power per hour, saved to a row of batteries that are later dropped off to low-income local residents to run TVs and other electric devices. It’s senior power at its best. Read more at treehugger.

Telling an ancestor’s story

Telling a story about an ancestor can be a gift to oneself and to one’s family. It is powerful to have your stories heard. It is a great community building experience too, because it allows others to think about their own ancestors and stories.

Here is how Lisa Petrides and I created “Grandmothers from far lands” together.

Capturing the memories

We did a meditation to ask our grandmothers what they wanted conveyed in our storytelling. Then we both took some individual time to write down some of the things we remembered about our grandmothers. We thought about their history, things we liked about them, some hardships, our relationship with these women.

Collaborating – the similarities and contrasts

We got together and shared these stories and discovered that there were similar veins, for example, both our grandmothers had arranged marriages. It was through these marriages that they came to America. We also began to notice how different their lives were in America. Lisa’s grandmother lived in a city and my grandmother lived in a houseboat. Culturally their temperaments and styles were also a contrast we worked with.

grandmotherinamerica.jpg

Following the flow

We used the time line as the flow of the story. We started in their native countries and traveled over the ocean to America. We walked, following the shape of an infinity sign, to tell about the long ship journey. We brought in props which anchored their stories and clued viewers into where they were and what they were doing. As we took turns speaking, the other person swept the floor behind them. Lisa spoke in her grandmother’s voice as she washed dishes, and I was my grandmother as she washed the rice.

Practicing in the space

If at all possible practice in the space you will be performing in. This allows you to be more familiar with the sound level, lighting, seating, etc. If that isn’t possible, envision the space as you practice elsewhere.

Invite critiques

Before two shows we invited some folks in to critique our performance. We got some great feedback about background music and adding movement. We were able to make some changes which improved the show.

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Promote

We did some advertising and promotion through the local newspapers, email, postcards, and posters. After doing all that preparation, it is nice to have an audience! Of course that all took some advance planning since the pr had to be out almost a month ahead of time.

Performing it

On the day of the performance try to take it easy so you will be at your best. We passed out brief programs so the audience could have something to read and follow what we were doing. We did a little introduction and then went into the 15 minute performance. At the end we invited the audience to participate by standing and speaking their own grandmother’s name and many did so.

Allow for transformation

Lisa and I have changed the performance each time we have done it. Sometimes it depended on the venue. We have told our grandmothers’ stories in an art gallery, a senior center, and at a yoga center. It is important to keep in mind who you are telling the story to. For example if I were to do it for seniors again, I would invite them to have a sharing session afterwards so they could share their own tales.

Sometimes the stories change themselves, revealing more memories to incorporate in the performance. Sometimes we change in the way we want to speak. Allow for fun, change, and mystery that evolves with memories and storytelling.

Suggested educational uses

Provide your students with a list of questions and possible ancestor they can research. Have them bring in photographs and stories they have gathered. The students will break into groups based on which ancestors they selected. They will meet and discuss similarities and contrasts. Have them write up a 15 minute script and practice their performance. Document their presentations using video and photography.

There are many overlapping tie-ins:

  • history
  • theater
  • social studies
  • language
  • culture
  • arts

My mother’s gifts

As some of you know my mother, Doris Shintani, left this earth on August 13, 2009. She had Alzheimer’s disease for about 12 years leading up to her death. Recently I spoke about the many gifts she gave me at a community memorial and at the United Methodist Church in Lodi.

As a healing and an honoring of her, I decided to make art around these gifts.

emptychair

The first small piece I made was a red chair drawn and sewn on to a piece of birch bark. I wove the red thread hanging from the chair into a braid and at the end of this I tied a red envelop. Inside the envelop I placed 3 needles. I wanted to convey my sadness and the empty place in my heart. And I wanted to convey the gift she gave me – the ability to always create my path and to stand on my own two feet.

The other piece I am working on is a real meditation. When I was going through my mother’s photos I found my mothers childrenthe pictures of her classes. She taught first through fourth grades. I thought about those 23 years she had been a teacher. She was very dedicated to her students. My mother had touched so many of their lives. Some students even sent her letters through the years. I decided to make a bead of each student’s face and to string them together. I have made about 150 beads and have 500 more to go. The core of each bead is made of joss paper which is used for funeral rituals. The art making has helped me through my grief. I made beads sitting in waiting rooms during my father’s surgeries. I made more beads on plane trips. I continue to make beads in my studio. They are keeping me connected to the impact my mother had on my life and on the lives of others. The gift to make a passionate difference in others lives is a gift I want to keep giving.

Introducing The Purpose Prize, winners 50-70+ years old

Unwilling to stuff envelopes or go off quietly to the sidelines, thousands of innovators in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond are combining their creativity and experience to address big social problems. These change-makers are taking matters into their own hands and fashioning a new vision of the second half of life, one in which the expertise and talent of a lifetime is refocused on finding solutions to challenges in our communities, our country, and the world.

The Purpose Prize, now in its fourth year, provides five $100,000 and five $50,000 awards to social innovators over 60 in encore careers. It is the nation’s only large-scale investment in social innovators in the second half of life. Rather than a lifetime achievement award, however, The Purpose Prize is a down payment on what these 60-plus innovators will do next. Read more by clicking here.

Elders create eco mandalas

I enjoy facilitating an Elders’ art class in San Francisco every Friday. For the past 6 weeks we have been focusing on mandalas. I discussed the sacredness of the circle symbol in many cultures, in nature, and in religion. We designed rose window mandalas based on the cathedral stained glass windows of Europe. We made shield mandalas to give us strength.

For the eco mandala inspiration, my two high school aids presented a report on Andy Goldsworthy and showed how he used things found in the environment, nature ,to create installations. I scavenged materials for the mandala creating: rose petals from the flower place on highway 92, rocks left over from Carla’s landscaping job, different kinds of rocks and colors from Home Depot, and fallen ginkgo leaves in front of Judy Johnson-Williams house. The biggest score though was from Alena Jean’s Flower Shop. Her dad had just finished pruning and I grabbed beautiful plum branches, geranium leaves, lily flower petals.

The only instructions I gave the elders were to think about: balance, color, texture, placement, and the centers of their mandalas. The elders went right to it and came up with some beautiful designs. Some of them left a lot of black around their materials, so the shapes of each petal and leaf was defined. Others piled the materials on.

I found the project to be very successful for the many different issues that the elders have: hearing loss, stroke restriction, language differences, memory and cognitive variation. Everyone was able to create the mandalas and they enjoyed seeing what their fellow students had done.