In Greater Seattle, downtown Bellevue is probably the most egregious example of the opportunistic taking of Japanese American properties in the wake of EO 9066. There, until the 1920s, great stumps left behind by the logging of old-growth timber impeded development of the land. Then the stumps were cleared by Issei strawberry farmers with great toil and risk, commonly involving dynamite.
This month an art exhibition that recognizes this history returns to this landscape. Artist Michelle Kumata and Creative Director Tani Ikeda have created a mural and immersive storytelling experience that honors the story of the Bellevue JA farmers.
The immersive Farmhouse Mural experience employs Spark AR augmented reality lnstagram filters. These allow users to “meet” the actual subjects as they share in their own words their connections to the land before World War II, during incarceration, and post-war.
Visitors will have opportunities to scan QR codes with their smartphones to meet Tosh Ito, Rae Matsuoka Takekawa, and Mitsuko Hashiguchi. The stories of these three farmers depicted on the mural come alive through separate AR filters produced from video interviews in the Densho archives.
The artwork aims to educate the public about the history of the land in Bellevue and the forgotten stories of JAs who were taken from their homes and incarcerated based on their ethnicity. The artists and museum “hope this project serves as a model of resilient storytelling that reconnects us to our history through the land.”
While Kumata is well known to NAP readers, Tani Ikeda is new. She is an Emmy winning director who creates narratives, documentaries, music videos, and commercial films. She is one of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” (“Utne Reader”).
The exhibit will be on view in BAM’s Forum (lobby) through March 13. No admission fee is required, but other inside exhibitions cost (adults $15, seniors/students $12, youth $8).
Bellevue Art Museum
“Emerging Radiance: Honoring the Nikkei Farmers of Bellevue”
Wed – Sun 11 AM – 5 PM, 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, 425-519-0770
Live broadcast: Sat Feb 19, 12 noon