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Tomie Arai was born and raised in New York. She has worked collaboratively with community groups for over twenty years and sits on the boards of the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas, the Coast to Coast Women Artists of Color Organization, and the Bread and Roses Cultural Project of the 1199 Health and Hospitals Workers Union. She has designed public art works for Creative Time, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the General Services Administration's Art in Architecture Program for which she designed a mural to commemorate the African Burial Ground in New York City. She is a recipient of two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships in Printmaking, a 1995 Joan Mitchell Visual Arts Grant, a 1997 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Visual Artist Residency, and a 1994 NEA Visual Arts Fellowship.