Merced County Times Newspaper
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Coats Speaker Series premieres at UC Merced


The Coats Speaker Series for Careers in the Arts and Media at UC Merced is a new way to offer invaluable firsthand advice to aspiring artists, as well as share the work of much deserving professionals in the arts.

The series launched on campus last Friday with the lecture “Awakening Japanese American Archives Through Art & Writing” by speaker Patricia Wakida of Wasabi Press.

Wakida is a multifaceted and incredibly active Japanese-American historian and artist who grew up in Fresno. She currently resides in Oakland but she is still very active in the Central Valley community.

Wakida is best known for her custom print and letterpress career, under the name Wasabi Press, along with her long list of projects surrounding Japanese-American history, primarily focused on the art and experiences of those who were faced with social alienation and internment camps here in America during World War II.

Throughout her talk, she not only went into depth about her career and many projects, but she discussed the many feelings and social burdens that come with her status as a Yonsei (or fourth-generation Japanese American), especially because her family is deeply connected to a history that is quickly fading away.

Her family members were unfortunately among the many Japanese-American people who were forcibly relocated, and placed in concentration camps (called “relocation centers” at the time) across the country. Her parents were incarcerated as children in camps at Jerome, Arkansas, and Gila River, Arizona. Now, as time continues to pass, and fewer people remain who have firsthand experience related to this history, Wakida says it becomes increasingly important that Japanese-Americans remember, archive, and teach about it.

One of her most notable ongoing projects with this goal in mind is the Yonsei Memory Project. This is a collaboration led by her and two other Central Valley based Yonsei artists, where they work to connect their history to modern day civil rights struggles. The project was founded in 2017 and has since put on a wide range of programs and showcases. Following her talk, she spent a good amount of time answering questions, even accommodating a long line of students who wanted a small amount of one-on-one time to talk and ask for advice in their own careers, well after the majority of attendees were gone.

The Coats Speaker Series was made possible through the design and hard work of longtime UC Merced lecturer and arts chair, ShiPu Wang, along with major contributions and work from Kim McMillon, the university’s community liaison for arts and the humanities.

“The speaker series is the brainchild of Professor ShiPu Wang,” McMillon explained to the Times. “The work and research he is engaged in represents a commitment to giving a voice to established artists and the importance of curating art that is representative of often underrepresented communities. Professor Wang seeks to ensure that students and up-and-coming artists realize that their art and voices matter, and that opportunities for advancement in their fields are real and can make a difference in how we as a community view, appreciate and interpret aspects of the artistic experience.”

The next scheduled speaker in the Coats Series is a double feature with Eugenia Renteria-Vargas and Maria Cano-Bonner, both representing Inspira Studios, an award-winning bilingual storytelling and video production company, on Sept. 22, at 4:30 p.m., in the UC Merced Conference Center Room 110.

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