Award: Artist Research & Development Grant

Discipline: Multidisciplinary Arts

Project Collaborator(s): Terry Lee, Ph.D.

City/Town: Tucson

Year: 2018

Artist Website:

I believe that personal storytelling has the potential to remove the perceived differences between people….Both with my own writing and the community art projects I’ve worked on, I’m striving to use story to acknowledge universal human qualities found in individual experiences.

From 1942-1946 over 13,000 Japanese Americans were held in Gila River Internment Camp. Born and raised in Tucson, Torran Anderson was suprised to learn about this chapter of the state’s history, and moreso by the fact that he hadn’t heard of it in his youth. An author of children’s books, apps, and digital educational resources, Anderson received funding in support of research that will inform an expansive, multimedia community storytelling and oral history project. To aide in his reseach and story gathering efforts, Anderson has enlisted Dr. Terry Lee, whose own “Wisdom of Age” video project documents the stories of the elderly, as a collaborator.

Under Lee’s guidance, Anderson will interview Japanese Americans who were held in Gila River and record their first-person oral histories of the experience. Anderson will then develop an online resource of recorded interviews, photos, and primary source documents.

“My hope is that it provides a way for literary artists to look at storytelling and history from multiple perspectives and that it can engage the broader community in a story of the past that is relevant today,” said Anderson in his application.

Richard K. Matsuishi, D.D.S., visits with Nosotros Academy students sharing his experience being incarcerated in the Poston, AZ, Japanese Incarceration camp.

Torran Anderson has published over fifty children’s books in a wide range of formats including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and comics.  Torran currently works at the Environmental Education Exchange doing presentations and education program development, searching for creative ways to make learning hands on and fun. In 2017, he developed the Riders & Walkers multi-media game for Living Streets Alliance to teach about bike and pedestrian safety. With support from the AZ Commission on the Arts Development Grant, Torran was the 33rd bridge guard at the Bridge Guard Residency in Sturovo, Slovakia where he worked on a community art project called, “Remembering the River.”

Terry Lee, Ph.D., is a specialist in teaching and producing short documentary videos, with an emphasis on documenting stories of hospice patients and elders. In his teaching, he has students spend several weeks of a semester working with an elder—visiting and interviewing. In his professional work, he has a film in distribution, produced over about three years, that intimately documents the challenges facing an adult daughter caregiver and her mother. He continues to develop a sequel to that film, “Your Love Never Fails,” now in the ninth year of that project.

His first career was as a journalist for the Syracuse Newspapers in Syracuse, New York, followed by service in the U.S. Air Force as a photographer (three years). He later earned a Ph.D. in British Literature at Syracuse University and subsequently taught writing, literature, and journalism at Washington & Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania (three years) and at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia (twenty-three years). Now living in New York, he works with civic organizations teaching individuals how to listen compassionately and to record the stories of elders. Select examples of his video documentary work are available at his two websites.

Photo: Torran Anderson. Photo by Michelle Anderson

Banner Image: American Legion and Boy Scouts in Memorial Day services at Manzanar relocation center in California, 1942. Library of Congress photograph archive.