"Block" Topaz by Setsu Nagata (source: Topaz Museum)
More than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry were held in ten remote camps beginning in 1942. Two-thirds of those displaced were American citizens. Not charged with or convicted of any crime, they were incarcerated for up to three years in prison camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
The Topaz War Relocation Center, located in Central Utah, was opened in 1942 and closed in 1945. The majority of the more than 11,000 people processed through the camp were from the San Francisco Bay Area.
The 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.
This exhibit consists of thirty-two works in oil, watercolor, pastel and ink. The artists include Chiura Obata, Setsu Nagata Kanehara, Charles Erabu Mikami, Miné Okubo, Kinji Otsumi, Thomas Ryosaku Matsuoka, Kaneo Kido and Yajiro Okamoto.
The exhibited artworks are collected and cared for by the Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah, a non-profit, volunteer organization whose purpose is to preserve the history of Topaz.
This traveling exhibit is made possible by funding from the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Arts & Museums, and the National Endowment for the Arts. It has also received support from the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.
Topaz: Artists Internment, Their Visual Work and Words is on display in the Art, Music and Recreation Center from April 28 through June 24, 2012. The library has also scheduled several programs related to this exhibit.