Catching up!

Hi! Thanks for visiting. I haven’t updated this blog since the website was built in the beginning of the year, so there is a lot to catch up on! It’s been an exciting year- “Fish for Jimmy” was released, I attended a public art event/mural conference in Argentina and painted several murals over the summer in Detroit. For more pictures and stories from the work below, check out the “Work” section on the site which I have also, finally, updated.


Early in the year, I was invited to participate in an international mural conference in Cosquin, Cordoba, Argentina, to paint alongside about 50 other artists from around the world. I painted 3 murals in Argentina but the highlight from this trip was connecting with Sabotaje al Montaje and my other friends from the Canary Islands, to be able to paint with them all over Cordoba. The collaborative process continues to stun me as a way to open yourself up to images that may not have otherwise ever come out, had it not been for the collaborator. This is one of the favorite paintings I’ve ever done, on the riverbank of the Rio Cosquin, with Sabotaje al Montaje.


I’ve been anticipating the release of “Fish for Jimmy” for some time now, but I could not have anticipated the amazing support and enthusiasm that has surrounded its release. Friends (new and old), family, children of all ages and my Japanese American community have come out in such strong and loving support at every signing  and reading I’ve had. I’ve been invited to schools, bookstores and conferences across the country to share this story. When I was growing up, frustrated by the complete absence of the Japanese Internment from any lesson in school, I wish I could have told my adolescent self that it was coming. I feel so blessed every time I share this story with a child or group of children.


Speaking of children, in the Spring, I hosted what I think was the 9th year of the Ballet Tech Evening if the Arts. My 4th-8th grade students’ work was prominently displayed in all of its glory. Check it out in the work section of my site for more pictures. There is nothing in the world like their work and their indomitable creative spirit!!


Check out the new Boggs Educational Center mural in Detroit. My friends have put years of their lives into making this school a reality for the children of the east side of Detroit. I’m so, so happy for them. The mission of the school reads as follows: Our Mission is to Nurture Creative, Critical Thinkers Who Contribute to the Well-Being of Their Communities.” What could be better!

"We Must Believe We Have the Power Within Us to Create the World Anew." Grace Lee Boggs

“We Must Believe We Have the Power Within Us to Create the World Anew.” Grace Lee Boggs

While in Detroit, I also had a chance to do a memorial piece for Trayvon Martin. Detroiters came out in big support, with so much love and solidarity for the message. Thank you, Detroit.


Also in Detroit, I had the chance to collaborate with the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, who developed a gorgeous new Head Start center on Gratiot Ave. 72 children, newborn -five years old now have a brand new preschool to attend, in what was a previously abandoned lot. There is a sweetness to painting in preschools that never gets old for me.


This year, I also moved studios and had a visit from the independent booksellers from across the country who were attending the Book Expo America conference at the Javits Center. After 10 years of sharing a studio with my beloved friend Yuko Shimizu, I moved to Brooklyn, closer to home, and started subletting. I miss Yuko like crazy, but it’s great to have my own big walls to paint on and I can definitely say that the studio that we shared is like 500% more beautiful since I left and Yuko remodeled!!


These days, I am working on some new book proposals, busy teaching my students at Ballet Tech and continuing ed students at SVA. My Writing and Illustrating Children’s Book class is an absolute joy to teach. The students, from all walks of life, are an inspiration and their stories are wonderful too! The fall schedule is a little grueling, but well worth it. I’ve been able to have amazing guest speakers come to class- Edel Rodriguez, Lizzy Rockwell, Jan Carr, Zetta Elliot, Marcellus Hall and Marcos Chin. These students are so lucky 🙂

And . . . there was the 5th year of making murals at the Welling Court Mural Project with my friend Caleb Neelon! This year’s project was particularly fun with little Lucia, daughter of my dear friends, as our star!


Now that I know how to update my website, I’ll do it more often! Please come back for a visit soon!






‘Fish for Jimmy’ Reviewed by NY Times

“Yamasaki, who works as a muralist and educator, creates sweeping paintings that capture the story in a literal manner even as she makes bold metaphorical leaps. When the two boys lie in bed at night, the menacing shadows of the camp’s guard tower are imprinted on their blankets. The family stands poised on Taro’s reclining form, while the imagined torsos of F.B.I. agents loom in a forbidding muddy background. One of the most moving spreads shows Taro capturing fish in a river, each fish carrying a reclining Jimmy on its back.

The overall result is a dramatic, visual feast. And Yamasaki gives readers a reassuringly happy ending.”

– Pamela Paul, NY Times

Read the full review at

Talk at TEDx Brooklyn

Katie recently spoke at TEDx Brooklyn – watch the video to see her talk.



Katie at TEDx Brooklyn

Katie at TEDx Brooklyn

Katie at TEDx Brooklyn

Yamasaki’s outfit provided by Eileen Fisher.

Children Communicate With Incarcerated Mothers Through Mural

Rikers Island Mural

10-year-old Shyzaya Louallen is using art to connect to his mother as she serves time at Rikers Island.

“I feel good about painting it because it gets me excited so when she comes out I could show her,” he said.

The mural in East Harlem is a visual dialogue between children and their incarcerated mothers. The images are based on messages and drawings sent to the kids by their moms.

– Jeanine Ramirez

Read the full article at

Rikers Moms Connect With Children Through Art

Rikers Island

White cinder block walls with steel security gates line the hallways at Rikers Island Correctional Facility. The women’s jail at Rikers contains a large percentage of inmates who are mothers, including Safiyah Tate.

“I love my children and I just feel guilty that I put them through so much pain in being away,” Tate says.

Now, Tate is connecting to her children through art. She’s one of a dozen mothers at Rikers painting a mural on a jailhouse wall with images of her children. The design is based on messages and drawings that their children sent to them as part of the art project.

– Jeanine Ramirez

Read the full article at

Q&A with Paper Tigers

Can you tell us about your family background? Did you always want to be an artist?

I come from a family full of artists, so I never really thought I would take that road. My grandfather was an amazing architect, my grandmother was a concert pianist, my uncle is a photographer, my aunt is a tai-chi teacher, and so many of my cousins are artists across all genres. I always enjoyed making art as a kid, especially crafty things (our mom would let us paint the windows and we were allowed to draw on the walls in my brother’s room), but I didn’t think it was the career for me. It seemed a little too solitary and I didn’t have a sense of how art could be used to make a difference in the world.

Since I was young, I have always had a very strong interest in social justice, and I didn’t see how I could connect that with an art career. I didn’t actually ever learn how to draw until I got to college. I went into college thinking I would be a social worker and then I signed up for a drawing class when I was 19. I was the worst one in the class, but once I started I didn’t want to stop. I loved the feeling of drawing so much that I didn’t care that my drawings weren’t good.


Read the full interview 

Eileen Fisher Feature



“Katie Yamasaki speaks on Voices Her’d from the Groundswell Community Mural Project. Her message of ‘girls have the floor and they’re going to take it’ stresses the importance of how people see teenage girls and art. She also stresses the importance of sustainable and humane clothing.”

– EileenFisherInc on

Motor City Muralism

“Join Detroit Bikes for an extended version of our Motor City Muralism bike tour.  Beginning and ending at the Detroit Institute of Arts, participants will explore murals throughout the city of Detroit and be invited to participate in a discussion of the Diego Rivera murals at the DIA.”


Detroit mural from street

Read the full post on


Visual Art and Social Transformation, Talk at Asian/Asian American Research Institute



“The public art projects of Katie Yamasaki have covered topics from the Japanese Internment to the militarization of inner city youth. In just 8 years since the completion of her MFA at the School of Visual Arts, her work has earned her invitations to develop public art projects in Chiapas, Mexico with the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, Santiago de Cuba, rural Appalachia, Sevilla and Barcelona, Spain, Namibia, Japan, Detroit, New Jersey, Indiana and all over New York City.

For Yamasaki, public and mural art has the unique ability to create new dialogues that challenge the evolving identities of communities in transition, communities of political and/or cultural resistance and communities of the displaced/disenfranchised. Her work, culturally and politically is woven together by the common threads of communication, transformation and liberation.

Yamasaki will share her global public art projects as well as her past and upcoming book projects, two in particular. Fish for Jimmy is a book for children which will be published in September, 2012. Based on a family story, it tells the story of two boys in the Japanese Internment Camps. It is Yamasaki’s first published book as both author/illustrator. She will also discuss Yama, the illustrated biography of her grandfather, architect Minoru Yamasaki. This story tells the tale of the Nisei experience from the perspective of her grandfather who came to be known as one of the most influential American architects of the 20th Century.

Finally, the presentation will consider the evolving role of public art and art of cultural identity in the ever-changing Asian American community.”

– aaaricuny on