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Noted woodworker and furniture designer Mira Nakashima will speak at the Newport Art Museum’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 30. Mira is the daughter of woodworker and furniture designer, George Nakashima. The program begins at 6 p.m. with refreshments served at 5:30 p.m. and will take place in the Museum’s Ilgenfritz Gallery located at 76 Bellevue Avenue. Admission is free for Museum members and $10 for non-members. Seating is limited and tickets should be purchased online at www.newportartmuseum.org.
“We’re very honored to welcome Mira Nakashima as this year’s Annual Membership Meeting guest speaker,” said Norah Diedrich, Executive Director of the Newport Art Museum. “She epitomizes, as did her father George Nakashima, an artist insightful enough to allow the material to inform the eventual shape and character of the finished object. The discipline involved in mastering a craft to that degree is a practice long celebrated in Newport and at our Art Museum.”
Sandra Craig, Board Chair of the Newport Art Museum, stated “The Museum has evolved over the past 100 years, but the initial reasons for establishing the organization have remained constant – a passionate belief in the power of art to inspire imagination, conversation, self-expression, and innovation. The arts are vital to the vibrancy of communities and have the potential, indeed the power, to transform lives. The Nakashimas’ story, one that illustrates the transformational power of art making and the nurturing of the love of making art by a father in his daughter, is the story of our Museum.”
Mira Shizuko Nakashima was born in Seattle, Washington in 1942, incarcerated with her family at Minidoka on the Idaho Desert and moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania in 1943. She attended school in Bucks County, graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1963, and received a Masters in Architecture from Waseda University, Tokyo, in 1966, where she married one of her classmates, Tetsu Amagasu. The family then moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until 1970, when she returned to work as her father’s assistant until his death in 1990.
Since 1990, Mira has kept the furniture business alive by defining and building on her father’s legacy (and wood-pile) by curating, building and designing numerous furniture shows in the United States and abroad as well as preserving the architecture on the property her father created. In 1993, she designed and built the Nakashima Memorial Room for the James A. Michener Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and remains as a member of the Board Emerita there.
In 2003, Harry N. Abrams published the result of her research and archival photography in the book, “Nature, Form and Spirit”; in 2008, the “Nakashima Compound” was put on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2014, the Arts Building was placed on the World Monuments List.
Mira guides most of the tours of the property, has given Power Point lectures on her father’s life and work at many different venues, and has participated in design juries. Because of her love for classical music, she also belongs to the boards of two chamber music societies and sings in two church choirs, which she usually accompanies with guitar or flute.
To continue her father’s dream of making Peace Altars for the world, Mira supervised the construction of a second Peace Altar in 1995, which was installed at the Moscow Academy of Arts in 2001; a third one was made for India in 1996 and permanently installed at the Unity Pavilion in Auroville, India in 2014. Mira hopes that someday other great Peace Altars will be made and installed on other continents of the world, as she continues to make smaller meditation tables for smaller Peace Centers.
George Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington in 1905 and grew up in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula. He received a Bachelor's Degree in architecture at the University of Washington and a Master's from MIT in 1930, as well as the Prix Fontainebleau from L’Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts in France in 1928. After spending some time in Paris, he traveled around the world and secured a job at the Antonin Raymond office in Tokyo which sent him to Pondicherry, India, where he was the onsite architect for the first reinforced concrete building in that country and became one of the first disciples of Sri Aurobindo.
When the war broke out, he returned to the U.S. via Tokyo where he met Marion, married in 1941 and was sent to the camps in Minidoka, Idaho in 1942 with his infant daughter, Mira. Through the sponsorship of Antonin Raymond, Nakashima came to work on his farm in Bucks County, subsequently rented a small house on Aquetong Road and then purchased a parcel of land where he designed and built his workshop and house.
Among many awards from the AIA and other prestigious institutions, Nakashima received the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor and Government of Japan in 1983 in recognition of the cultural exchange generated by the shows he produced in Japan from 1968-1988. His last show in the U.S., the retrospective “Full Circle” which opened at the American Craft Museum in New York, sponsored by the American Craft Council and curated by Derek Ostergard, marked him as a “Living Treasure” in the United States. This show returned to New Hope shortly before Nakashima's receiving his final award, Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus, from the University of Washington one week prior to his death in June 1990.
Newport Art Museum
Founded in 1912, The Newport Art Museum is one of the oldest continuously operating and most highly regarded art museums and schools of its kind in the country. The Art Museum offers a provocative diversity of creative voices in its historic Newport setting. Visitors can expect treasures from its permanent collection featuring American art from the late 19th century to the present, as well as programmed exhibitions of contemporary art. Dedicated Museum docents are available to offer guided tours of the campus and educate visitors on the architecture, artwork and history of the Museum. Artist Talks, film screenings, lectures and musical performances are scheduled throughout the year.
The Museum operates on a three-building campus, the main building being National Historic landmark, the John N.A. Griswold House. It was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, completed in 1864 and remains the premier example of American “Stick-Style” architecture. Richard Morris Hunt went on to design Marble House, The Breakers, Ochre Court, Belcourt Castle, and other landmarks in Newport and New York, including the base for the Statue of Liberty. Adjacent to the Griswold House is the Cushing Building, built in 1919, featuring two rotating galleries as well as the Cushing Memorial Gallery dedicated to the artist Howard Gardiner Cushing. Completing the three-building campus is the Art Museum’s art school, the Coleman Center for Creative Studies, which offers year-round art classes, camps and workshops, incorporates the Museum’s collection into its curriculum and focuses on art fundamentals as well as design, digital studies and continuing education for artists of all ages and interests. The Newport Art Museum is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The Museum is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursdays April – December until 7 pm, Sunday from noon to 5 pm, and from 10 am to 9 pm every second Thursday of the month for the Art After Dark programming. The Museum is closed to the public on Mondays. Museum membership levels and benefits, art school classes and registration, exhibition schedules, public programming, and more can be found at www.newportartmuseum.org. Phone: (401) 848-8200.