Oral History Interview with Ruth Asawa Lanier
Nisei female, born in Norwalk, California in 1926 to a truck farming family. Ruth attended public schools on weekdays and Japanese language school on Saturdays. In 1942, when she was fifteen, her family was sent to Santa Anita Assembly Center in Los Angeles and then to Rohwer, Arkansas. Her father was arrested by the FBI and served two years in a New Mexico prison camp. In Santa Anita Ruth took art classes from Nisei artists who had worked at Disney Studios. In Rohwer, she did her artwork independently with encouragement from teachers. Ruthï¿½s goal was to teach art in public schools and she attended Milwaukee State Teachers College for three years but was not allowed to teach due to her race. She left Milwaukee for an experimental and unaccredited school, Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The school fit and nurtured her independent and creative spirit. Avant garde associates were choreographer Merce Cunningham, musician John Cage, artist Willem de Kooning and intellectual, Buckminster Fuller. After two more years of college, still without a degree and teaching credential, Ruth went to San Francisco in 1948 to marry a fellow Black Mountain student, William A. Lanier. Ruthï¿½s biographic summary includes a chronology of artwork, public commissions - six in San Francisco), honorary appointments and awards. Her art spans years of variation of media, scope, and design from crocheted wire sculptures to huge bronze fountains, stainless steel sculptures, etc. Her focus on art in the schools continues to the present. In 1968 she co-founded with other artists a School of the Workshops which then led to a program in fifty San Francisco public schools supported by Comprehensive Employment Training Arts (CETA).
Transcript available at California State University, Sacramento University Library
3 Tapes of 3
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