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Painting of El Capitan by Chiura Obata with text about Obata Art Weekend

Yosemite National Park will celebrate the legacy of Yosemite and California artist Chiura Obata with the second annual Obata Art Weekend August 26-28, 2022.

The event offers a wide array of programs and activities, including art classes and demonstrations with professional artists, special ranger programs, a social hour, and guest speaker Kimi Hill, Obata family historian.

Park visitors will need a reservation to enter the park between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. seven days a week. Please plan accordingly.

Event Schedule

Friday, August 26

12 – 4 pm – Registration and Information Table at Yosemite Valley Visitor Center – Drop by to check in, ask any questions, clarify directions to your workshops, and pick up a copy of the schedule or map. If there are remaining spaces for Saturdays workshops, registration will be open. Location: Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

2 – 3:30 pm – Welcome to Yosemite Valley – Join Ranger Connie Lau and learn about the general history and landscape of the Yosemite Valley, and also take a small glimpse into the life of Chiura Obata. Location: Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

2 – 3:30 pm – Uncanny Connections and Unforeseen Consequences: How a Century of World History and Local Events Intersected at Manzanar by Rangers Alisa Lynch and Hanako Wakatsuki-Chong – Manzanar National Historic Site is best known for preserving and interpreting the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II. This talk will begin 90 years prior to World War II, and explore key points when world history and Manzanar events intersected in uncanny ways, often with unforeseen consequences. Location: Lower River Amphitheater

7:30 – 8:30 pm – Commencement Evening Program – Event host and founder, April Megumi Kunieda explores the biography of artist Chiura Obata through the lenses of both a Yosemite National Park Ranger and her personal experience as an Asian American living on and in our public land. Location: Lower River Amphitheater

Saturday, August 27

8 – 10 am – Registration and Information Table at Yosemite Valley Visitor Center – Drop by to check in, ask any questions, clarify directions to your workshops, and pick up a copy of the schedule or map. Location: Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

8 – 9:30 am – Morning Yoga (PLEASE SIGN UP IN ADVANCE)* – Come start the day off right with some morning yoga with a Balanced Rock instructor. All skill levels welcome. Location TBD, max capacity 30 people, see below for registration information.

10 – 11 am – Water, Earth, Fire, Air: The Elements of Yosemite – Come learn how to write the basic elements in Chinese characters and Japanese Kanji, while also learning about the contributions of Chinese Americans and Chiura Obata to Yosemite. Supplies included. Then, create your artwork based on these elements in the park. Location: Wawona, at The Redwoods in Yosemite

10am – Noon – Landscape Watercolors with Mariko Lofink (PLEASE SIGN UP IN ADVANCE)* – Long time Yosemite artist Mariko leads a watercolor class at a spectacular Yosemite vista. Marika’s teaching style will connect you with the inner artist that lives inside everyone. Location: Shuttle Stop #2 (Village Store), max capacity 20 people, see below for registration information.

10am – Noon – Printmaking Demonstration with Daniel Villa (PLEASE SIGN UP IN ADVANCE)* – Join a California-based printmaker in an interactive Q&A as he creates two new Yosemite National Park relief prints and learn how it relates to traditional Japanese woodcut techniques. Participants will be able to observe the printing process, learn about linocut and woodcut, and the varied nuances of hand printmaking. Location: Shuttle Stop #6 (Lower Yosemite Fall), max capacity 20 people, see below for registration information.

10am – Noon – Nature Sketching with Lora Spielman (PLEASE SIGN UP IN ADVANCE)* – Practice the art of observation, note-taking, and sketching in this nature journaling workshop! Learn to observe Yosemite’s specimens and landscapes through the lens of an artist. Your instructor will provide prompts to help you capture your surroundings and learn more about the natural world. You’ll leave with a fresh perspective on exploring the world around you. Location: Shuttle Stop #14 (Curry Village), max capacity 20 people, see below for registration information.

10am – Noon -A Thousand Words, the Impacts of Art in Yosemite Walk led by Ranger Brendan Chittick – Art is closely tied to the development of our National Parks. Discover how art helped share Yosemite’s wonder with the world and how each of us continues this tradition today. Location: Yosemite Valley Visitor Center

1:30 – 3:30 pm – Landscape Watercolors with Mariko Lofink* (PLEASE SIGN UP IN ADVANCE) (see description above) Location: Shuttle Stop #2 (Village Store), max capacity 20 people, see below for registration information.

1:30 – 3:30 pm – Printmaking Demonstration with Daniel Villa* (PLEASE SIGN UP IN ADVANCE) (see description above) Location: Shuttle Stop #6 (Lower Yosemite Fall), max capacity 20 people, see below for registration information.

1:30 – 3:30 pm – Nature Sketching with Lora Spielman* (PLEASE SIGN UP IN ADVANCE) (see description above) Location: Shuttle Stop #14 (Curry Village), max capacity 20 people, see below for registration information.

1:30 – 3:30 pm – Panel Discussion: ‘Ranger Voices’ – Join Ranger Emily and Ranger Mirella and hear them share their personal stories working for and in national parks and how art has influenced both of their experiences in Yosemite. Location: Yosemite Valley School

4 – 6 pm – Social Hour hosted by the Japanese American National Museum – Come view prints of Obata’s paintings and peruse the booths hosted by the Japanese American National Museum, the Ansel Adams Gallery, Manzanar National Historic Site, Yosemite Conservancy Bookstore, and Yosemite Ranger-led pop-up tables. Location: Yosemite Valley School

7:30 – 8:30 pm – Obata’s Yosemite – Obata Family historian, Kimi Hill, will take you on a lifelong journey through Yosemite with her grandfather, artist Chiura Obata. Location: Yosemite Valley Theatre

Sunday, August 28

9:30 – 10:30 am – Coffee Talk with Shelton Johnson – Close out the weekend with the musings of master storyteller Shelton Johnson as he reflects on Obata, art, and Yosemite. Location: Lower River Amphitheater

10:00 am – Art in the Pines – Have you found a special place while adventuring outside? If you’ve taken a picture of that place, bring it along to this art with a ranger program! We’ll draw inspiration from our own photos and experiences to create watercolor landscapes inspired by the artist Chiura Obata. All supplies and extra inspirational landscape images are provided. Location: Pine Tree Market, Wawona


* To sign up for workshops/demos: please email [email protected] and put Obata Art weekend in the subject line. Please list your top 3 choices for programs and we will get back to you as soon as possible to confirm your place on a program. Being signed up for a workshop/demo does not count as a reservation to enter the park. Registrations can also be made Friday, August 26 at the Registration and Information table front of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center from 12 – 4 pm.

All events take place in Yosemite Valley unless denoted as Wawona.

Obata Volunteers and Staff Identification: If you are in need of any specific Obata Art Weekend assistance, please look for NPS staff or staff and volunteers that have an “O” (An Obata design from their studio in Berkeley) sticker on their shirts. Rangers at the Information Stations will be able to answer general questions as well.

Artist Bios

Chiura Obata is a renowned California artist who immigrated to the US at the age of 17 after already becoming an accomplished artist in Japan. Building his career in the San Francisco Bay Area he would eventually be appointed as a professor at the University of California Berkeley. But before then, in the summer of 1927, he spent several weeks rambling through the High Sierra in and around Yosemite making sketches and watercolors. The stunning landscapes of the Sierra Nevada inspired his concept of Dai-Shizen or “Great Nature,” the power of the natural world to influence us in a positive way. For many years he built upon the artwork from this trip and produced an edition of labor-intensive woodblock prints calling upon the skills of master printers in Japan. This is considered one of the most significant bodies of work ever made in Yosemite. Like most of his fellow Japanese Americans he was incarcerated during World War II. Obata continued to make artwork and co-founded art schools at both the Tanforan Assembly Center and the Topaz Relocation Center to serve his community. This offered him meaningful work during this unjust experience. After the war Obata was invited to return to his work at the University. Despite the hardships of life as a Japanese American in the 20th Century Obata had a long and successful career as an artist and instructor. Through his art and his belief in the power of bridging cultures, he left a significant mark on the West Coast art community. Obata’s work brought distinctive Japanese techniques and aesthetics to California Modernism that reflected this passion for cross-cultural enrichment. This distinctive combination also facilitated the connection of the artist to nature and of the serene to the dynamic within the landscape. His experiences in Yosemite were perhaps the most meaningful for him and he considered that early trip “the greatest harvest of my whole life and future in painting.”

Mariko Lofink – As soon as she could stand Mariko Lofink began painting. She has had many art shows going back to 1980 at the Shell Fisher Art Gallery, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, as well as the artist residencies through the Yosemite Art Association and Yosemite Conservancy since 2007. Currently she teaches ceramics and painting techniques from her studio in Pacific Grove California.

Lora Spielman is an art educator who expresses her enthusiasm for conservation of public lands through watercolor painting and nature journaling. With the intersecting forces of art and nature constantly capturing her curiosity, she is always trying to find ways to encourage others to create. Aside from drawing and painting, she keeps her hands busy with crochet, calligraphy, block printing and embroidery.

Daniel Villa, a Central Valley printmaker, specializes in linoleum and woodcut prints. He began practicing the discipline in 2019 and over the course of the quarantine period, initiated by COVID-19, he dove deeper into the medium. Daniel carves, burnishes, and pulls all his prints by hand without the use of a press in his home studio. His current body of work includes ’36 Views of Yosemite,’ a series of relief prints paying homage to the fragile beauty of Yosemite National Park. Daniel is a member of Art Expressions of San Joaquin, an artist cooperative committed to community education and promotion of the arts.

Event Speakers

Kimi Hill – Obata Family historian
Alisa Lynch – Team Lead for Interpretation & Visitor Services at Manzanar National Historic Site
Hanako Wakatsuki-Chong – Superintendent of Hono‘uli‘uli National Historic Site
April Megumi Kunieda – Event host and founder, Park Ranger at Yosemite
Shelton Johnson – Park Ranger/Community Engagement Specialist at Yosemite
Social hour host by Japanese American National Museum

Project partners: Yosemite National Park, Japanese American National Museum, Manzanar National Historic Site, National Japanese American Historical Society, and multiple Asian American community groups 

Obata Art Weekend was made possible through the generosity of Yosemite Conservancy donors and the Pitzer Family Foundation.

Promotional graphic and detail of Obata’s “Great Nature: Storm on Lyell Mt., Johnson Peak, High Sierra, Calif., U.S.A.” courtesy of Yosemite National Park.