An Honorable Legacy—On View along the Streets of Los Angeles

One of the most exciting things about working as a designer at the Skirball is receiving artwork for new shows. It’s like being granted an all-access pass to view beautiful artwork before it is curated into an exhibition for the public to experience.

I was especially intrigued when I found out that we would be focusing on photography that Ansel Adams shot at the Japanese American incarceration camp in Manzanar during World War II. As I previewed the photography, I saw Adams’s familiar landscapes of majestic mountains and stretching clouds—images that many know and love. But the juxtaposition of these natural forms with barracks and human figures was unsettling. The one photo that I couldn’t look away from or stop thinking about was the portrait of a young man, Yuichi Hirata, staring back at the camera with pride and strength in his eyes. I was elated when that image was chosen as one in a trio of Adams’s work representing the exhibition Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams in banners placed all around Los Angeles.

Ansel Adams, Yuichi Hirata, 1943. Gelatin silver print (printed 1984). Private collection; courtesy of Photographic Traveling Exhibitions.

Born in Los Angeles in 1915, Yuichi Hirata was incarcerated within the Manzanar War Relocation Center in 1942. This image of Hirata appears last in Ansel Adams’s controversial book Born Free and Equal (1944).
Ansel Adams, Yuichi Hirata, 1943. Gelatin silver print (printed 1984). Private collection; courtesy of Photographic Traveling Exhibitions.


Not long after the banners were hung, Yuichi Hirata’s grandson Todd Hirata was surprised and excited to see the photo of his grandfather while driving in Los Angeles. Todd was kind enough to speak with us, and it is apparent in his interview that the resilience and strength of his grandfather’s gaze in the portrait are genuine, and that these traits have been passed down through the generations. Continue reading

Harvest and Hospitality


Stop by the Skirball’s sukkah October 8–16, except October 9 and 13, to enjoy some snacks from Zeidler’s Cart or to just spend a quiet moment.

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot begins this evening. Lasting seven days, Sukkot commemorates the fall harvest and the desert sojourn of the Israelites following their liberation from slavery in Egypt. Like many Jewish holidays, it also connects Jews to the cycles of nature. During Sukkot, Jews traditionally spend time enjoying meals with friends and family in temporary shelters called sukkot (sing. sukkah), the Hebrew word for “tabernacle” or “covering.” The sukkah is built of natural materials such as bamboo, wood, and tree branches. Its temporary, fragile nature reminds us that the bounty of summer is behind us and that the autumn season will soon bring the shedding of leaves and the dying of greenery. As summer turns to fall in Southern California, we can also take this opportunity to focus on what it means to live in a drought-stricken area—hoping that nature will bring much-needed rains to us soon. Sukkot is a time to acknowledge climate change—be it the annual cycle or the pressing issues facing the world’s population today. Continue reading

A Visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, NYC

“Do you remember?” That’s a question we often ask visitors to the Skirball, be they school kids, adults, or seniors. Skirball exhibitions—both permanent and changing—look back at moments in American history that have served as fulcrums of social and cultural change, encouraging people to trace their own personal stories through history. Through this reflection, our memories connect us to one another.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum, which opened this year in New York City after a lengthy development process, uses personal narrative to describe the history of an event that is still, for many of us, vividly etched in our memories. Most of us remember where we were when we heard the news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center; can recall the frantic phone calls to friends and loved ones; still see the images of the Twin Towers crumbling into dust.

I approached my first visit to the new museum with slight apprehension, worried the imagery might be more than my daughter and mother (my companions for the visit) would be prepared to handle. My mom had been in Manhattan on 9/11 and has strong memories of the panic and the dust and the trauma. And my daughter is only fourteen. But the museum person in me was interested in what emotional resonance the experience would bring. The Skirball likewise makes use—in its Holocaust memorial and in the exhibitions—of first-person narrative, immersive experience, and evocative objects. Continue reading

A Taxonomy of Dads

I’ve been to quite a few events at the Skirball’s Family Amphitheater Performances (kicking off June 21); it’s a great place to introduce your kids (and yourself) to everything from live marimba music to live porcupines. Most of the time when I’m there, my attention is devoted to my daughter—watching her delight in the day’s programming, chasing her up and down the amphitheater stairs (i.e., cardio for parents), trying to dredge up a box of raisins from the very bottom of the toddler utility tote (because of course that is the place where the thing you want will be), etc. Still, the casual observations I’ve made of my fellow parents in attendance have led me to the very scientific hypothesis that, tucked away in the catch-all descriptor of “dad,” there are various distinct subcategories of dads—a broad array of phyla in the kingdom of dads, if you will. I’m pretty sure I could fill a Birds of America-sized book with all of these dad types, but I won’t pretend that wouldn’t be kind of tedious for everybody concerned. Still, I feel that it’s my duty as a fellow dad and an armchair anthropologist to present a small sampling of dads in honor of Flag Day. I mean, Father’s Day.

Bjorn Again dad, you're living the dream, and feeling the burn (in your shoulders and back, from all the weight strapped to your torso), and waving your dad flag high. Now, some people might look at you and think, "He can't be enjoying that. Can he?" He can, unencumbered bystander, he can.

Bjorn Again Dad, you’re living the dream, and feeling the burn (in your shoulders
and back, from all the weight strapped to your torso), and waving your dad flag
high. Now, some people might look at you and think, “He can’t be enjoying that.
Can he?” He can, unencumbered bystander, he can.

Skirball_Audience Participation Dad_Family Amphitheater

Whoa there, Audience Participation Dad—the vigor with which you strut your stuff is, um, admirable, but maybe keep your weirdest dance moves under wraps.
And if you can’t put a lid on it for your own sake, then please think of the children.
Specifically, your own children. Watching you do the Funky Warthog, or the
“Duke of Weselton,” or whatever you call that number, with no regard for how it
reflects on them.

Continue reading

A Note from Sina Grace


My super panel of graphic novelists.

Ever since I made the decision to leave the security of a paid day job to be a full-time graphic novelist, my goal has been this: to pursue what I love.

When Jordan Peimer, Vice President and Director of Programs at the Skirball Cultural Center, asked me to work on moderating a panel about graphic novels—a subject that aligns perfectly with the current exhibition Gary Baseman: The Door Is Always Open—my first thought was, “Cool, I’m completely not cut out for this.” But after some deliberation, and considering the heavy-handed Who’s the Lars von Trier of Comics approach, I concluded I’d do what I have done my whole career: follow my heart. This has always led me down the path of success, and undoubtedly would not fail me now.

There is a Los Angeles pride in me that has always considered the Skirball to be a hallmark of L.A. arts and culture for the past decade. I knew each member of this panel had to be an Angeleno. Continue reading