In 1945, as World War II was nearing an end, Paul Faris, a Hendrix College professor and photographer, was commissioned to photograph Japanese Americans who had been forced from their homes on the West Coast and incarcerated in Arkansas's Rohwer War Relocation Authority center. His assignment was to photograph Rohwer's artists as they painted, carved, wove, practiced calligraphy, etc., and to capture images of their artwork. Faris's wife, Ann, a Conway public school teacher, took notes and interviewed many who appeared in the photographs. Paul Faris shot approximately 200 black-and-white photographs from which Allen H. Eaton chose a handful for publication in his book Beauty Behind Barbed Wire: The Arts of the Japanese in Our Relocation Camps.
Beginning on August 11, forty of these images will be on display at the Butler Center Galleries in Little Rock. The exhibition is the work of historian and curator Professor Sarah Wilkerson Freeman, Arkansas State University. In cooperation with Mary Ann Thurmond and Tim Faris, the children of the now deceased Paul and Ann Faris, Prof. Freeman has created a public history exhibition that tells the story not only of the incarceration experience at Rohwer, one of ten such camps in the nation, but also of the impact this extreme injustice had on local Arkansans, such as Pulitzer Prize–winning poet John Gould Fletcher and artists H. Louis Freund and Elsie Freund. The exhibition will include art and artifacts from the Butler Center's extensive collections, including many from the Butler Center's Rosalie Santine Gould-Mabel Jamison Vogel Collection.
"By bringing these photos to light, those involved hope to preserve something of the visual evidence of the unconstitutional treatment of Japanese Americans while simultaneously demythologizing the camp experience," explained Freeman. "There is a lot of misinformation about the mass incarceration in 1942 of more than 120,000 individuals based solely on their ethnic and racial backgrounds. It is important for the histories of those whose lives were so painfully disrupted to be preserved for future generations to study. In Arkansas in particular, as part of the historically Jim Crow South, this episode is also a chapter in the story of an emerging social consciousness that gave rise to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1950s and 1960s. By focusing attention on the incarceration of individuals of Japanese heritage in the South in the 1940s, this collection adds another perspective to the history of struggles for human rights writ large."
The Butler Center invites all to attend the opening reception of The Art of Injustice on August 11 at 5:00 PM as part of their Second Friday Art Night event. Professor Freeman will deliver a special lecture during the opening reception.
The curator's talk will begin at 7:00 PM at the Concordia Gallery in the Butler Center.
This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program.
Calligraphy master Yoyokichi Usui, 1945
FREE and open to the public
Monday - Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Friday, August 11, 5:00 p.m.
Friday, August 11, 7:00 p.m.
The Butler Center is pleased to offer funding for tour groups through a grant from the National Park Service. Tours are offered for groups of adults and children. For more information about scheduling a tour, please contact Kim Sanders, Confinement Sites Interpreter.
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The research collections and offices are located in the Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) at 401 President Clinton Ave, located on the Main Library campus in the River Market. The ASI is a partnership between CALS and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, through which the two institutions have made more than 10 million documents and photographs on Arkansas history available for public use.
This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. And opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.