The Disaster

On March 11, 2011 (3/11), Japan suffered its largest earthquake ever to be recorded on modern devices, and within 60 minutes, a massive tsunami drowned miles of coastal towns and communities before crippling a nuclear power plant and sending invisible clouds of deadly radiation into the atmosphere and ocean. The tsunami alone stripped entire cities from their foundations: homes, schools, hospitals, community centers, museums, grocery stores, temples and shrines were swallowed in a ferocious wave that instantaneously disappeared some 20,000 people.

When the tsunami waters finally receded after three days, most 3/11 survivors were left homeless, jobless and disconnected from their children, wives, husbands, parents and friends. In a decimated landscape completely devoid of infrastructure, severed communities began putting the scattered remains of their lives back together.

Momentous transformations occur in people after things have been turned upside down. Sudden peril causes diverse reactions from everyday people: some responses elicit over-the-top heroism, while others find ways to activate lasting community projects. When collective transformations take place in the wake of catastrophes, it can often be attributed to the subversive and creative responses from socially-engaged artists, volunteers and organizations that directly engage local communities through participation and collaboration.

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