Yuko Nii’s Biography
Yuko Nii (b. 1942 in Japan), artist and philanthropist, studied (1961-63) English and American Literature at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan. In 1963 she transferred to Macalaster College, St. Paul, MN as a scholarship student, and earned her BFA (majored in painting) in 1965. From 1966 she attended Pratt Institute Graduate School, Brooklyn, NY, as a fellowship student and earned her MFA (majored in painting and minored in art history) in 1968. From 1969 to 1976, while pursuing her painting career, Nii taught art at Lenox School (high school level) in New York City. After quitting teaching, from 1976 to 1996 Nii committed herself totally to the creative fields, pursuing painting as her main career, and supporting herself as a printmaker, a graphic designer, a scene/stage set designer, a costume and fashion designer, and as a writer in journalism, poetry, fiction, essays and philosophy, and writing for newspapers and magazines.
Nii’s work has been shown at numerous museums, art galleries and universities in the U.S.A. and Japan, including one person shows at The Berkshire Museum, MA, Monique Knowlton Gallery and Haber Theodore Gallery (both in New York City), NY, Vered International Gallery, Easthamton, NY, Elaine Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY, Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ, The International Monetary Fund, Washington DC, Ginza Kaiga-kan, Tokyo, Japan, and including many group shows in such venues as The Brooklyn Museum, NY, The Bronx Museum, NY, The Hudson River Museum, NY, The Parish Museum, Southhampton, NY, The Guild Hall, Easthampton. NY, The World Trade Center, Lincoln Center and The United Nations General Assembly Building (all in N.Y.C, NY), and more.
Nii’s works are in public and private collections including those of The Cincinnati Art Museum, The Berkshire Museum, The Alternative Museum, Equitable Assurance Collection, JP Morgan Chase Bank Collection, Bankers Trust, Security Pacific Bank, N.L. Industries, The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Bonny Corp., Nihon Davis Standard Corp., The Explorer’s Club, and many individual art collections.
Nii’s works are included in a number of publications, including “Looking at Landscapes” (Criterion Press) and she has been reviewed in publications including the New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Village Voice, The Soho Weekly News, The Berkshire Eagle, Art News Magazine, The Geijutsu Shincho Art Magazine and the three major Japanese newspapers (Asahi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun) and many local newspapers. She has appeared on several television and radio programs here and in Japan.
In 1975 Nii was a selecting member of the advisory panel for the “Third world Artist Show” planned for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Bicentennial Celebration (was not actualized), N.Y.C., NY.
Nii was a selecting member of the advisory panelist for the 1978 CAPS Grants under the Cultural Council Foundation of New York City and also JP Morgan Chase 2007 Regrant Progra.
Nii was twice (in 1981 and 1983) an artist in residence at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Nii’s “Friends and Mentors” belong to an established circle of the international art world, and include Jack Lenor Larsen (Textile Designer), Late Isamu Noguchi (Sculptor), Toshiko Takaezu (Ceramist), Late Ansei Uchima (Printmaker and Painter), Late Toshiko Uchima (Collagist and Box Assemblage Artist), Late Esteban Vicente (Painter and Collagist), Siah Armajani (Conceptual Artist), Late Hillary Harris (Film Maker), Max Newhouse (Non-linear, Interactive Multi-Media Artist), Kenneth Noland (Painter), Late Max Roach (Jazz Percussionist), Leon Kirchner (Music Composer) and many more.
The WAH Center (Williamsburg Art & Historical Center)
In late 1996 Yuko Nii purchased a New York City landmark Kings County Savings Bank building, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, and founded a not-for-profit Williamsburg Art & Historical Center (WAH Center), which serves the public. The WAH Center’s mission is based upon her Bridge Concept. That concept envisions a multifaceted, multicultural art center whose mission is to coalesce the diverse artistic communities, and create a bridge between local, national and international artists, emerging as well as established artists of all disciplines. Thus through the international language of art we come to understand each other to create a more peaceful and integrated world. The WAH Center is a force for peace and understanding and it’s concept is incorporated in its acronym: “WAH” in Japanese means “peace” or “harmony” or “unity.”
Yuko also wanted to preserve the WAH Center’s building, a French Second Empire masterpiece, and make it a functional part of the cultural community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.
Numerous articles about the WAH Center and Nii have been written in local, national and international magazines and newspapers. Nii has also appeared on many television and radio programs.
During the first 7-1/2 years the WAH Center has pursued what Chris Gray in an article in the New York Times called a “furious schedule,” producing over 150 fine art shows incorporating over 2500 artists, and countless performances. Since then till today it has produced many additional shows and events, totaling over 200 fine art exhibitions with more than 3,000 artists’ participants, and over 150 performance programs with more than 1000 performers.
Besides local and national exhibitions, the WAH Center has bridged internationally so far, to Cuba, Holland, Islamic Nations, Italy, Japan, Palestine, Russia, Slovenia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. The WAH Center plans to bridge to some other countries such as Israel, Germany and Latin America in the near future.
The WAH Center also produced an annual Art & Ability show by artists with disabilities. Each year the show became more popular and the number of the participants increased, and included both mentally & physically handicapped artists. Due to the lack of accessibility (an elevator) to the larger gallery space on the second floor, we had to discontinue the program after the 6th annual show.
Additionally the Center has created an art club, the WAH Salon. Every year the members have a group show. Besides on going music, dance, theatrical productions, poetry and stage readings, symposia and lectures, the WAH Center created some annual festivals such as the Williamsburg Film Festival, the Williamsburg Dance Festival, the Williamsburg Spring Festivals, the Williamsburg Fashion Festivals and the Williamsburg Arts & Culture Festival (WAC Festival), which featured galleries, local businesses, artists’ open studios and an historical walking tour lead by a local historian.
Yuko Nii’s Awards and Supports received from High-ranking Government Officials and Institutions – recorded July 7, 2013
- February 7, 1997, then New York State Governor George Pataki presented Nii “Congratulations Letter” on funding the WAH Center which provides innovative programs and exhibitions by turning the historic Kings County Savings Bank into a multi-purpose arts center that serves the need of artists and art aficionados of diverse backgrounds. Presented by Assistant to Governor, James Barcia.
- March 26, 1998, then Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden named Nii one of “Brooklyn’s Women of the Year” for her “unparalleled devotion to her art and commitment to the artist community of Williamsburg/Greenpoint.” And he said that the WAH Center’s activities have resulted in “tremendous cultural & economic activity throughout the northern Brooklyn area, an area recently designated as an ‘historic district’ and an ‘economic development zone.’”
- March 8, 2001, then New York State Governor George Pataki named Nii one of “New York State’s Women of the Year,” and awarded her, honoring her as a “Woman of Excellence with Vision and Courage.” He also congratulated Nii on turning the historic Kings County Savings Bank into a multipurpose art center that serves the needs of artists and art aficionados of diverse backgrounds.
- March 13, 2003, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave Nii “The Betty Smith Arts Award” for her dedication to the preservation of the rich artistic and cultural community of Brooklyn.
- March 13, 2003, New York City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland gave Nii “The “Outstanding Citizen Award” for her being worthy of the esteem of both the community and the great City of New York.
- May 29, 2008, during Asian Heritage Month Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave Nii “The Asian Cultural Award” for her “dynamic leadership and demonstrating outstanding commitment to the betterment of our community.”
- February 16, 2009, then New York State Governor David Paterson named Nii one of New York States’ “Women of the Year” and awarded her for “being an influential role model who made historical contributions to the growth and the strength of the nation.” (No photo attached).
- March 7, 2009, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented Nii a proclamation on the occasion of her “Women Forward” art exhibit, recognizing “the invaluable contributions of women artists by broadening women’s opportunities in the arts and creating new possibilities.” (No photo attached)
- June 19, 2011, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz presented “Proclamation” congratulating Nii on the success of the important fundraising event, “Artists Rescue Team for Japan” for the victims of Earthquakes, Tsunami and Fukushima’ nuclear plant in Japan on March 11 and thanking for allowing all to enjoy the vast richness of the arts community and raise a culturally-aware family.
- October 27, 2012, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz congratulated Yuko Nii on “The 16th !Anniversary Grand Harvest Celebration,” The WAH’s local, national and international programs have inspired, educated and entertained the public at large, and have demonstrated how a single organization can play a transformative role. It is due to the many outstanding organizations such as the WAH Center that Brooklyn now stands as the cultural capital of the nation.
- March 21, 2013, Pratt Institute President Thomas. F Schutte and the Office of Alumni Relations awarded Nii Pratt Institute’s 2013 Alumni Achievement Award, specifically the “Community Commitment Award” as one of the Pratt Institute’s outstanding graduates who have “distinguished themselves in their fields, having earned a high degree of respect among their colleagues and the general community, and whose impact has been felt on a regional, national or international level.”
- Nii is listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America – 60th Edition 2006, in Marquis Who’s Who of American Women – 26th Edition 2007, Marquis Who’s Who in the World – 24th Edition 2007
Here is what people have said about Yuko Nii:
A clarity of vision and mastery of technique so characteristic of the best Japanese artists. Stuart C, Henry, Director, The Berkshire Museum
The work of Yuko Nii carries a feeling of intensity and personal poetry. Her landscapes are in fact a landscape of her inner self. Tamon Miki, Chief Curator, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
I have known and worked with Yuko on various projects over the years and she is a person of great intelligence and integrity as well as a great artist. Robert Panza, Executive Director, Visual Artists and Galleries Association
A remarkable person, dedicated to the art world and her fellow artists, as well as being a fine artist herself. Curtis Harnack, President, School of American Ballet
During 20 years of solid friendship, Yuko and I have worked on several projects together, building a bridge of the arts between Japan and the United States. She is a seriously hardworking, totally committed and great artist. Additionally she is also a free spirited, fun loving person with a great sense of humor! Because she is so well balanced and because of her creativity and energy, I have no doubt that the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center will be a great success! Kenneth Noland
An exceptionally gifted fine artist, a farseeing visionary…sincerely concerned about the well being of the human race. Max Roach, Jazz Percussionist
I have known her for 20 years as a fine artist, friend and a very lively, active, and committed person who gets things going and gets them done. Esteban Vicente
Yuko Nii’s giant contributions of energy, vision and generosity transformed almost overnight a disintegrating landmark building into a vital center for the arts in Williamsburg, a historic Brooklyn community that now enjoys the largest concentration of resident artists within the art capital of the world, New York City. Yuko’s extraordinary achievement is itself a landmark for Brooklyn and marks her for recognition as a living treasure of Brooklyn and the nation! Robin Radin, Harvard Law School, Program on International Financial Systems, Associate Director
“It’s historically important that the public should acknowledge Yuko Nii’s significant contribution to the art world. Her accomplishments should serve as an inspirational model for other artists, especially for women artists. She is not like the wealthy or worldly known American artists such as Jack Lenor Larsen, Joan Mitchell, Isamu Noguchi, Georgia O’keefe, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol and others who have established their own museums or foundations. Yuko, a woman artist from Japan, has sacrificed her great artist’s career in order to devote the rest of her life to a benevolent cause. To wit, she purchased a monumental New York City historical landmark with her own limited resources and turned it into a not- for- profit art center, the WAH Center, which serves the public. The WAH Center’s mission is based upon her unique worldly view. She calls her great idea the “Bridge Concept” and it has been slowly realized over the last 13 years. Moreover, because of the WAH Center’s limited resources, she has personally labored and expended great effort on a daily basis to create exhibits and programs with the kind help of many generous volunteers, some of whom have been with the center for more than 12 years, which in itself is remarkable. This must be due to other hidden qualities that Yuko possesses. As far as I know, no woman and no Asian artist has made such enormous achievements in the recent history of the New York art world.” Anonymous Colleague
Yuko Nii Writings
Books & Catalogs
Blue Eyed Satori, 1970, short stories with Terrance Lindall
Friends & Mentors, 2001, a full color catalog with Introduction by Mark Daniel Cohen in conjunction with special exhibition to celebrate WAH Center’s 5th Anniversary October 2001, collection of essays (reminiscences) by Yuko Nii on Jack Lenor Larsen, Isamu Noguchi, Toshiko Takaezu, Jerry Rudquist, Ansei Uchima, Toshiko Uchima and Esteban Vicente. Available in WAH Center’s shop for $25
Women Forward, 2009, a full color catalogue with essay by Robert c. Morgan and introduction by Yuko Nii, in celebrating Women History Month to honor and acknowledge the 28 women artists’ achievements in the professional art career and their contribution to the art world.
“The Scene – Williamsburg Brooklyn,” NY Arts Magazine; March 2002