Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Janice Deguchi Interview
Narrator: Janice Deguchi
Interviewers: Alison Fujimoto, Joy Misako St. Germain
Date: November 11, 2020
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-24-4

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JD: And then one is the Pike Place Market art project. So we did, around the time I was president, the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund became available. So when redress passed, they passed two things. One was the $20,000 reparations, and the other one was to create an education fund. And so the Education Fund was going to become available. And so we knew these funds are going to be available and we're trying to figure out what can we do with these funds to educate the public about the internment? And so there were two projects, one that I helped get started but then passed off to Sharon. And that was Shorai, which was to create a curriculum for kids in school, K-12, around the incarceration and that experience. So her, and I think Mako Nakagawa and Larry Matsuda, and I'm not sure who else, but they kind of took that ball and ran with that for the chapter.

And then the other one was, because of my family history, I was really interested in the Pike Place Market, doing something, and I didn't know what, but doing something in the Pike Place Market that would commemorate and tell the story of the Japanese American farmers. And so I applied for, I don't remember how much, but we got $3,000 from the

Civil Liberties Public Education Fund. And I'm, like, very bitter about that, because, in my mind, you know, the Pike Place Market has millions of visitors that come every single year to learn about market, and they have no idea that Japanese Americans were over two-thirds of the farmers before the war. And once the war hit, those stalls were empty, and they were gone, just poof. And so, you know, we took the $3,000 and we did a call for artists. So we had a process to, you know, invite artists to submit proposals and a budget. But what would you do? What would you do in Pike Place Market? And Pike Place Market is a historic district, so you can't just put a big plaque up there. You have to get the approval of the historic commission. And they had just said, you know, previously, no more memorials because there's all kinds of memorials down there. There's all those bricks on the floors, they're just, it had been becoming the bronzing of the Pike Place Market, and so there was resistance to anything that would do that. And when we did work with them, work with the Pike Place Market, we pitched it as public art, because, you know, everybody likes public art, and it's not a memorial. And so we pitched it as public art and we selected Aki Sogabe, and she did the panels that you see above the pig. And then we asked her to do the panel, the beginning and the end, which basically is just kind of tells the story. Like in 1941, two-thirds of the farmers in the Pike Place Market were Japanese American. Today, none. And then the last level is Executive Order 9066, you know, incarcerated over 120,000 Japanese, Japanese Americans. And I don't remember what the exact wording is, but it just kind of tells the story, kind of bookends the story. And so, yeah, it was very proud. It took three years to get that from start to finish done. And we ended up getting money from King County, from the City of Seattle, from Seattle Foundation, all these other places, and so we were able to leverage that $3,000 and make it like $15,000, because that's how much it actually cost to do the installation.

AF: Were there any other issues you ran into, like, putting it up? Or was it just mostly maybe getting the money?

JD: The main issue was the historic commission, because we'd have to get their approval. But they were okay. And we had, I think one of the things that we did was I recruited Robert Shinbo, who is a landscape architect who lives in the market, who was a former president of the Pike Place Market Historic Commission. My ex-husband used to work at the Pike Place Market, so he knew the executive director and their director of property management. And so because of those inside connections, we kind of knew where we could push. So it needed to be public art. There was never any guarantee that it was going to happen, but I think we had a chance because we kind of knew a little bit about the landscape. When we first had the idea for it, I reached out to the Seattle Art Commission and I'm like, you know, there's a Japanese American woman that works at Seattle Art Commission, it's like hey, Japanese American woman, why don't you help us? And she's like, here's a book that we wrote on how to do public art. Never opened it, never even looked at the thing.

AF: That's cold.

JD: Yeah, thanks but no thanks. And then the other thing was the actual art. So Aki does paper cutting. So, well, you can't just... Pike Place Market is an open air market and you can't, paper cutting is not going to stand up to the elements. And she had proposed gator board, which is basically paper cutting, that's got like a coating on it. But Robert Shimbo, who's the landscape architect, he knows materials that, you know, could survive outside, and he had a vendor. So he was suggesting that we use porcelain enamel, which is basically what they make refrigerators out of and it's indestructible, but it's all different colors and you can do things with it. And so he's the one that sort of helped us kind of get from this concept of paper cutting to something indestructible, that will last and it's still there. This was in like 1999, that those panels were installed, and they're still there. And because, you know, it's this material, all you have to do is just hose it off. There's really no maintenance, keeping it.

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