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Erin Shigaki was born and raised in Seattle, a proud product of public schools. After earning a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale and a brief career in child advocacy, Erin followed her passion for art by returning to school to study design part-time and then working in various NYC design studios, starting as an office manager and working her way up. She eventually gained enough experience and clientele to open her own design shop Purple Gate Design, which she maintains today. She is happy to be back in her beautiful and innovative home town following many years on the east coast.

The foundation of Erin’s creativity is like that of her grandparents and mother–she has little formal art training but was raised to be a curious, visual thinker and to learn art by making things. After being selected in 2018 for both the City of Seattle Ethnic Artist Roster and the City’s Public Art Boot Camp, Erin’s focus has shifted to making public art. Her social practice work focuses on how we can find belonging, safety and healing in a world that has systematically oppressed people. It is inspired by the Asian American experience, especially the World War II incarceration of her family and community in Seattle. Erin is interested in revealing the moments of beauty and intimacy that prevail because human beings are resilient. She believes that every experience has a place and can be woven into art.

Erin has always drawn deep inspiration from working with children and youth. She has been a teaching artist for public school kids on the Lower East Side of NYC and Seattle, kids facing illness (through the Ink Well Foundation) and teen artists in the YouthCan program at the Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle. Most recently, she was a Guest Curator and Teaching Artist in 2-D Design at South Puget Sound Community College.

Erin is an active part of the committee that hosts an annual pilgrimage to Minidoka, the Idaho prison site that Seattle-area Japanese Americans were sent to and this has given her a deeper window into multi-generational experiences.


Exhibitions / Installations / Awards

2018 Selected Artist and Educator, Beacon Development/El Centro de la Raza, interior mural (Nov. 2018)

2018 Selected Artist, Urban Parks Art public art grant for installation at both Occidental Square and Westlake Park, Seattle, WA

2018 Artist in Residence, Densho, Never Again is Now wheat paste mural, Seattle, WA.

2018 Contracted Artist and Educator, The Culture Mural Project at Vulcan, Inc. / Jackson Apartments site 23rd & Jackson Streets, Seattle, WA

2018 Japanese Cultural Community Center of Washington, Genji Mihara: An Issei Pioneer exhibit, Seattle, WA

2018 Group fine art show: Basic Ingredients, The Lakeshore, Seattle, WA

2018 Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), Wing Luke Museum and Friends of Japantown, Nihonmachi Alley installation, Seattle, WA

2018 Selected Artist, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s Public Art Boot Camp Training

2018 Selected Artist, City of Seattle Ethnic Artist Roster

2017 Group fine art show: What Would Betsy Ross Do? ArtXchange Gallery, Reactions, resistance and the collective use of taking charge of one’s viewpoint through art through the redesign of the American flag, Seattle, WA

2017 Wing Luke Museum, Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner / Poetry & Artwork Inspired by Japanese American Experiences, Poems by Lawrence Matsuda, Artwork by Roger Shimomura exhibit, Seattle, WA

2017 Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) and Wing Luke Museum, Jackson Building Storefront, Seattle, WA

2016 Wing Luke Museum, Seeds of Change, Roots of Power: The Danny Woo Community Garden exhibit, Seattle, WA

2016 Group fine art show: More Than Mundane, University House, Issaquah, WA

2014 Nisei Veterans Club, Permanent exhibition design throughout four rooms in the building (also designed traveling version), Seattle, WA

2011 Wing Luke Museum, Meet Me at Higo: An Enduring Story of a Japanese American Family exhibit (also designed traveling version and smaller version for the Kobo at Higo shop interior), Seattle, WA

2008 Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Permanent exhibition design (Chinatown-International District, Wing Chong Luke, Historic Hotel immersion space), Seattle, WA