Exhibit Showcases Watercolors From A Heart Mountain Incarceree

May 25, 2018

Watercolor by Estelle Ishigo
Credit Courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum, Allen Eaton Collection

The “Mountain Was Our Secret” is the title of a new exhibit at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. Heart Mountain was the site where 14,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated from 1942 to 1945.

Dakota Russell, the museum manager at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, said Estelle Ishigo was one of the few white women that went to the camp even though she was not required to.

“She asked the army and they agreed. Although telling her that she would be subject to all the same rules as any other person who was sent to the camps so she was going to be a prisoner, the same like the rest of them,” said Russell.

Russell said she made it her mission to document everyday life in the camp through her art and to raise people’s spirits by organizing drawing classes.

“As you can imagine, a lot of people were sitting idle trying to figure out what was going on. They were in shell shock really but also with all the emotions they were experiencing is to give them a conduit to turn that into something,” said Russell.

During Ishigo’s time at Heart Mountain, she sent some of her watercolor paintings to an art collector. They were putting together an exhibit featuring art from the camps. But he never realized his plans. The watercolors at Heart Mountain are from this collection. The exhibit runs until the end of this year.