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An Artist’s Sense of Purpose: Art, Activism, and Community in Conway

CONWAY, Ark. (February 3, 2017) – On February 19, 1942, in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving the Secretary of War the power to designate military areas from which “any or all persons may be excluded,” and authorized military commanders to initiate orders to forcibly remove 120,000 Japanese Americans and persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to ten internment camps in seven western states, including two in the Arkansas Delta (Rohwer and Jerome). Approximately 17,000 “evacuees” were brought by train to Arkansas where they were imprisoned behind barbed wire for three years.

The University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College have unique connections to the history of Japanese Interment during World War II.

UCA graduate Mabel Rose Jamison was a Caucasian art teacher at Rohwer who saved her students' artworks, later displaying them to publicize the injustice of internment. They are now held at the Smithsonian, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Butler Center in Little Rock.

After visiting the Arkansas camps in 1943, Hendrix College art faculty members Floy Hanson and Louis and Elsie Freund staged an exhibition of artwork by renowned artist and Jerome internee Henry Sugimoto at Hendrix in 1944. After meeting Sugimoto at Hendrix, English professor Paul Faris visited Rohwer in 1945, where he photographed life in the Arkansas camps while his wife Ann conducted oral history interviews with internees. These experiences, Henry Sugimoto later recalled, inspired “an artist’s sense of purpose” to document and remember the experience of internment.

Seventy-five years later, we pause to remember the people who suffered imprisonment, without any charges, without lawyers and without trials, and whose only “crime” was they looked like the enemy. We also remember those who took a stand against racial injustice, despite the risk of being socially ostracized, to aid Japanese Americans amidst a climate of fear and discrimination. They were individuals who also recognized the power of art to uncover and document injustice so that it never happens again.

Schedule of Events

Feb. 20 – 24

On view: Selections of artwork from the Gould-Vogel collection of Japanese-American Internment art and artifacts (on loan from the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies), 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. M-F (with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Thursday), Fireplace Room, McCastlain Hall, UCA

Feb. 21 – 27

On view: Sculpture display, Life Interrupted: 10 Internment Camps, by Nancy Chikaraishi, daughter of Rohwer Interment Camp survivors, Mills Library, Hendrix College (Free and open to the public; no tickets required)

Feb. 21

  • 9:30 a.m., Film Screening: Relocation Arkansas (2015, 56 min.; written and directed by Vivienne Schiffer) and Q & A with Richard Yada, Rohwer survivor, Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA (800 7th-grade students from Conway Public Schools)
  • 11 a.m., Lunch featuring a menu from the Rohwer Internment Camp, 1944, Christian Cafeteria, UCA (800 7th-grade students from Conway Public Schools)

Feb. 22

  • 4:30 p.m., Commemorative Ceremony, featuring Ms. Aya Murata, Coordinator, Japan Outreach Initiative at Hendrix College, Mills Library, Hendrix College (Free and open to the public; no tickets required)
  • 4:45 p.m., Community Forum/Conversation: “WWII Internment and Conway: Lessons for Today,” featuring Hendrix College President Dr. William Tsutsui, Rohwer survivor Richard Yada, and Dr. Edma Delgado Solórzano of UALR, Mills Center Rm. A, Hendrix College (Free and open to the public; no tickets required)
  • 7:30 p.m., Film Screening, Relocation Arkansas (2015, 1 hr. 20 min.; written and directed by Vivienne Schiffer) and Q & A with Richard Yada, Rohwer survivor, Worsham Performance Hall South (Student Life and Technology Center), Hendrix College (Free and open to the public; no tickets required)

Sponsored by UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication, the Hendrix College Asian Studies Program, and the Japan Outreach Initiative. For more information, contact Dr. Gayle Seymour,, 501-450-3295 or Dr. Michael Sprunger,, 501-450-4577.

About Relocation, Arkansas  

Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration (2015, 1 hr. 20 min.; written and directed by Vivienne Schiffer) explores the effect of the Japanese American incarceration experience in Arkansas during WWII on the generation that was born after the camps closed, the unlikely tale of those Japanese Americans who remained behind, and the even more unlikely tale of how a small town Arkansas mayor of Italian descent became a legend in the Japanese American community. But with its themes of the complexity and hypocrisy of race relations in America, journeys toward forgiveness and healing, and cross community understanding, the film transcends regional and cultural constraints unlike any other film on the incarceration experience (courtesy of IMBd).

About Nancy Chikaraishi

Nancy Chikaraishi’s parents were prisoners in the Rohwer, Arkansas, Japanese American internment camp during World War II. Listening to her parents tell their stories of how this major event impacted their lives, prompted her to create artwork (paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture) that illuminates the costs of racial discrimination. The artist wrote: “Xenophobia remains a relevant issue of the 21st century. By acknowledging the racial injustices inflicted upon Japanese Americans during WWII, I hope to bring awareness to the consequences of fear based on otherness and prejudice.” Chikaraishi currently lives in Springfield, Missouri, where she is assistant professor of architecture at Drury University.

About the Japan Outreach Initiative

The Japan Outreach Initiative is a program of the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the Laurasian Institution that aims to promote deeper understanding of Japan through community outreach programs in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. Ms. Aya Murata, Coordinator for central Arkansas, will be hosted by Hendrix College from 2016-2018.

About Hendrix College

Hendrix College is a private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas. Founded in 1876 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884, Hendrix is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges and is nationally recognized in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings for academic quality, community, innovation, and value. For more information, visit