Life Interrupted

Events explore lessons from WWII-era Japanese-American internment camps

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., January 31, 2017 — A multi-disciplinary series of events and performances at Drury University will tell the story of the internment camps set up by the U.S. government to hold Japanese-Americans during World War II. The camps were result of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 signed in the weeks after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Chikaraishi

Chikaraishi

“Life Interrupted: Art for Social Change” is a project that brings together the arts, humanities, history and political science departments at Drury, along with the greater Springfield community and the CORE Performance Company, to hear about the camps and ask what we can learn from the experience.

How have these same issues of civil rights violations, racial profiling, discrimination, immigration and xenophobia shifted, changed, or stayed the same? How do we ensure the safety of our country without discriminating against ethnic and religious minorities?

“It’s 75 years past and we’re still grappling with the same issues – fear of people we don’t know, fear of people who look different from us,” says Nancy Chikaraishi, a Drury architecture professor whose parents and grandparents were forced into the camps, and who is the lead organizer for the series of “Life Interrupted” events at Drury.

MORE: Read an interview with Chikaraishi about her personal connection to the internment camps and how she became involved in the “Life Interrupted” project.

The events begin on Thursday with a roundtable discussion with community leaders, followed by a dance workshop and art installation on Friday and a performance on Saturday of “Life Interrupted” by CORE, which is based in Atlanta and Houston. A final panel discussion on the nature of architecture and power will be held next week.

Full list of events:

Thursday, Feb. 2, 6 p.m. – Roundtable discussion with local community leaders led by Drury political science professors Dr. Daniel Ponder and Dr. Jeff Vandenberg, with representatives from the Islamic Society of Joplin, NAACP, Temple Israel, and PROMO. Location: Reed Auditorium, Trustee Science Center on the Drury campus.

Friday Feb. 3, 3-4:30 p.m. – Dance workshop and story circle with the CORE Performance Company. Participants will be guided through the story circle process, sharing personal stories related to the themes investigated in “Life Interrupted.” No previous dance experience is required. Participants are encouraged to wear clothing that will not inhibit moving freely. Location: Drury on C-Street Gallery, 233 E. Commercial Street.

Friday, Feb. 3, 5-8 p.m. – Interactive art installation & exhibition opening led by Nancy Chikaraishi and Drury students (following the dance workshop and story circle). Location: Drury on C-Street Gallery, 233 E. Commercial Street.

Saturday, Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m. – “Life Interrupted” dance theatrical performance by the CORE Performance Company. Reserve tickets for free online. Location: Wilhoit Theater, Breech School of Business, corner of Central Street and Drury Lane.

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 6-7:30 p.m. – Panel Discussion on Architecture & Power, led by Drury architecture professors Dr. Robert Weddle, Dr. Panos Leventis and Nancy Chikaraishi. Location: Drury on C-Street Gallery, 233 E. Commercial Street.

This project is supported in part by awards from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Arts Council, and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, Springfield Regional Arts Council and Community Foundation of the Ozarks, DoubleTree by Hilton, Nelson and Kelley Still Nichols, Colorgraphic Printing, Drury University, Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture and the L.E. Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship.

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Media Contact: Nancy Chikaraishi, Professor of Architecture: (417) 873-7459 or nchikaraishi@drury.edu.

“Life Interrupted” explores history of WWII camps through dance & art

 

Xenophobia and perseverance. Isolation and equality.

Fear. Hope. Humanity.

Those are a few of the themes that will be explored through a rich mixture of panel discussions, an interactive art installation, and a dance performance as Drury University hosts the “Life Interrupted” program on campus and at the Drury on C-Street Gallery in early February.

“Life Interrupted” tells the story of the internment camps set up by the U.S. government to hold Japanese-Americans in the days and years following the 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and the nation’s subsequent entry into World War II. It explores themes that are as relevant today as they were seven decades ago as it examines the lives of those who were interned in the camps – including one not far from the Ozarks in Rohwer, Arkansas.

The project makes its way to Drury February 2 through 7, and will include public panel discussions, an interactive art installation by Drury students and a theatrical dance performance by the award winning CORE Performance Company of Atlanta and Houston at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, February 4. (Tickets are free but must be claimed – click here to do so.)

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It’s a personal story for Drury architecture professor Nancy Chikaraishi, whose parents were interned in Rohwer as young adults after being forced to move from their homes in California. Chikaraishi’s artwork is digitally projected during the performance and she is the visual arts collaborator on the project. She was instrumental in bringing “Life Interrupted” to Drury and is the lead organizer for the series of events.

“It’s a personal story because my parents experienced it, and my grandparents experienced it,” she says. “And I still meet people who have never heard of the camps, especially the ones in Arkansas. People don’t know it happened, and when they find out they’re really surprised. Surprised, then shocked that Americans did this to other Americans.”

The surprise and shock continues to resonate, Chikaraishi says, when we consider the historical parallels to today as issues such as a Muslim registry and ethnic profiling make headlines.

“It’s 75 years past and we’re still grappling with the same issues – fear of people we don’t know, fear of people who look different from us,” she says.

Chikaraishi first became involved with the “Life Interrupted” dance project through the WWII Japanese American Internment Museum in Rohwer, in rural southeast Arkansas. Her original artwork, which was inspired by the stories her parents told her about the camps, was exhibited by the museum and caught the attention of Sue Schroeder, CORE’s artistic director. The dance performance is the project’s centerpiece and CORE has performed “Gaman,” the precursor to “Life Interrupted,” at the University of Central Arkansas and at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in northwest Arkansas.

Chikaraishi

Chikaraishi

“It’s a really powerful performance,” Chikaraishi says. “It’s amazing that an art form that doesn’t use words is able to process a historical event and express really deep emotions through movement and interaction.”

The series of events kicks off at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2 with a roundtable discussion featuring community leaders from NAACP, Grupo Latinoamericano, the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights, the Islamic Society of Joplin, and PROMO (Promoting Equality for All Missourians). On Friday, Feb. 3, CORE will conduct a dance workshop/story circle from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Drury on C-Street Gallery, followed by an art exhibit by Chikaraishi and the interactive art installation by Drury students from 6 to 8 p.m. Both exhibits will be part of the monthly First Friday Artwalk. The “Life Interrupted” dance performance is at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Wilhoit Theater on campus. Finally, a panel discussion on “Architecture, Space & Power” will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, also at the Drury on C-Street Gallery.

For Chikaraishi, the series of events will be a reminder of what her family went through those many years ago, and she hopes it will be just that – a reminder – for others as well.

“America is a place that is very open to others,” she says, “but we have to keep remembering that.”

This is project is supported in part by awards from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Arts Council, and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, Springfield Regional Arts Council and Community Foundation of the Ozarks, DoubleTree by Hilton, Nelson and Kelley Still Nichols, Colorgraphic Printing, Drury University, Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture and the L.E. Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship.

For more information, email Nancy Chikaraishi at nchikaraishi@drury.edu. You can view her artwork at www.nancychikaraishi.com. All of the events can be found on Drury’s D.Cal event calendar.

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