17 Jul Voices From Our Community: Yuko Shimizu
COVID-19 has upended our society, causing unemployment and homelessness to skyrocket across the country while pushing racial injustice to the forefront of national dialogue. Never before has our work been more needed: providing individuals and families with histories of addiction, poverty, homelessness, and incarceration with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, into the middle class, and up the economic ladder. And as nonprofits stretch their resources to the absolute limit in the wake of the pandemic, never before have our supporters been so crucial to us continuing that work.
World-renowned artist Yuko Shimizu, a longtime friend of The Doe Fund, knew she wanted to do her part. So she auctioned off one of her latest illustrations, “Take Down the Proud Kings of the Past,” as a donation—for a total of $2,000!
We recently spoke with Yuko as well as Keith Becker, whose winning bid will go to supporting our workforce development programs as we adapt our vocational training for workplaces forever-changed by COVID-19.
The Doe Fund: Yuko, tell us about your journey as an artist. What made you decide to become an illustrator, and how did you get to where you are today?
Yuko Shimizu: “My degree is in business, so for years that’s what I did. My dream was always to become an artist, but I never thought I could seriously pursue it.
Then some years ago, I had what I’d best describe as a ‘third-life crisis.’ I was saving money without any idea of what to do with it, so I quit my job and moved to New York and went to art school for four years so I could start illustrating professionally. It was something I had wanted to do since I was a kid, but I only started in my 30s.”
The Doe Fund: How did you both learn about the Doe Fund? And what about our work inspired your support?
Yuko: “I first saw the Men in Blue working outside my home about ten years ago. I thought, ‘who are these people?’ So I looked up The Doe Fund. I started donating money—and I’ve been supporting you since.”
Keith Becker: “I’ve been following Yuko on Instagram forever and always wanted some art from her. I saw this drawing that she was auctioning and I really liked the social statement it was making.
Then I saw it was for charity—there’s so much going on right now from a COVID-19 perspective and human rights perspective. What about the people who were arrested for stupid reasons and who got dragged into the system? Once you get dragged into the cycle of poverty and homelessness and incarceration, it’s so hard to get out.
I saw who Yuko was trying to raise money for, so I checked you guys out. I really love the work you’re doing. If someone is trying hard to get a second shot, like the men in your program, to me it shows that they’re really deserving of it.”
The Doe Fund: Yuko, tell us more about “Take Down the Proud Kings of the Past.” What inspired the piece? And what made you decide to auction it to support our programs?
Yuko: “As an illustrator, I come up with ideas based on the current state of events. With people protesting racism after George Floyd and tearing down statues that symbolize racism, it all felt perfect to put to pen and paper.
And while I was working on the piece, I was reminded of the inequities that this pandemic has exposed. The working poor who can’t do their jobs remotely, people who are homeless, and people of color are so much more vulnerable to COVID-19. So I started to donate more and give money to the homeless. I wanted to use my art to support The Doe Fund because your work so strongly supports those suffering the most right now.”
The Doe Fund: If you had a chance to speak directly with the Men in Blue, what would tell them?
Yuko: “Thank you for doing this. It’s really difficult to get back up onto their feet, but you’re doing it—and you’re always so nice.
I’m so happy The Doe Fund exists and that it’s helping these men get back into society. Giving people a place to work and live, and getting people out of poverty is important. I feel proud to be donating and helping in a small way to help get them back on their feet.”
Keith: “Keep trying. You’ll get out of the program what they put into it. You’re able to get a second start… as somebody who also had to create a second start, it’s possible. You can do it. You can knock whatever ghost of the past off your back and you can do something.”