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"The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946"
2008-01-22 until 2008-03-30
William Benton Museum of Art
Storrs, CT, USA United States of America

On February 19, 1942, ten weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent U.S. declarations of war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, leading to the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans for the duration of the war.  Men and women, children, the elderly and the infirmed, primarily from the West Coast, were given just a few days to put their affairs in order, gather their personal belongings, only what they could carry, and report to assembly centers at local racetracks, horse pavilions and fairgrounds.  There they remained for four to six months while ten internment camps were constructed to house them in remote parts of California, Arkansas, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. The internees, who were regarded as "enemy aliens" and a potential threat to national security, were imprisoned behind barbed wire, guarded by armed soldiers.  And yet, as they struggled to survive the inhumane conditions, they turned to the practice of gaman through artistic expression.  

Gaman (pronounced gah-mon): Enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity

They painted and sketched and carved sculptures of bears, birds and elephants, a scholar and a Buddhist priest. They built chairs, chests of drawers, model ships and heart pendants from scrap wood, wove baskets from unraveled twine, made rings from peach pits, and pins from shells and beans.  What they created represents a celebration of the nobility of the human spirit in adversity.

From January 22 through March 30, 2008, The William Benton Museum of Art will present THE ART OF GAMAN: ARTS AND CRAFTS FROM THE JAPANESE AMERICAN INTERNMENT CAMPS, 1942-1946, a powerful collection of 100 examples of art created by the internees. The exhibition was first held at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Folk Art; the touring exhibition has been organized by the William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, and the Oregon Historical Society in collaboration with the National Japanese American Historical Society. The Benton presentation is made possible with generous funding from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and in partnership with the University of Connecticut Asian American Cultural Center and Asian American Studies Institute.

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