The Estelle Ishigo Papers, 1941 - 1957


Estelle Ishigo was a Caucasian artist and daughter of a concert singer and portrait and landscape artist. Born in Oakland, California, Estelle was surrounded by music and art. At age four, she showed promising abilities in painting and singing. By age twelve, she learned to play the violin.

While attending Otis Art School in Los Angeles, Estelle met Arthur Shigeharu Ishigo, (1902 - 1957), a San Francisco-born Nisei and aspiring actor. They were married in 1928.

At the outbreak of World War II, husband and wife were placed in the Pomona Assembly Center. Eventually, Estelle accompanied her husband to the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming where she was commissioned by the War Relocation Authority to sketch her experiences.

During her three and a half year internment, Estelle helped with the camp newspapers and played violin in the camp's Mandolin Band. When the war ended and the camps closed, the Ishigos left Heart Mountain and returned to Southern California where they lived in a trailer camp and worked in fish canneries in San Pedro. Two years later, Arthur procured work at the Los Angeles International Airport which enabled them to visit New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Mexico City.

After Arthur passed away in 1957, Estelle stayed in seclusion until the California Historical Society asked to show her paintings in their Months of Waiting exhibit.

Discovered by the Hollywood Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, Estelle's Lone Heart Mountain was published in 1972, a book which she wrote and sketched during her encampment years.

Just two years before Estelle's death, Producer/Director Steven Okazaki released the film Days of Waiting about Estelle's life as one of the few Caucasians to be interned with 100,00 Japanese Americans. The film earned the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject and received the prestigious George Peabody Award. Estelle Ishigo's extraordinary artistic talent as well as her devotion to her husband make Days of Waiting a poignant retrospection.

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