This second floor space is dedicated to the exploration and showcasing of the Miné Okubo Collection and features a state-of-the-art storage area for works on paper, paintings on canvas, and documents, along with a 2,700 sq. ft. exhibition space with moveable walls. In addition, this level provides room for administrative offices, visiting scholars,and a seminar/conference room.
Because the Okubo material has not been accessible, it has had limited scholarly review. The collection holds more than 8,000 pieces of art, professional papers, and personal memorabilia. Well-known women’s studies expert Elena Tajima Creef, an associate professor at Wellesley College, is one of a handful of scholars who has seen the material firsthand. Creef notes that “there is simply nothing like this that exists.”
The nucleus and emotional heart of this retrospective exhibition is the work Miné created in response to the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. These consist of charcoal drawings, watercolor and tempera paintings, and the ink on paper sketches accompanied by her written commentary that were published as Citizen 13660 by Columbia Press in 1946.
The work bequeathed to Riverside City College yielded some surprises, including engaging, often whimsical commercial illustrations from the 1940s and 50s. The trustees of the artist’s estate agreed to loans works from their holdings to ensure comprehensiveness. Most notable among these loans are Miné’s masterful American regionalist paintings dating to the 1930s and illustrations for Fortune magazine’s 1944 issue on Japan—the assignment that took her from the internment camp in Topaz, Utah, to New York City.