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Topaz: Artists in Internment their visual work and words

 Topaz: Artists in Internment exhibit at the Rio Gallery

Friday, Jan. 13 – Feb. 10, 2012

 SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Arts & Museums will open the traveling exhibit Topaz: Artists in Internment Their Visual Work and Words Jan. 13 at the Rio Gallery. A public reception will be held Friday, Jan. 20, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. during the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. There will be a screening of the short documentary Days of Waiting, poetry reading by former Oregon poet laureate Lawson Inada, and an opportunity to honor descendants and survivors of the internment experience. The exhibit will continue until Feb. 10 during state office hours, which are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The Rio Gallery is located at 300 S. Rio Grande Street (455 West) in Salt Lake City.

 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.

 “We are pleased to launch the traveling exhibit Topaz: Artists in Internment,” said Margaret Hunt, Director of Utah Arts & Museums. “These rarely seen works exemplify the triumph of the creative spirit over adversity and the ability of art to provide solace and opportunity for self-expression. We are particularly pleased to have the opportunity to take the work to northern California, where many internees returned after the war, and where many of their children and grandchildren live today.”

 A series of special activities will be held in conjunction with Topaz: Artists in Internment including three film screenings. At the opening reception at the Rio Gallery Jan. 20, Days of Waiting will be shown. This is a short documentary about the experience of Estelle Peck Ishigo, a Caucasian who followed her Japanese American husband into an internment camp. Later in the exhibit two films will be shown at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art at 20 South West Temple. Unfinished Business, to be shown February 2, tells the story of three young Japanese American dissenters. Lawson Inada will return to Utah to participate in a discussion following the screening of Unfinished Business. American Pastime, to be shown February 3, is a fictional account set against the backdrop of an internment experience, which dramatizes the establishment of an in-camp baseball league.  Lawson Inada will also travel to Utah State University in Logan Jan. 19 for a reading and discussion.

 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.

 The traveling exhibit is made possible by funding from the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Arts & Museums, and the National Endowment for the Arts.