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Center Information
Yuko Nii

Founder and Artistic Director's Statement

To write about the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center's mission and my vision in creating it, I have to go back to my past. In 1875, the American missionary, Dr. A.C. Clark, founded the University of Sapporo in Hokaido, Japan. From a very early age, I was struck by his famous words, "Boys...be ambitious." His words were and are a driving force in me, both encouraging and influential. This is especially so because I had seen the great misery and devastation of Hiroshima and Tokyo, where I spent the first twenty years of my life. I saw how my people, my country, struggled and survived one of the worst periods of human history. Japan is a nation of beautiful culture--well structured and respectful of tradition but rigid in many ways.

I dreamt a big dream. I dreamt of a big country. I felt a strong force tugging at me. And in 1963, at the age of 20, I left my country for the United States. People said America was "the land of opportunity" and a country of freedom and democracy. So I wanted to go there and pursue my dream of being an artist.

When I decided to leave, my parents told me, "Yuko, you have a good life here, why do you choose a hard life in a foreign country?" But when they saw my determination, they finally concurred; a hard life at a young age enriches your future if you are willing to learn from it.

Needless to say, my new life in America, first as a foreign student and later as an artist, especially as a woman, was not easy. I don't think I ever expected it to be. I encountered endless hardship, but in the process of learning and creating there is always a challenge. There is also joy, for to create is to encompass our collective life experience.

Even though I chose to be a painter, my deep interests have always been in other areas: dance, music, theater, literature, classics as well as contemporary works. I took advantage of what New York City had to offer--this richly diverse cultural center of the world. My heart and mind belongs here! While I was earning a living teaching fine art and woodworking, I pursued painting, stage set and costume design, graphic design, performance art, and writing. As they say, "An artist may be poor in pocketbook but is rich in heart." I was no exception.

During my period of struggle, I met many insightful, interesting and wonderful people who supported and helped me in many ways. They were and continue to be my dearest friends and mentors. I could never thank them enough for what they offered me. I would occasionally present them with small gifts, but some would refuse the gifts saying, "Yuko, we happily did what we were able to do for you. We do not expect anything in return. Instead, we hope that you will do the same for others in the future, if possible." These wise words moved me so much that I started thinking seriously about how to fulfill their wish with my gratitude. I considered, given my limited resources, ways to fund my plans. At age forty, I set about purchasing properties in need of restoration. I knew I could renovate the buildings by myself and make them valuable for the future. I looked forward to the day that these assets would enable me to establish a well-endowed foundation in Brooklyn where my art career began. You see, in 1969 I finished my Master's Degree at Pratt institute. I consider Brooklyn my home.

I wanted to suport artists in need with an endowment. I was told that to establish an endowment, one needs a place. As I started looking for a place, I realized that Williamsburg was flourishing as an artist's community. When I purchased my first building there, ten years ago, I never imagined such a great change was possible. There are over 4,000 artists and performers living and working in Williamsburg. But there are few places for them to exhibit or perform.

The idea of a multi-purpose arts center has always been in my mind. When I found the beautiful little package of a building, a landmark Second Empire masterpiece, fulfilling my vision became a possibilty. As you see, Dr. Clark's words "...be ambitious" still stays with me well beyond my youth! Altough the Center is a huge undertaking, my need to satisfy my obligation to my good American benefactors for their kindness encouraged me to go on. Coincidentally, Terry Lindall expressed his desire to collaborate in the establishment of an arts center. In recent months, I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and willingness of good friends, staff members and volunteers. Each contributes what he or she can: time, energy, experience, skills, and spriritual support. I have no doubt in our ability to produce excellent, diverse and stimulating programs.

Together we support it as it becomes a place where art and people meet. We anticipate exciting and beautiful things to happen in this long forgotten but historically rich section of New York. I firmly believe that the fulfillment of big dreams is still possible in America, "the land of oportunity." With this project I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to this wonderful country, it's people, and also my parents, who have provided me comfort and security, as well as deep love and understanding throughout my life. All of those made this Center possible. Please join us!

With Gratitude,
Yuko Nii

  
Flux | Sand Harbors of the Ancient Planet | Dune of Erelong Highway
60 x 84 Oil, All Original Pieces by Yuko Nii
 

About the WAH Center

Restoration
Founder's Statement
The Bridge, Our Bridge
Yuko Nii Bio
How to get to the WAH Center