Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shipped from Alaska

Last week I received a pleasant surprise in the mail – a book signed by the author, Karleen Grummett. The gift of Quiet Defiance: Alaska's Empty Chair Story was arranged by Marie Matsuno Nash, a friend who lives in Anchorage. 

The author appears in a group photo of the Empty Chair Committee, a group who spearheaded the effort to create a public remembrance – an empty chair along with the names of 53 Japanese and Japanese Americans from Juneau – as a reminder of what happened during World War II.

I was especially touched by the empty chair left where class valedictorian, John Tanaka, would have been seated during the ceremony at Juneau High School's Class of 1942 graduation and how school officials held a special ceremony for Tanaka before he was forced to leave town.

Tanaka, his mother and younger siblings, were assigned to live in Idaho's Minidoka War Relocation Center. His father, an Issei, was arrested just after Dec. 7, 1941 and lived separated from the family for several years.

Marie Matsuno Nash,
2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage
The book serves as a complement to the documentary film, The Empty Chair, released in 2014 when the memorial was dedicated. The film features John Tanaka's sisters, Alice Tanaka Hikido and Mary Tanaka Abo. I recommend the film and the book as inspiration for what a difference a community's mindset can make.

Thank you, Marie.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

BAM Plus

                                                                                                                 Photo © 2016 Teresa Tamura

The October 7th opening reception of Minidoka: Artist as Witness at the Boise Art Museum was bittersweet. I was happy and appreciative to see the community of people who turned out and sad to think that current events continue to reflect racism in our country.

Before the doors opened at 5:30 p.m., I met with a small group of BAM supporters. Barbara Johns, art historian, curator and author, joined me as she discussed the work of Takuichi Fujii. Her fourth book, Witness to Wartime: Takuichi Fujii, will be released in 2017. Then at 6 p.m. Melanie Fales, executive director, addressed the crowd. Robert Hirai, Honorary Consul of Japan and native of Caldwell, Idaho followed her with comments that evoked laughter and tears. Special thanks go to the staff at BAM, especially Nicole Herden, the curator of art, and June Black, associate curator.

On Saturday morning, Betty Sims joined me for a brief gallery talk at BAM, the start of a cultural excursion for a group led by Terra Feast, BAM curator of education. Afterwards, they headed over to Ontario to visit Four Rivers Cultural Center.

                                                                                Photo © 2016 Teresa Tamura
Don and Susan Curtis volunteer as docents for the
Wassmuth Center for Human Rights in Boise, Idaho.

Thanks to Annie Chalfant, I connected with Don Curtis, a volunteer docent with the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. The day before BAM’s event Don and his wife, Susan, gave me a tour of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. I also had a chance to meet Dr. Dan Prinzing, the executive director of WCHR.

When I first began photographing Minidoka in 2001, then Executive Director Les Bock of the Idaho Human Rights Education Center (now WCHR), contacted me about exhibiting some of the photos. Thanks to his help, my first ten photos were exhibited in Boise and Pocatello in 2002, the same year the Anne Frank memorial was constructed. I highly recommend visiting this site and supporting Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. 

Don arranged for me to meet with a group of volunteer docents for their monthly meeting held in the Boise Public Library. Some additional guests were present including a friend and college classmate of my brother, Doug. I learned his friend’s mother and grandparents had been in Minidoka, another reminder of how many lives were impacted.

Seniors seem especially interested in history. The following week I met with two different groups: members of Boise at Home, a session organized by Diane Ronayne; and participants of New Knowledge Adventures – Treasure Valley, organized and coordinated by Micki Kawakami. I enjoyed meeting everyone and hearing some new stories.

Now back at home, I noticed tonight the Idaho Statesman published a story by Anna Webb about the exhibition and Civil Liberties Symposium held Oct. 15 and 16. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the symposium but have many new connections and reconnections to new and old friends from my recent time in Idaho.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Boise Art Museum

                                                                                    © 2016 Teresa Tamura 

Sandy Harthorn, then curator of art for the Boise Art Museum, called me in January 2015. She was working on a grant application for the National Endowment for the Arts new "Imagine Your Parks" initiative. This was a big year for both the NEA and National Park Service, each celebrating 50th- and 100th-year anniversaries respectively. 

The grant was funded. Sandy retired from the museum. Minidoka: Artist as Witness opens next month. Some of my photos from the book will be exhibited with artwork created by Takuichi Fujii (1892-1964), Kenjiro Nomura (1896-1956), Roger Shimomura (b. 1939), and Wendy Maryama (b. 1952). 

In preparation for a short audio recording for the museum, I remember my entry into Minidoka's history in March 2001. It began with a lecture by Dr. Robert Sims, professor of history emeritus and former dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs at Boise State University. Bob, as I came to know him, spoke about art in the camps at the Hailey Public Library. He introduced me to the work of Roger Shimomura. Roger had a new series of Minidoka paintings being exhibited at BAM the next month. My first portrait for the book was made of Roger at BAM.

This exhibition has special significance on many levels. I have heard from classmates from Nampa High School ('78 is great!), friends and family members who plan to attend the opening reception on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Cost is $10 for non-members, free for BAM members. Please join us.

I hope many of you will be able to see the exhibition: Oct. 8, 2016 through Jan. 15, 2017. For hours and information, please visit:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In the Treasure Valley

                                                                                               © 2015 Neil King
Neil King, former National Park Service superintendent of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Minidoka National Historic Site, emailed a photo of the license plate on his truck. Neil lives with the "Gaman" spirit as he continues work on the Minidoka site and Civil Liberties Symposium through his service as a member of the Friends of Minidoka board. He was the project manager for the reconstruction of the guard tower project (dedicated in June 2014) which also includes a change to the entrance parking area set for this April.

In his email, Neil notes: "I have had only 2 comments, outside family. One asked the meaning! The other asked if I was Gay?" Here's how Wikipedia defines the word:

Neil also noted the theme of this year's Civil Liberties Symposium will be: Mass Incarceration in theLand of the Free. The shift in time from summer to fall was done to encourage and allow more students and teachers to attend the two-day event, along with special coordination with the Boise Art Museum and its exhibition about Minidoka. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ending the year with a positive note...

I am honored a selection of Minidoka photos from my book will be included in the Boise Art Museum's upcoming exhibition, Minidoka: Artist as Witness (Oct. 8, 2016 through Jan. 15, 2017). posted a story this month. Here's the last paragraph of the story:

"Boise Art Museum's 'Imagine Your Parks' project will comprise an exhibition of artwork produced at the camp or created by artists whose families have a personal connection with the Minidoka incarceration experience, such as Takuichi Fuji (1892-1964), Kenjiro Nomura (1896-1956), Teresa Tamura (b. 1960), Roger Shimomura (b. 1939), and Wendy Maruyama (b. 1952). Recognized as a unit of the National Park System in 2001, the internment site held more than 9,000 evacuees between the years 1942 and 1945. To engage visitors of all ages with the Minidoka National Historic Site, educational programming will take place at the Boise Art Museum, at the national park site, and at Boise State University (BSU). The exhibition has been scheduled to coincide with the annual Civil Liberties Symposium at BSU in fall 2016."

This coming year's Civil Liberties Symposium will be held Oct. 15 and 16 with the theme: "Mass Incarceration in the Land of the Free." For questions and/or suggestions, you can contact Ross Burkhart at <> or Carol Ash at <>.

I'll close out 2015 with a quote by Melanie Fales, BAMS's Executive Director: 'Few people know that Idaho had a major relocation camp during WWII, and even fewer people are aware of the visual art production that occurred as a result. By partnering with the Minidoka National Historic Site and engaging people with this artwork, we will have a powerful and personal means of creating a dialogue about a sensitive subject of profound importance.'

Wishing you all a peaceful new year.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Conrad Smith calling

                                                                © 2015 Teresa Tamura
I spoke with Conrad Smith, now a journalism professor at 
University of Wyoming, and students in his feature-writing course. 
The discussion compared perceptions about the Japanese American 
community in World War II to Muslims in America today.

Conrad Smith was a journalism professor at Idaho State University from 1977 to 1981. I was a student in his class, Introduction to Mass Communications. I mention Conrad in the preface of Minidoka. He "urged me to look into the camp."

Conrad emailed an invitation to meet with his class via Skype. The message began: "I've been meaning to contact you since receiving a copy of your Minidoka book two years ago with those kind comments about that class at ISU. Donald Trump's comments about Muslims, as reported in today's [Dec. 8, 2015] New York Times, pushed me to act..."

He included this excerpt from the story headlined: "Donald Trump Deflects Withering Fire on Muslim Plan." "Repudiated across much of the political spectrum but defended on conservative talk radio, Donald J. Trump on Tuesday stood by his call to block all Muslims from entering the United States. He cast it as a temporary move in response to terrorism and involved President Franklin D. Roosevelt's authorization of the detention of Japanese, German and Italian immigrants during World War II as precedent.

The fear of "all Muslims" reverberates back to World War II and the mass incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans. While violent acts have occurred, our fear should not dictate rash decisions.

                                                                                      © 2015 Conrad Smith
Conrad Smith, far right, used a 20mm lens to take this
classroom scene at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Matsuda's new book

© 2015 Lawrence Matsuda and Matt Sasaki

Since Lawrence (Larry) Matsuda let me include his moving poem, "Too Young to Remember," from his collection published in A Cold Wind from Idaho (2010), he has produced three new books. The latest, Fighting for America: Nisei Soldiers, includes illustrations by Matt Sasaki and features an interview with Tosh Yasutake, the brother of Mitsuye Yamada. Yamada wrote the essay, "Minidoka Revisited" for my book.

Larry's book release is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Nisei Veterans Committee Memorial Hall in Seattle. Books will be available for purchase from the Nisei Veterans Committee Foundation. I don't have a copy yet but I'm getting one. The cost is $35 plus $5 shipping. Profits will be donated to NVC and the Wing Luke Asian Museum.

Jerry Large, a columnist for The Seattle Times, wrote a piece last week, "Book about Nisei soldiers casts new light on our history."

And, if you haven't seen the collaboration between Larry and Roger Shimomura, get a copy of Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner: Poetry and Artwork Inspired by Japanese American Experiences (2014) available from