Emerging Radiance honors Nikkei Farmers of Bellevue through storytelling and technology

February 04, 2022
Michelle Kumata, Emerging Radiance. Photo: Dominic Nieri.

February 4, 2022
Contact: Emilie Smith, Director of Marketing & Communications

Emerging Radiance: Honoring the Nikkei Farmers of Bellevue is on view at Bellevue Arts Museum February 3 – March 13, 2022

Bellevue, WA — February 19 marks the 80th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 and the subsequent incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast of the United States. To honor the Japanese American families who resided in Bellevue, Artist Michelle Kumata and Creative Director Tani Ikeda have created Emerging Radiance: Honoring the Nikkei Farmers of Bellevue, a mural and tech-forward storytelling experience that honors the lesser-known story of the Bellevue Japanese American farmers. 

Kumata’s hand-painted mural activates a large-scale farmhouse structure designed for the project by Japanese American architect Jerry Chihara, and features nine large-scale portraits of local Nikkei farmers. Three Augmented Reality filters bring their stories to life, animating the mural with archival images and audio recordings in the subjects' own words. The interactive farmhouse mural will be on view in Bellevue Arts Museum's public forum space from February 3 – March 13, 2022. 

On the Day of Remembrance, February 19, a special livestreamed program created by Tani Ikeda in partnership with Meta Open Arts, Bellevue Arts Museum, Immediate Justice, and FutureArts will allow those at home to hear stories of survivors from the archives of community partner Densho, experience the mural farmhouse alongside descendants of the artwork’s subjects, and take a behind the scenes tour of the making of this Augmented Reality art experience. 

The event will be broadcast live on Bellevue Arts Museum's Facebook page, YouTube channel, and website. While the broadcast is free and open to the public, attendees can RSVP to receive email reminders about the program.

Regarding the artwork, Michelle Kumata says: "The skin tones are shades of gold and yellow, to convey reverence and honor for these individuals and the Japanese American farmer community. The color also represents how these people were viewed and targeted at that time, and also how we, Asian Americans, continue to be viewed and targeted as yellow people, and as forever foreigners. Yellow represents how we own our unique cultures, heritage and history, and embrace the beauty of being different."

Tom Ikeda from local nonprofit Densho says: "24 years ago, Densho video-recorded interviews of Japanese Americans who lived in Bellevue before the war and who were rounded up and incarcerated because of their ancestry. It is magical to hear their voices and see their faces come to life through the mural images." 

Tamar Benzikry, curator at Meta Open Arts says: "It was such an honor to commission this work and bring these important stories to the Bellevue community and beyond. I am grateful to the artists and community members who are demonstrating the power of art to connect generations and shining light on the role technology can play for us to reflect on our past and the future we want to build."

The Farmhouse and Augmented Reality experience will be reintroduced to the public at the Augment Seattle Showcase in Spring 2022, produced by community arts and technology organization Future Arts and sponsored by Meta. 

About Michelle Kumata
Michelle Kumata is a 3.5 generation Japanese American artist with a BFA in Illustration from The School of Visual Arts in New York, NY. She gained acclaim as a graphic artist at The Seattle Times with over a decade's worth of publications. Michelle also served as Exhibit Director at the Wing Luke Museum for 12 years, where she worked with Asian Americans & Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders to amplify their stories through engaging exhibitions.

Michelle is currently exploring the Japanese diaspora in the U.S. and Brazil through oral histories and visual storytelling. Her work has been exhibited at Nordstrom, Frye Art Museum, Center on Contemporary Art, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, and The Society of Illustrators Museum, New York, NY. Her work is in the collections of Meta, Seattle City Light Civic Art Collection, and the Library of Congress. Michelle also has a related exhibition, Regeneration, which explores the legacy of the incarceration, on display February 2 – March 26, 2022 at Bonfire Gallery. Learn more »

About Tani Ikeda
Tani Ikeda is an Emmy winning director who creates narratives, documentaries, music videos, and commercial films. She is a Sundance Fellow, Film Independent Directors Fellow and Kenneth Rainin Grant Recipient. Ikeda executive produced and directed a documentary series with the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, about organizers on the frontlines of the resistance to white supremacy in the era of a Trump presidency. Her work has been recognized in The Hollywood Reporter, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and has screened internationally at festivals around the world including the Sundance Film Festival. 

At the age of 21, Tani Ikeda co-founded imMEDIAte Justice, a nonprofit that fosters the talents of young women artists working in virtual reality. She is the current executive director of imMEDIAte Justice and was named one of the "25 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World," by the Utne Reader. ImMEDIAte Justice has received national attention on CNN, NBC, and Univision. Ikeda tours the country speaking at universities and national conferences about storytelling as a tool for social justice. Tani holds a Bachelor's Degree in Film Production from the University of Southern California and currently resides in Los Angeles.

About Meta Open Arts
Meta Open Arts empowers community through creativity. As a company dedicated to bringing people closer together, Meta recognizes that creativity is essential to our collective well-being. Within Meta's walls and around the globe, Meta Open Arts cultivates creative engagements that offer new ways of thinking about ourselves, our communities and the world at large. Learn more at fb.com/metaopenarts and @MetaOpenArts on Instagram.

About imMEDIAte Justice
imMEDIAte Justice Productions is a non-profit organization that teaches hands-on filmmaking and media literacy with a focus on reproductive justice to youth in the East and South Los Angeles areas. Learn more about imMEDIAte Justice at immediatejusticeproductions.org and @immediate.justice.

About Future Arts
Future Arts is a new Seattle-based nonprofit bridging art + technology + community. The mission of Future Arts is to unleash a pulse of togetherness that cultivates cultural and creative disturbances. Future Arts connects, commissions, mentors, and develops showcasing opportunities for emerging & established new media artists filled with the wilderness of hungry coyotes & the engineering of spaceship motherboards. Learn more about Future Arts at futurearts.co and @futureartsco.

About Bellevue Arts Museum
Bellevue Arts Museum provides a public forum for the community to contemplate, appreciate, and discuss visual culture. We work with audiences, artists, makers, and designers to understand our shared experience of the world. bellevuearts.org.

Artist: Michelle Kumata @michellekumata
Creative Director: Tani Ikeda @taniikeda
AR Production: Immediate Justice @immediate.justice, Invisible Thread @invisthread
Community Partners: Densho @denshoproject 
Commissioned By: Meta Open Arts @metaopenarts
Presenting Partner: Bellevue Arts Museum @bellevueartsmuseum
Producing Partner: Future Arts @futureartsco
Architect: Jerry Chihara
Carpentry: Steve Skonieczny

Emerging Radiance is presented by Meta Open Arts in partnership with imMEDIAte Justice, Future Arts, and Bellevue Arts Museum. Media Sponsor: Crosscut. In-kind support from Seattle SignShop. The Farmhouse construction was brought together by Future Arts, a local community arts+tech organization, with Japanese American architect Jerry Chihara leading the design and Steve Steve Skonieczny constructing the farmhouse.