Updates on Reopening SVA
Click below for information on our current operations and plans for 2021-2022.
Presented by MFA Illustration as Visual Essay

Katie Yamasaki, Muralist

January 18 - February 8, 2020
A blue and yellow themed mural with parachutes painted falling from the sky

Mural by Katie Yamasaki. Credit: Groundswell Community Mural Project.


Tue, Jan 21; 6:00 - 8:00pm

Artist Talk

Tuesday, January 28, 7:00 – 9:00pm

School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “Katie Yamasaki, Muralist,” an exhibition of work by MFA Illustration as Visual Essay alumnus Katie Yamasaki. Curated by Marshall Arisman, program chair, and Kim Ablondi, director of operations, the exhibition will be on view from Saturday, January 18. through Saturday, February 8, at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City.


Katie Yamasaki is a muralist and children’s book artist devoted to using art as a platform for dialogue-building and storytelling. Yamasaki grew up in a large, diverse family full of artists, activists and teachers in a factory town north of Detroit. She entered college in 1995 with the intention of pursuing social work, but found her way to art through children’s books and a lucky internship with legendary illustrator Ed Young.


After college, she began teaching Spanish in both Detroit and New York City public schools and eventually landed at SVA’s MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program just days before 9/11. Her grandfather was chief architect of the World Trade Center and in the months that followed the attacks, she watched as the Twin Towers suddenly became a symbol of a pro-war agenda. With that as the backdrop, Yamasaki started thinking seriously about the type of symbols we have the opportunity to create as artists. She found her way to muralism shortly after earning her MFA in 2003.


She has traveled widely, painting over 80 walls in diverse communities around the world. During that time, she also worked for 12 years as a teaching artist at Ballet Tech: The NYC Public School for Dance. In recent years, Yamasaki’s work has paid particular attention to communities impacted by incarceration, both on the inside and on the outside. From a young age, Yamasaki was aware of the profound impact of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans and has related the experience of her family and extended community to that of communities facing parallel issues around civil liberties, detention, identity and resilience.


Yamasaki also writes and illustrates children’s books that explore themes and stories similar to those that appear in her murals. Currently, she is working on her seventh book for children, Dad Bakes, that explores the relationship between a father and daughter when the father returns home from a period of incarceration.


Yamasaki lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Amit, and their two-year-old daughter, Ayla. Prior to Ayla, they had a son, Shisa, who was stillborn close to his due date. Shisa is the texture in every mural, every book, every brushstroke and tender moment of Yamasaki’s life.


In addition to displaying her work, Yamasaki will give an artist talk on Tuesday, January 28, at 7:00pm, in the 3rd-floor amphitheater at 209 East 23rd Street.


The MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay is designed to maximize students’ opportunities as figurative artists, from the conventional gallery wall to the full range of 21st-century media. The program fuses the development of creative thinking with technical and communication skills. Additional focus is placed on best practices in navigating the visual art marketplace while empowering students to choose making art as a way of life.

A painted mural of a girl with her hair spread around her
Credit: Katie Yamasaki
Free and open to the public