Asian Arts Initiative

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The Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) is a non-profit organization in Philadelphia which “engages artists and everyday people” in order to address and explore the unique concerns and experiences of Asian-Americans. The AAI is one of the few art organizations in the country which focuses on a particular community and its issues such as integration, influence and “social context.”[1]

History[edit]

Initially a small part of the Painted Bride Art Center, the Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) was created by Gayle Isa who envisioned creating a community of artists which could contribute to the growth of the neighborhood and to its cultural revival. In 1993, as a way of raising awareness about social and racial tension, the Painted Bride Art Center organized an Asian-American festival entitled “Live Traditions/Contemporary Issues,”[1] the first such festival dedicated to Asian American culture in Philadelphia.

In 1996, the AAI separated from the Painted Bride Art Center, becoming an independent non-profit organization and moved into their own building located in the heart of Philadelphia's Chinatown. In the same year, AAI began its first program, Artists in Community Training (ACT), a program meant to provide training for different artists interested in teaching and leading workshops. In 1998, the Youth Arts Workshops was introduced and offered diverse courses in which students of all ages could participate and in order to develop skills in creative writing and the visual arts, including video-making. In the same year, the Rap Series was created as a way for Asian American artists to be able to meet, dialogue and get involved in the community.

In the fall of the year 2000, art shows started to appear in the Asian Arts Initiative building, organized by a group of volunteers. The Gallery program continues to deliver seasons of exciting exhibitions every year.[2] The Asian Arts Initiative was forced to relocate in August 2008, “due to the expansion of the Philadelphia Convention Center,”[3] to a “three-level, 24,000 square-foot building at 1219 Vine Street,”[4] in the northern part of Chinatown, and is now fighting to make its new location permanent.[5] With funding from the City of Philadelphia, the State of Pennsylvania and private sources, the AAI was able to renovate part of the building into a multi-media facility that includes a gallery space and exhibition area, a theater, a media lab and library, and a generous space for workshops and meetings. Today the Asian Arts Initiative is an active organization which is open to the public and has a yearly budget of approximately $650,000, and is rapidly growing.[6]

The Asian Arts Initiative is partnered with the National Performance Network[7] and with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation Mural Arts Program (MAP), through which it hopes to promote its belief that “art produced and presented in the community context,” art which communicates the importance of culture, raises awareness towards neighborhood problems, improves society and mediates conflicts, “can be a powerful engine for social change.”[8]

Gallery[edit]

The Asian Arts Initiative holds a gallery space that hosts a number of Asian contemporary artists originating in Philadelphia. Sparked by activism against large-scale changes of Chinatown, due to the proposal of a baseball stadium, the gallery was created to exhibit work that reflected the protest of the baseball stadium project. Since the gallery’s opening in 2000, it has continued to host exhibitions ranging from paintings to installations 4 to 5 times a year. It featured several prominent figures in the art community as well as displaying the work of their youth workshops once a year. Visitors and participants become involved in viewing and learning about different artists and their art work through these galleries. Several different benefactors support the Gallery exhibits, one being The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.[9]

Performances[edit]

The Initiative contains a large scale of performances, such as dance pieces, comedy and musical performances, choreographies that combine poetry with movement, and also film. On certain days, The Initiative also hosts open microphone nights. The strong emphasis on culture, immigration, the idea of where one lives, and community are often emphasized in most if not all performances.[10]

Social Practice Lab[edit]

Social Practice Lab artist-residency series commissions and supports the work of creative individuals and organizations in the highly diverse, rapidly changing neighborhood of Chinatown North in Philadelphia. The goal of Social Practice Lab is to allow for experimentation with processes that combine artistic excellence and innovation with building relationships and effecting positive change within the community.

In collaboration with Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter, an urban farm has been erected in order to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the local China Town community. The farm, Sunday Breakfast Farm, promotes a healthier and more cost efficient lifestyle through classes, apprenticeships and field trips. [11]

Workshops[edit]

The Asian Arts Initiative provides a number of workshops that encourage participation of all ages, races, and ethnicities from all over the city, focusing on specific types of artistic skills.[12] Mural art, cooking, video editing, radio broadcasting, writing, and poetry are amongst the several interests offered, each varying in their duration. Overall, AAI attempts to reach and engage a vast audience through its "communal environment", in addition to utilizing social medias, such as Facebook and assorted blog sites.[12] As stated by spectators, on the Swarthmore Asian Organization’s Blog, regarding the "Cooking con Karimi" show held at AAI, “It was so good, that we missed the scheduled shuttle back and had to take SEPTA back to campus, but whatever, it was pretty awesome.”[2]

Youth Workshops[edit]

AAI’s Youth Workshops, ongoing throughout the year, focus on a general understanding of, and relation to a larger social context, particularly relevant to the younger Asian-American generation.[13] Additionally, in providing the opportunity to meet others and build a diverse community, the facilities render a safe environment to foster innovation and promote development. The workshops span a variety of artistic outlets, including theater, spoken word, poetry, writing, documentary video, narrative film, short video, drawing/painting, mural making, hip-hop dance, and DJ techniques, all of which are pertinent to the American teenager, continuous throughout the academic year after school hours or on the weekends.[14]

Chinatown Projects[edit]

In hopes to expand the reaches of influence Chinatown holds on the rest of the city, the Asian arts Initiative has commissioned several projects and installations that are placed in the city of Philadelphia. The idea would expand the influence the Philadelphia Chinatown holds on the community to create a more involved and aware city. The Chinatown programs are meant to change North Tenth Street in Philadelphia, PA from “Chinatown” to a cultural district for all people of Asian descent.[15] These programs include Chinatown TM, a program that “celebrates food, commodity and identity;” Visionary Sightseeing Binoculars, a program full of multi-media workshops to artistically project Chinatown’s future; Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, an investigation of the “art of oral story telling” and Little Red String, a story telling and lantern making workshop created to tie Asian cultural roots to America.[16] The programs are used to invigorate Chinatown’s pride in its heritage as well as instigate social and artistic activism.[17]

Artists in Communities Training (ACT)[edit]

The Artists in Communities Training (ACT) Program is designed to develop artists’ abilities in a professional context and within a community-building environment. Consisting of a hands-on teaching placement and a six-week series of intensive workshops on educational models and strategies, ACT affords opportunities for future residencies in community settings and schools.[18] According to AAI, these skills are taught, “By providing a course that builds essential skills in communication, lesson planning, classroom, and group management, the Asian Arts Initiative aims to expand the pool of artists of color of all disciplines who can actively convey the power of art-making into the hands of everyday people.”[19] Also, there is an ACT II, which promotes ongoing professional development for Alumni and encourages community building through the arts.[20]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Asian Arts Initiative website, “History and Mission.” Asian Arts Initiative. Mid Atlantic Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 6 Mar. 2009. http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/about/history.php
  2. ^ “Asian Arts Initiative website” - "10th Anniversary Timeline." Asian Arts Initiative. 2003-2004. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 6 Mar. 2009 . 6 Mar. 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/about/timeline.php>.
  3. ^ Leeway Foundation Website - “Asian Arts Initiative Opportunities, 2010”. http://leewayfoundation.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/artscallsaai/
  4. ^ The Non Profit Centers Network – “Asian Arts Initiative Center Information.” http://www.nonprofitcenters.org/centers/single-center/name/asian-arts-initiative
  5. ^ Swarthmore News - “Gayle Isa '93 Fight to Save Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia.” http://www.swarthmore.edu/x25421.xml
  6. ^ “Asian Arts Initiative yearly Budget” - "Job Ennouncements, Asian Arts Initiative, Director of Finance and Operations." National Performance Network. 2008. Creative Forces Youth Educational Theater Corps, Transforma Projects. 6 Mar. 2009 <http://www.npnweb.org/ job-announcements/>.
  7. ^ National Performance Network - “Our Partners.” http://www.npnweb.org/our-partners/
  8. ^ Asian Arts Initiative Website - “Core Values.” Asian Arts Initiative. Mid Atlantic Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 6 Mar. 2009. http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/about/values.php
  9. ^ “Asian Arts Initiative Gallery Space” - "Gallery." Asian Arts Initiative. 2009. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 21 Mar. 2010 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/gallery.php>.
  10. ^ "Public Performances" - "Performances." Asian Arts Initiative. 2009. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. 22 Mar. 2010 <http://asianartsinitiative.org/programs/performances.php>.
  11. ^ Ng, Meei-Ling. "Grow Food Where You Live". MLing Studio. Art by Meei-Ling. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Miller III, G W. [1], Philadelphia Weekly, Philadelphia, Pa. 22–28 July 2009.
  13. ^ “Asian Arts Initiative website” - "Youth Arts Workshop." Asian Arts Initiative. 2009. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 6 Mar. 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/yaw.php>.
  14. ^ “Asian Arts Initiative website” - "Youth Arts Workshop." Asian Arts Initiative. 2009. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 6 Mar. 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/yaw.php>.
  15. ^ Asian Arts Initiative Website. “Chinatown Workshops.” 2003-2004. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 10 Mar. 2009. 22 Mar 2010 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/chinatown.php>
  16. ^ Asian Arts Initiative Website. “Chinatown Workshops.” 2003-2004. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 10 Mar. 2009. 10 Mar 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/chinatown.php>
  17. ^ Asian Arts Initiative Website. “Chinatown Workshops.” 2003-2004. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 10 Mar. 2009. 10 Mar 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/chinatown.php>
  18. ^ Asian Arts Initiative Website. “ACT I &II.” 2003-2004. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 8 Mar. 2009. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/act.php>
  19. ^ Asian Arts Initiative Website. “ACT I &II.” 2003-2004. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 8 Mar. 2009. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/act.php>
  20. ^ Asian Arts Initiative Website. “ACT I &II.” 2003-2004. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 8 Mar. 2009. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://www.asianartsinitiative.org/programs/act.php>