Arthur Okamura, RIP

This morning I received an email from Stephen Beal, President of California College of the Arts, bearing sad news:

FROM PRESIDENT STEPHEN BEAL

Dear CCA Community,

I’m very sad to report the death of Professor Emeritus Arthur Okamura. He passed away on July 10 near his home in Bolinas. He was 77.

Arthur taught at CCA for 31 years. Upon his retirement in 1997 he was awarded the distinction of professor emeritus. A master teacher, he inspired generations of artists with his impassioned commitment to his work. Although “retired,” he taught a weekly art class at the New School at Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, and was working on a new series of paintings at the time of his death.

Born in Long Beach, California, Arthur and his family relocated to Chicago after World War II. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the 1950s he came back to the west, eventually settling in Bolinas in 1959. He was a prolific painter who also worked in screenprinting and drawing. His work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. You can read more about his remarkable life here.

A celebration of Arthur’s life is planned for later in the summer. We will apprise the community of the details once they are confirmed.

We have lost a very important member of the CCA community. In his 31 years at the college, Arthur was an influential mentor to hundreds of students and a great friend to his fellow faculty members and staff. He will truly be missed. On behalf of the college, I extend my sincere condolences to Arthur’s family.

Sincerely,
Stephen Beal
President

Arthur Okamura was my teacher for “Introduction to Screenprinting,” my first year at CCA. I was timid in my approach to this medium, and Arthur didn’t exactly take the pressure off. One day he came up behind me saying anxiously, “What the f— are you doing? What the f— are you doing?” Well, I was probably letting the ink dry on the screen, or something equally idiotic. But I learned to love the medium enough to take another screenprinting class with another wonderful teacher, Malaquias Montoya.

Arthur was the graduate advisor to a fellow student, Gayle Antokal. She is enormously talented, but had not yet hit her stride when she had a solo show of her work on campus. Arthur chastised her, saying “You are making stew when you should be making souffle!” I’m happy to say that Gayle now makes the most exquisite “souffle.” Her mentor would have been very proud.

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One thought on “Arthur Okamura, RIP

  1. I was a painting student of Arthur Okamura in 1970. He had an exact descriptive language for what was going on in a painting. An extremely perceptive teacher who was a fountain of art history. In the past 40 years traveling around this planet I have never come across an artist who could articulate and make sense out of paintings as Arthur could. Also, as a teacher working with young artists he was
    very sensitive to their vulnerability. Arthur was critical with out being painful. I cannot say this for many art teachers or artists.

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