If Walls Could Talk

About the Project

I am an artist based in Brooklyn. In my work, I’ve been really lucky to witness the transformative effect that art can have on an individual and on a community, especially when that individual and community have the chance to utilize art as a platform for expression- for expression of something essential, something they wish to communicate about themselves, about their experience.

I’ve planned a project here in New York City. I’ll be working with two populations; incarcerated mothers at Rikers Island and the children of incarcerated mothers in East Harlem. I’ll workshop with each group separately, the workshops resulting in imagery and messages that each group wants to communicate with the other. Most simply, it’ll be an image that answers this question of What is something you, as mothers, would like to tell your children- about yourselves, your relationship, your past, your hopes for the future. Maybe something that you find difficult to say to them in person when they come for a visit. We‘ll put this message into an image and send it to the children on the outside who will paint it as a large-scale outdoor mural in their community of East Harlem. For the children, similarly they’ll be creating an image that addresses the question What are some things that you want to say or show your mother that you don’t get to because she’s in jail? What are feelings you want her to know that you have? What are some things she needs to know about you that she may be missing out on because she isn’t here? The children will develop a mural image that the mothers will then paint inside of Rikers.

My hope is that by sending these images back and forth, an unusual dialogue will happen. A dialogue not only between mothers and children, but also with the greater communities that exist both inside of the jail where one mural will be painted and in the neighborhood where the other mural will be painted.

The idea is that this experience will not only be empowering, it will also help these mothers heal from some of the guilt and pain they feel from being separated from their children- encouraging them to do everything in their power to manifest changes that will positively impact their families. I also hope that while the youth work in the community, we will be able to address the stigma that children often carry when they have an incarcerated parent.

In 2009, I did a project at a women’s prison in Chiapas, Mexico. I worked with about 40 women and their children, under 4 years old, who lived with them. There were so many things that struck me during that week, about the lives of these women. But what affected me most about that project were the conversations I had with them about their children on the outside- the children who were too old to join them in the prison and were in the Mexican foster care system, staying with family, or, as one woman described her 11 year old son, just living by himself. The complexity of feelings the women described about their relationships with their estranged children moved something inside of me.

And when I finished the project, I just left. That’s what happens. You leave, they hug you and then they just stay. And you have no idea what will become of them, their children inside of the prison, the 11 year old son living on his own. You leave and they stay. So, I still don’t know what will become of them, but at least we can do this.

There is something that happens when you paint a wall- when you create the imagery that surrounds you and the images are of you, your people, your community, your family, your mother or your child. There is something that happens to both the people who paint it and the people who see it happen- something I’m not sure I could measure. But what I do know, from doing this for awhile, is that this identification, this creation, this visual dialogue can change the way people feel. About themselves, about their families, about their community- about their place in the world. And what I believe is that people are motivated by feelings. People are motivated by love, and that is really the founding principle of this project.

I hope you can support it. I hope you can help make this happen. Most simply, It can only happen with your support. Please donate and please distribute this message to everyone you know.

Learn more at kickstarter.com

Lincoln Arts Project

“Artists Caleb Neelon and Katie Yamasaki are coming together to do a mural on the side of our building (along Whitney Ave) this Labor Day Weekend. The streets and sidewalk will be closed all weekend, feel free to come out and watch them work, and Monday Night from 6-8 we’ll be having a BBQ Reception for the wall as well as a ‘closing’ for the TASTE showArtists Caleb Neelon and Katie Yamasaki are coming together to do a mural on the side of our building (along Whitney Ave) this Labor Day Weekend. The streets and sidewalk will be closed all weekend, feel free to come out and watch them work, and Monday Night from 6-8 we’ll be having a BBQ Reception for the wall as well as a ‘closing’ for the TASTE show.”

– lincolnartsproject

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Kirkus Review of Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Car

“Soichiro Honda was, in his own way, the Henry Ford of Japan. He became fascinated by automobiles from his very first sight of a Model T. Determined to learn everything possible about cars, he began as a cleaner in a garage and eventually became an expert mechanic with his own business. Later he designed racecars and manufactured car parts and airplane propellers. After World War II, he developed small motorcycles and started the Honda Motor Company, constantly adding improvements and innovations to his products and then designing and manufacturing fuel-efficient automobiles. Weston presents Honda as a perfectionist, an innovator in his field and a model corporate leader, who encouraged his workers, listened to them and treated them well. However, with the exception of a list of retirement activities, Honda’s life beyond business is nowhere to be found. Yamasaki’s detailed and whimsical acrylics add zest to the proceedings. A worthwhile introduction to a neglected subject.”

– http://www.kirkusreviews.com

Read the full review on kirkusreviews.com


Informed, Empowered


“Many of the young artists wanted to address the issue of military recruiting, and targeting youth in low-income areas. As a result of the No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters have access to high-school students contact information, so not only are they being approached in their schools, but also within their own homes. Utilizing a visual style inspired by war-time propaganda posters from around the world, the mural portrays three strong young women in classic military poses, armed not with violent weapons but with tools of creation and education. Banners that read, We Are Not Government Issued, and Arm Yourself with the Knowledge to Think for Yourself stream along the wall.”

– Groundswellmural on youtube.com

Pintando Postales


“NYC-based muralist and educator Katie Yamasaki uses postcards to create a dialogue between kids in Cuba and New York. This short-documentary is a candid conversation with the artist, as she explains her motivation behind her project and shows us the hidden power of youth voices.”

– Joél Mejia on youtube.com

Art Project Helps City Kids Connect With Cuban Pen Pals

Xzavier and Roberto Carlos

Xzavier and Roberto Carlos

Xzavier Scott, seen above, was depicted in a portrait which depicts his love of Coney Island and football. He is one of the subjects in “Pintando Postales, Painting Postcards,” an art exhibition that opened Thursday night at Brooklyn College.

Teacher Katie Yamasaki portrayed her art students to help arrange for them pen pals from Cuba…

– Jeanine Ramirez

Read the full article at ny1.com

“Anti-Recruiting Mural Comes Into View” Article

Voices Her'd Mural

“Paratroopers are drifting down to earth — well, down the side of a Brooklyn apartment building — and slowly being helped back on their feet. This scene has finally come into full view in Sunset Park, where a group of young women this summer painted a mural that was their response to military recruiters in their schools and neighborhoods.

The official dedication is not until Sept. 6, but its creators are hoping it will spark the kind of dialog on the military they feel has been missing from the public square.”

Anti-Recruiting Mural Comes Into View by David Gonzales

Read the full article on nytimes.com

Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Crossville right

The Crossville Arts Council hosted a reception for muralist Katie Yamasaki of New York City on Friday, Oct. 19, at the Crossville Depot.

While in Crossville Yamasaki has worked with Arts Council members and property owners to identify a suitable location for the outdoor mural. Yamasaki is the granddaughter of Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the World Trade Center in New York City. She has painted a number of murals in New York and other states, and has recently completed a show of her work in Cuba. She has upcoming projects in Spain, Japan and India.

The mural project itself will take place next spring, and will involve a six-week residency by Yamasaki. While the mural will be entirely of her design, she will train selected students in mural painting and will work with them after school each day to complete the mural. During the day while the students are in school, Yamasaki will work on the mural to bring their work into complete harmony with the whole. The result will be a piece of community artwork, and the finished project will give our entire community a piece of art that reflects our history and culture.

– Judy Pearson

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Groundswell Project Unites Young Women To Paint Public Murals

“The playground walls at P.S. 24 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, are quickly being transformed into works of art. Nearly a dozen teenagers are spending their summer mixing paints, dabbing paint brushes and creating colorful images.

But this mural project is much more than pretty pictures. It’s about developing skills, empowering women, employing young people, and using art as a tool for social justice. The theme here is immigration.”

– NY1 News

Read the full article on ny1.com