Making Story Boxes Article reprinted from the Japanese American National Museum Quarterly, December 1996

Making Story Boxes
Some of the art in this Quarterly is part of a project called Finding Family Stories. Why do you think the Museum chose that name?

Every person is part of a culture--the beliefs, behaviors, arts, foods, institutions of a particular group or society.

What do you know about your culture?

What are your family stories? You can find out a lot about your family by asking questions and interviewing your parents and other relatives about their early lives. (See "Collecting An Oral History" in the Summer 1996 Quarterly). What about your own early life?

Art can be used to express thoughts and feelings and to tell stories. The artists in Finding Family Stories are expressing things about themselves, their families, and their culture. What can you tell about the artists by looking at the photographs of their work in this Quarterly?

One of the works of art in the first Finding Family Stories exhibit was by Karen Kimura. She called it Days 28, 1995. As you can see in the picture, Karen's installation was arranged on shelves fastened to the gallery wall. She says "Days 28 is a self-portrait about the 'everyday' of my life. The materials used were found materials brought into the studio and materials already existing in the studio." She made a new box every day for 28 consecutive days, and each box was about her thoughts and feelings on that particular day. "The boxes," Karen says, "contain secrets, stories, ideas, frustrations and joys which are affecting me at this time in my life."You could borrow Karen's idea and put some of your stories in boxes. Find some different kinds of containers--cardboard boxes, egg cartons, milk cartons, tissue boxes or toilet paper rolls. Think about what will help you to tell your story--objects, photographs, drawings, paintings, written words? Use the inside and the outside of the container to tell your family story. The more materials you have to choose from, the better. You could collect magazines, photocopies of family pictures, pipe cleaners, markers, paint, glitter, construction paper, confetti--what else?

You could make many different boxes and display them in an installation like Karen Kimura's. Or, if you do this project with a class or with some friends, you can put all your boxes together in a group show.


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