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Springville Museum of Art

A provocative exhibit displays art from Topaz Internment Camp near Delta, Utah.

Image of a 1942 gouache painting by Miné Okubo
Photo credit
Photo: Adam Finkle
Photo caption
A 1942 gouache painting by Miné Okubo shows waiting detainees.

Springville, Utah, has been a magnet for artists since pioneer days, earning it the nickname Art City. The Springville Museum of Art, the first institution of its kind in Utah, balances light fare such as a children’s art festival with bold collections of local works as well as, of all things, Soviet socialist realist art.

The museum’s temporary shows can be provocative. Witness the exhibit on display through mid-October: art from Topaz Internment Camp near Delta, Utah. One of 10 “relocation centers” for families maintained by the U.S. government during World War II, Topaz housed 11,200 people of Japanese ancestry, mainly from the San Francisco Bay Area, from 1942 to 1945. “Each camp had its own personality,” says Jane Beckwith, a Delta teacher lobbying for a museum about the camp. “Topaz was artistic and literary.” Detainees ran what at the time was Utah’s largest art school, enrolling 600 of their fellows and producing works that chronicle the artists’ days: expanses of arid land, regimental barracks, dust storms.

“In the middle of the desert, amidst struggle and controversy, there was this beautiful flowering of the arts,” says Assistant Curator Ashlee Whitaker. The exhibit includes pieces by Miné Okubo, Toshio Asaeda, and school founder Chiura Obata, all painters who earned renown. (801) 489-2727.

This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.