Shokaen is an organization that runs the Mizunoki facility for people with disabilities in the city of Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, and has been a central force in the art brut movement in Japan. Art classes have been offered at the facility since 1964, and the organization itself has done its utmost over the years to make these works known. In 2012 it opened a museum devoted to art brut designed by Kumiko Inui, a renowned architect who won acclaim at the International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2012.
“Mizunoki is a frontrunner in the world of art brut in Japan,” notes Yoshiko Hata, an early proponent of art brut in Japan. In 1964, just five years after the facility was established, Shokaen, the organization that runs it, set up an “art hour” for its residents and asked Chuichi Nishigaki, a painter of Japanese-style works, to teach them once a week. The classes were offered in recognition of the need to not just meet residents’ basic needs but also to provide them with opportunities for personal enrichment. In the course of teaching the classes, Nishigaki became aware of the power of the works the residents had created, and decided to introduce them in various exhibitions. The works from Mizunoki won widespread acclaim and enough awards to purchase art supplies.
Nishigaki continued to teach at the facility, and in 1993 the creations of a group of residents were brought together in an exhibition at the Setagaya Art Museum, titled “Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art.” The artists earned national recognition and fame, and the following year 32 works by six individuals became a permanent part of the “Collection de L’Art Brut Lausanne” in Switzerland. In this way, a small group of Mizunoki residents suddenly became part of a much larger world.
Mizunoki embarked on a new project in 2007, called the Nantan Area Art Project. Once a year, an exhibition involving collaboration between artists with and without disabilities is organized. It is an opportunity self-expression and dialogue that brings together members of the local community.
The culmination of these efforts was the establishment of the Mizunoki Art Museum on October 7, 2012, in a refurbished barber shop on an old shopping street near Kameoka Station. Before its opening, the museum’s art director, Riko Okuyama, explained more about the new museum’s role: “Since we are the ones in closest contact with the Mizunoki artists, we wanted to convey to the public the beauty of the artists’ lives and creativity. We have been invigorated by the example of their work and lives.”
Art lovers look forward with anticipation to the latest artistic endeavors of the Mizunoki residents, who have been trailblazers in Japan’s art brut movement.
Mizunoki Art Museum
Address: 18 Kitamachi, Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture
Hours: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Closed every Monday and Tuesday (open on national holidays)
Admission fees: ¥400 for adults; ¥200 for high-school and college students; free admission for children
Japanese website: http://www.mizunoki-museum.org
Photographs by Naoto Somese