Portland/ Arts & Culture
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Published on February 20, 2024
Portland Museum Honors Legacy of Bob Shimabukuro, Activist, Artist, Community IconSource: Japanese American Museum of Oregon

A slice of Pacific Northwest history is on full display at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon in Portland, where the life and work of a multifaceted figure, Bob Shimabukuro, take center stage. The exhibit, dubbed "Craft, Community and Care: The Art and Legacy of Bob Shimabukuro," opened on February 17 and is a tribute to the late activist, journalist, and woodworker whose influence spanned various domains of social justice and artistry.

Shimabukuro, who passed away in Seattle back in 2021, is celebrated for his life's work which greatly impacted the Japanese American redress movement amongst other areas. As per OPB, the exhibit features personal creations like the cherry wood rocking chair Shimabukuro made for his wife, Alice Ito, which stands as a testament to his meticulous craftsmanship. "He said to me that in some communities and cultures for an engagement, a man would build a chair for his fiancée," Ito told OPB, giving a glimpse into the personalized nature of his work.

The museum's display aligns with Oregon's Day of Remembrance for the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, connecting Shimabukuro's legacy to a broader historical context. Speaking to KOIN, Lucy Capehart, the museum's Director of Exhibitions and Collections, emphasized Shimabukuro's multifaceted personality, "Bob was a very multi-talented and thoughtful person who lived by his beliefs." The exhibit itself represents a collaborative effort with Shimabukuro's family, who have played an integral part in curating his story for public appreciation.

Shimabukuro left behind a rich tapestry of interests and endeavors that included his roles as a furniture shop owner, chef, and co-owner of the Tanuki restaurant, and an advocate for the Japanese American community, according to BNNBreaking. With a voice that echoed through his journalistic work with the Pacific Citizen and the International Examiner, and his organisational role in Oregon's first Day of Remembrance event in 1979, he left an indelible mark on the fight for redress and reparations.

Those interested in experiencing this homage to a local hero can do so until April 14 at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon.