The papers of sculptor Ruth Asawa relate over eighty years of her rich and varied career, with documentation concerning her
art and commissions as well her involvement in arts education, civic art, and art administration.
Ruth Aiko Asawa Lanier (1926–2013) was a renowned sculptor, painter, and printmaker acclaimed for her biomorphic wire forms
and public art installations, as well as her activism in art education. Asawa was born in the agricultural community of Norwalk,
California on January 24, 1926, to Japanese immigrant parents Umakichi and Haru. She was the fourth of seven children. Her
father was a truck farmer, and the entire family worked in the fields to support the business. Asawa showed an aptitude for
art at an early age. In 1939, she won a school art competition with her drawing of the Statue of Liberty. On Saturdays, she
attended a community Japanese language and cultural school, where she practiced calligraphy. Although Asawa had hoped to attend
art school in Los Angeles, World War II and the signing of Executive Order 9066 changed everything. She was sixteen years
old in February 1942 when her father was arrested by FBI agents and separated from his family for the next six years. A few
months later, the family received orders to relocate. Asawa's mother, who knew very little English, had to orchestrate the
closing of the farm on her own. They were at the Assembly Center at Santa Anita racetrack for six months, and were later moved
to a more permanent camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. Thanks in part to a sympathetic teacher, Ruth excelled in her art classes, and
became the art editor of the class yearbook. She graduated from Rohwer High School in 1943, at a time when certain Nisei were
permitted to leave camp to continue their studies, as long as they stayed away from the coasts.
228.0 Linear feet
: 275 containers (201 boxes, 36 flat boxes, 22 map folders, 7 cartons, 5 half boxes, 4 cassette boxes, 1 tube)
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