Biography and Lesson Plan
Ruth Aiko Asawa Lanier (1926–2013) was a prominent sculptor, public artist, and tireless arts education advocate. Born in California to Japanese parents, Asawa’s early life was spent with her large family in rural Southern California. In 1942, with the signing of Executive Order 9066, the Asawas were forced to leave their family farm. While incarcerated at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas, Asawa graduated high school. After being allowed to leave the camps, Asawa transferred to Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she met her future husband, architect Albert Lanier. In the 1950s, the couple moved to San Francisco and started a family. As their family expanded to include six children, Asawa worked in a home studio, slowly gaining recognition as an artist. Asawa was also a committed arts advocate and was a driving force behind the creation of the San Francisco School of the Arts, now named in her honor. A true artistic pioneer, Asawa challenged conceptions of what it meant to be an Asian American, a mother, a fine artist, and a public arts advocate.
Lesson 1: Wire Sculpture Explorations (Grades K–12)
Lesson 2: Craft and Design vs. Fine Art, A Gendered Lens (Grade 5 and above)
Lesson 3: Considering Public Art and Civic Participation (Grade 5 and above)
Lesson 4: The Japanese American Incarceration Experience (Grade 8 and above)