In commemorating the 40th anniversary of its operation, the Japan Foundation Los Angeles presents art exhibition Expression of Life: The World of Self-Taught Artists with Disabilities at its venue, 5700 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90036, from September 26 – December 16, 2023.
Admission Free. Exhibition Hours are: Monday – Saturday 12 pm-6 pm, Closed on Sundays and holidays (10/7, 10/9, 11/10, 11/11, 11/23, 11/24)
This exhibition features over 35 vibrant artworks from Katayama Studio’s collection. It is one of the earliest art studios in Japan dedicated to supporting self-expression and art activities for individuals with disabilities. The studio has been doing so for two decades.
Featuring 12 artists’ work, ranging from calligraphy to oil painting, we hope these free-flowing and lively art pieces will convey diverse perspectives on creativity and life.
This exhibition is supported by Vantage Moon Productions and The Far Eastern Entertainment America, Inc.
Special Message of Director of Katayama Studio
“Those with Wings of Self-expression”
Katayama Studio History
By Syuhei Shinkawa, Director of Katayama Studio
20 years ago, when Katayama Studio was established, there was no place in Japan where people with disabilities could express themselves like today.
Most of them would go to places called “Community Workplace” operated by the local government, after graduating from a special-needs school at the age of 18. Those community workplaces were established as places for disabled individuals to work and spend their days. Parents with disabled children also hoped their children would work as a part of society.
The predecessor of Katayama Studio was a community workplace and had started out as a place to complete small tasks. However, although it was called a workplace, in reality, disabled individuals were simply assigned a task that didn’t match with what they could do or what they wanted to do. Those who cannot complete those tasks due to their disabilities would just sit at the workplace all day, waiting for the time to pass, while the staff would complete the tasks for them.
I started to question the way these workplaces operated. As the first step of transformation, I stopped assigning tasks to disabled individuals, which they were unable to carry out. We stopped all tasks and started to carefully listen to their stories. We decided to focus on what each of those individuals can do. By doing so, we started to hear their real voices, expressing: “I want to do this”, “I want to write my name”, “I want to draw”, etc.
Takashi Sawada was only able to move his right leg due to severe cerebral palsy. Initially, he tried to write letters using his leg but he was unable to do so. After some trial and error, he kicked a paper cup filled with paint with his right leg and was able to create a drawing. Seeing this, I was unconsciously asking him, “What would you like to do tomorrow?” At that moment, I could see a future for all of these individuals.
From that day, we decided to support art activities as a method for them to live their own unique lives. We believed that, instead of making them do a task they can’t complete, continuous success on things they can actually do would encourage them to live with enthusiasm in the coming days. I wanted to make a place where they can feel that they are “living” their lives. Working does not mean you’re living a life. And so, we decided to rename the place Katayama Studio and started to provide a place for self-expression.
By presenting these free and lively art pieces to the society, I hope it would encourage the audience to “live” their lives as well.
With the philosophy “People Are the Axes”, we, Katayama Studio, are continuing our activities to live closely with people.
History of Katayama Studio
April 1993: Started as a Center for Independent Living (Community Workplace)
June 2003: Renamed as “Katayama Studio”; started to support art by disabled individuals
April 2004: Started “Katayama Art Club” to support disability art for those not eligible for the system
June 2010: Established “100 Years Social Welfare Non-Profit Organization”
October 2011: Started a welfare service business for persons with disabilities, under the name “Katayama Studio” (life nursing care business)
June 2013: 10th anniversary
December 2013: Hosted a 10th-anniversary symposium
June 2023: 20th anniversary