News / Blog

“What Are You?” A Message from Nikki Nojima Louis

Nikki Nojima Louis

Artist Trust Grant Recipient

Nikki Nojima Louis and Aya Saito in Most Dangerous Women. photo: Seattle Chapter, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

The work supported by grants from Artist Trust creates ripple effects of new opportunities, employment and encouragement throughout our community. You are our vital partners. —Nikki Nojima Louis

“What Are You?”

I love the wide-eyed innocence of the question asked of me during the Seattle-Soviet Theater Exchange in Russia in 1991. I replied “I am an artist,” because Artist Trust defined me as such in 1988 by granting me one of its first Fellowships. As an Artist Trust supporter, I know that you care about supporting the unique and creative artists working in Washington State. I share my story with you in an appeal that you make a gift to Artist Trust and the creative culture that your support fosters.

I am a Japanese American mid-century child of internment, born to immigrant parents. My fourth birthday party was interrupted by FBI agents who swept my father away in the dragnet that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor. Interned in a desert concentration camp in Idaho and raised in postwar Chicago, I returned to the Pacific Northwest as a teenager. A dreamer who drifted into the arts, I am an artist committed to sharing stories.

In 1988, I stood at the first Artist Trust awards ceremony giving thanks for a $5,000 Theater Fellowship. This award was the beginning of the glimmer of an impossible dream: that a woman, already late into middle age, indoctrinated as a child with a sense of inferiority, non-identity and second-class citizenship, could shape stories that resonated with and influenced others. Artist Trust solidified the gaman in me (a Japanese term much heard in camp, meaning a special kind of endurance) and the decision to follow the path of the arts.

Over the years, I have seen arts venues, organizations, commissions and granting agencies disappear. Artist Trust remains and is the only organization in Washington dedicated solely to supporting individual artists—artists who’ve dedicated their entire lives to enriching the community with their vision and creativity.

In the 25 years since Artist Trust confirmed my path as an artist, funding opportunities in the arts have greatly diminished, while our need for the humanizing arts is greater than ever. Many artists live on the margins of subsistence, working part-time jobs and living frugally to support their work. Making art is expensive and time-consuming. Your gift is vital in supporting the creative culture that I know you value; please consider supporting artists in Washington with a gift today.

On behalf of myself and Artist Trust,

Nikki Nojima Louis

P.S. Art is our universal language. It reaches across time and borders. It defines what is human in us. Please take a moment to invest in our creative culture by making a donation to Artist Trust today.