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"Since deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it, because it was not in keeping with our American Civics concept of freedom and the rights of citizens ... Whenever I thought of the innocent children who were torn from home, school friends,and congenial surroundings, I was conscience stricken. It was wrong to react so compulsively, without positive evidence of disloyalty."---The Memoirs of Earl Warren (1977).



Shepard Fairey’s JOHNNY CASH/MASS INCARCERATION mural installation August 14th-17th.


"Johnny Cash is one of my favorite musicians and also one of my favorite storytellers and social commentators. Cash felt compassion for the less fortunate, and I think his religious beliefs shaped his view that no human being is beyond redemption. He played live shows at San Quentin Prison and at Folsom Prison (where Jim Marshall shot the photograph that inspired my art piece) to do something kind for the inmates but also to draw attention to mass incarceration.

In this image, I wanted to capture Cash's iconic nature as well as the harsh exterior of Folsom Prison; Cash was fortunate enough to be standing outside rather than inside of this prison wall. Prisoners and prison rights are often looked over, and I felt it was important to incorporate news clippings and graphics relating to their difficulties and raise awareness. The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the planet, with almost 25 percent of the world's total prison population." --Shepard Fairey, April 2016

Shepard Fairey talks about Johnny Cash and Mass Incarceration!” 




American Civics: Educating the Citizens

American Civics: Educating the Citizens is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to educating Americans as to their rights and duties as citizens of this country, while inspiring activism on issues of social justice.

Applying Dr. Howard Gardner’s theories of Multiple Intelligence, we are attempting to “educate” using art and visual media in a narrative format. Our initial focus was on specific issues of social justice including; the Voting Rights Act, Mass Incarceration, Income Inequality and Poverty, and Workers Rights and the Minimum Wage.

This resulted in the creation of a fine art series by Michael Powers in collaboration with contemporary artist Shepard Fairey entitled, American Civics: Educating the Citizens, released in May of 2016 (

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the prints is being given to non-profit organizations working to address these issues of social justice. They include the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, #Cut50, an organization dedicated to addressing the issue of Mass Incarceration in this country, and the United Farm Workers Foundation, among others.

Our newest image entitled “INTERNMENT” is scheduled for release August 10, 2018. This piece will be created using the photos of Toyo Miyatake, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams and Clem Albers as interpreted by internationally recognized artist Bryan Ida, whose parents and grandparents were incarcerated in the Japanese-American internment camps during WWII.

This piece will address the injustices suffered by Japanese-Americans as a result of their internment by the US Government; as well as the parallels between this tragic chapter in American history and the recent Muslim Ban proposed by Donald Trump.

The release date is significant in that it is the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This Act provided not only reparations to surviving internees but also included a formal apology from the US Government for injustices inflicted on Japanese-Americans during WWII.

The Sacramento Mural Festival (Wide Open Walls; W.O.W.), has recently committed to producing a permanent mural of this piece in downtown Sacramento to be unveiled on February 19, 2019; Japanese-American Remembrance Day.

Museum quality prints of “INTERNMENT” will be available for purchase beginning 8/10/18, with a portion of the proceeds going to several non-profit organizations that preserve and celebrate Japanese-American culture and history.


Media Watch a 2 minute preview of new upcoming episodes, CALIFORNIA and VISIONARIES. PBS premiere December 21, 2018 (check local listings). CALIFORNIA explores the diverse craft heritage, traditions, and innovations in the Golden State. Featuring Pomo basketweaver Corine Pearce, textile artist Deborah Cross, silversmith Randy Stromsoe, stained glass artists at Judson Studios, and cabinet makers James and Jack Ipekjian.

Good Day Sacramento

American Civics 9/25/2006

We're learning about a project that gives a face to social justice issues and encourage solutions to problems that have divided the country.

On Wednesday August 10, 2016 artist Shepard Fairey painted the first of two new murals themed around his new art series "American Civics." This one is about Workers' Rights and Cesar Chavez.




JUNE 5, 2018

Ruth Asawa was born in Norwalk California in 1926 to a family of Japanese immigrants. At 16 Ruth and her family were interned under Executive Order 9066 at Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans for the duration of WWII. While interned Ruth had been told by a friend about Black Mountain College and upon her release in 1945 she applied to Black Mountain and was accepted; studying there from 1946-1949 with Josef Albers. Ruth became an internationally recognized artist and art teacher at San Francisco School of the Arts, which was renamed the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in her honor in 2010.

Ruth Asawa, a Pioneer of Necessity

Asawa was a woman of Japanese ancestry making art in the years after World War II, which was a double whammy.

John Yau September 24, 2017


Installation view, “Ruth Asawa” (2017), David Zwirner New York (photo by EPW Studio/Maris Hutchinson. Artwork © Estate of Ruth Asawa and courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London)

Black Mountain College was not Ruth Asawa’s first choice. Determined to be an art teacher, she enrolled in Milwaukee State Teachers College from 1943 to ’46.  She chose Milwaukee because it was the cheapest college in the catalog she consulted while she and her family were interned in the Rohwer Relocation Center, in Rohwer, Arkansas. However, when she learned that her fourth year was going to be devoted to practice teaching, and that no school in Wisconsin would hire someone who was Japanese, she decided to go to art school. The war might have been over, and the Japanese defeated, but the racism it engendered was still officially in place.

This is perhaps why she and her sister Lois took a bus trip to Mexico City, where she enrolled in a newly formed art school, La Escuela Nacional de Pintura y Escultura La Esmeralda. She also enrolled at the University of Mexico, where she took a class with Clara Porset, an innovative furniture designer from Cuba who had been at Black Mountain College in 1934 and studied with Albers. Through the influence of Porset, as well as that of Asawa’s friend Elaine Schmitt, whom she had met at the end of her freshman year in Milwaukee, Black Mountain College and Josef Albers emerged as a viable American option  — a small, relatively isolated environment where she had at least one friend, Schmitt.

Asawa was 20 years old when she and her sister arrived at Black Mountain in the summer of 1946.  On the way there, at a stop in Missouri, they did not know whether to use the “colored” or “whites only” bathroom. Like other Asians living in America at that time (and even now), she was both visible and invisible, not always knowing which way she would be regarded.

I thought about the road that Asawa took to Black Mountain College on her way to becoming an artist when I went to the exhibition Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner (September 13–October 21, 2017), her first with this gallery, which now represents her estate. Asawa — whose work was included in the traveling exhibition, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957, organized by Helen Molesworth — is the latest postwar American artist to be rediscovered by an establishment still waking up to its racist and sexist biases.


Ruth Asawa, “Untitled (BMC.76, BMC laundry stamp)” (c. 1948-1949), ink on paper, 21 1/2 x 17 inches, The Asawa Family Collection (artwork © Estate of Ruth Asawa, Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London)

In the summer of 1947, Asawa returned to Mexico and worked as a volunteer teacher in the town of Toluca. While she was there, she learned about the crochet loop, which the locals used to make wire baskets. The act of making a loop, or bundling wires together and tying them with a knot, is central to her work. The loop, done in profuse repetition, gave her the freedom to make a range of transparent forms and to contain other transparent forms within them. Many of these works she suspended from the ceiling. Conceivably they could grow to any size, limited only by the dimensions of the room in which they were suspended. There are a number of works done in this way in the exhibition, spheres and cones and teardrop shapes, often with another shape suspended within. I was reminded of soap bubbles stretching but not dispersing, of a form changing slowly and inevitably as it descended from the ceiling.

Made of woven wire, the sculptures oscillate between solidity and dematerialization, which is underscored by the shadows they cast. I think this aspect of the work should have been dramatized more. The strongest works are the ones made of a number of what artist called “lobes” and forms suspended within forms. When she weaves a wire sphere within a larger, similarly shaped form, it evokes a woman’s body, an abstract figure with a womb.


Ruth Asawa, “Untitled (S.407, Hanging, Five-Lobed, Continuous Form within a Form with Two Spheres)” (c. 1952), hanging sculpture—copper wire, 61 1/2 x 15 x 15 inches, private Collection, New York (artwork © Estate of Ruth Asawa, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London)


The sculptures with an hourglass shape underscore this association. But this connection can be extended further. In some of Asawa’s sculptures, an elongated tubular form periodically swells into a globular structure with a small spherical form cocooned inside. It is as if these are models for cells undergoing a transformation, generative organisms giving birth to a similar being. At the same time, because they are suspended, gravity is registered as an inescapable and relentless force, an invisible presence manifesting itself  on the very structure of the sculpture’s body.

Through the act of weaving the artist has transformed wire — an industrial material — into a cellular structure, something both microscopic and organic. Paradoxically, the structure is a kind of armor, at once protective  and vulnerable, with inside and outside visible at the same time.

In other classes of sculptures, of which there are fewer examples, Asawa bundled together wires, which she tied with a knot. These spiky constructions —  which are like abstract root systems — were inspired by nature, as were  the  artworks Asawa made while a student at Black Mountain: small oil paintings on paper, a potato print,  a work in ink on paper made with a BMC (Black Mountain College) laundry stamp.

These pieces are complemented by archival materials and vintage photographs of her and of her works taken by Imogen Cunningham. The presentation is beautiful and clean, which made me happy and yet bugged. The wall text at the entrance to the show cited the difficulties Asawa encountered because she was a “woman of color,” which to my mind dilutes what happened.


Imogen Cunningham, “Ruth Asawa with hanging sculpture” (1952) (© 2017 Imogen Cunningham Trust, artwork © Estate of Ruth Asawa and courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London)

In all of the work, a simple action or form is repeated. Asawa took this lesson and made it into something altogether unique in postwar sculpture. She does not weld or fabricate. There is nothing macho about her work. Rather, she weaves; her practice, gender, and race cast a shadow over her initial reception in the 1950s in New York, when she had shows at the Peridot Gallery in 1954, ’56, and ‘58. She was a woman of Japanese ancestry making art in the years after World War II, which was a double whammy. In the Time magazine review of her first show at Peridot, the writer paired her exhibition with one by Isamu Noguchi. That same writer identified her as a “San Francisco housewife.”  The Art News review of her 1956 show by Eleanor C. Munro characterized her this way:

These are “domestic” sculptures in a feminine, handiwork mode — small and light and unobtrusive for home decoration, not meant, as is much contemporary sculpture, to be hoisted by cranes, carted by vans and installed on mountainsides.

Looking at this exhibition, and thinking about Asawas’ persistence and generosity, I realized why Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” has often bothered me. In that poem, read by nearly all American schoolchildren, the poet talks about taking the road “less traveled.” That is all fine and dandy if you have that choice. Asawa did not. More than once, she had to make a road where there was none. She was a pioneer out of necessity.

Ruth Asawa continues at David Zwirner (537 West 20th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through October 21.

Orginal source of article :


American Civics Opening Subliminal Gallery LA 1/20/17 (Donald Trump's Inauguration Day and the day before the worldwide women's march for peace and justice).

Images photographed by: Jason Powers

Michael Powers creator of American Civics. Shepard Fairey American graphic artist and social activist. David Sobon Founder & Producer of Wide Open Walls (W.O.W).

Michael Powers creator of American Civics. Shepard Fairey American graphic artist and social activist. David Sobon Founder & Producer of Wide Open Walls (W.O.W).

Shepard Fairey American graphic artist and social activist.

Shepard Fairey American graphic artist and social activist.

Michael Powers creator of American Civics.   

Michael Powers creator of American Civics.


Michael Powers creator of American Civics. Jeff Ho legendary Dogtown surf and skateboard shaper.

Michael Powers creator of American Civics. Jeff Ho legendary Dogtown surf and skateboard shaper.

Michael Powers creator of American Civics. Peter Frank; art critic  and associate editor of Fabrik Magazine.

Michael Powers creator of American Civics. Peter Frank; art critic  and associate editor of Fabrik Magazine.


Post By: Michael Powers 6/6/2018

When I conceived American Civics: Educating the Citizens in the spring of 2015 our goal was to “educate” a generation of American citizens, who because of academic expediency, had never been instructed in their rights and duties as citizens of this Country.

My most daunting task initially was to convince artist Shepard Fairey and the estate of photographer Jim Marshall as to the merits of our project.

Marshall's black and white photos from some of the 60’s seminal events provided the perfect foundation for Shepard’s Industrial /Pop Art vision.

This collaboration resulted in the Fine Art Series: American Civics: Educating the Citizens; focusing on issues of Social Justice including the Voting Rights Act, Mass Incarceration, Income Inequality and Poverty, and Workers Rights and the Minimum Wage. 

While unexpected, we are certainly pleased with the world-wide attention this project has garnered. American Civics was featured in the Power to the Truth art exhibit which ran simultaneously with the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July of 2016.

A set of the prints from this series is now a part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. There is a permanent exhibit of American Civics as part of the California State Library’s, California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. Murals of the Voting Rights Act and Workers' Rights have been installed by Shepard in August 2016 in downtown San Francisco.

Most significantly, this summer beginning in August, Shepard Fairey will be installing the Mass Incarceration image featuring Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison as a 150 ft tall mural in downtown Sacramento approximately 300 yards from the Capitol Dome..

We are continuing our efforts to draw much needed attention to issues of Social Justice with the release of Bryan Ida’s image entitled “INTERNMENT” in August of this year.  


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