Ruth Asawa internment camp ID, 1943. Gift of the children of Ruth Asawa, National Portrait Gallery (NPG.2016.2).
PASS TO FREEDOM: Artist Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) was one of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in the United States who were forcibly incarcerated during World War II. In 1942, while being held in a temporary detention center in Arcadia, California, she studied drawing and painting with professional artists who were also incarcerated. A year later, while living in a second camp in Arkansas, she received a college scholarship to train as an art teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This identity card, now part of the National Portrait Gallery collection, allowed her to leave the camp to begin her studies.Asawa later settled in San Francisco and pursued a successful career as an artist and arts advocate. She is best known for her evocative wire sculptures and large-scale public art commissions, including the Hyatt on Union Square Fountain (1973).