PHILADELPHIA — Strengthening connections between Asian and Latino communities, Asian Arts Initiative presents the multimedia exhibition Illuminate Me, created by local artist collective Las Gallas and musician Alex Shaw in collaboration with members of Philadelphia’s growing Latino and Asian American communities. The exhibition, on view Oct. 17–Dec. 7, kicks off Asian Arts Initiative’s brand-new Neighborhood Spotlight series, produced with funding from PNC Arts Alive and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge.
Illuminate Me, which is also supported with funding from the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC), is the visual culmination of a months-long cross-cultural exploration of Latino and Asian communities, the two fastest-growing ethnic groups in Philadelphia. Starting last spring, Las Gallas — artists Julia Lopez, Magda Martinez and Michelle Ortiz — conducted a series of community art workshops with Shaw in which participants were guided through storytelling, art-making and soundscape activities to help them discover shared histories between the Latino and Asian immigrant experience. From these workshops, Las Gallas gleaned meaningful content for a culminating installation at Asian Arts Initiative’s gallery space in Chinatown, featuring a string of illuminated lanterns, original two- and three-dimensional pieces by Las Gallas and an oral-history soundscape.
Illuminate Me is the first presentation of Asian Arts Initiative’s new Neighborhood Spotlight series, which allows artists like Las Gallas to showcase their work in two often under-represented yet vibrant and diverse multicultural areas of the city, Chinatown and South Philadelphia. Composed of long-term public art workshops and striking visual art presentations, the series focuses on convening diverse audiences in unexpected locations, not only encouraging community dialogue and hands-on creativity but also creating destination traffic.
“Our Neighborhood Spotlight series will help document the evolving communities of Philadelphia, and shape new relationships forming among a diversity of people,” says Asian Arts Initiative Executive Director Gayle Isa.
Adds Bill Mills, regional president of PNC for Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, “The PNC Foundation has a long history of providing grants to nonprofit organizations that strengthen and enrich the lives of our neighbors. We understand the valuable return that investing in the arts can deliver. Today more than ever, the businesses we attract, the jobs we create and the visitors who extend their stay are drawn by what the Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey region has to offer.”
The series will continue into 2013, featuring workshops, installations and presentations by the seven artists-in-residence selected for Asian Arts Initiative’s recently launched Social Practice Lab. (Click hereto read more about the Social Practice Lab.)
About Las Gallas and Alex Shaw
Las Gallas (the feminization of the word “gallo,” which means “rooster” in Spanish) — composed of artists Julia Lopez, Magda Martinez and Michelle Ortiz — is a Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary artist collective that incorporates theater, visual arts, dance, film, poetry, spoken word and literature imbedded in the tradition of community arts. The trio stretches the boundaries of art collaborations by developing new ways of creating through workshops and mutual interactions, sharing stories, inspiring dialogue and debating around ideas of family, traditions, religion, politics, education and gender roles. In 2011, Las Gallas received a Vision Award for Creative Artists of the Year from the Hispanic Choice Awards.
Alex Shaw is a percussionist, vocalist, composer and arts educator specializing in Brazilian music traditions. He holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College (2000) and is a leading member of Philadelphia’s award-winning Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra; he is also musical director of the renowned 12-piece Brazilian ensemble Alô Brazil. In 2012, Shaw was honored with an Emerging Legacy Award at the UPenn MLK Commemorative Symposium for Social Justice.
Schedule of Events
On view Oct. 17–Dec. 7
Opening Reception: Friday, Oct. 19, 5–7 p.m. (joint event as part of the NALAC national convening in Philadelphia)
First Friday Open Houses: Friday, Nov. 2, 6 p.m., and Friday, Dec. 2, 6 p.m.
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Gallery hours: Tuesday-Friday, noon-6 p.m.
About PNC Arts Alive
PNC Arts Alive is a five-year, $5 million investment from The PNC Foundation that supports visual and performing arts groups with the goal of increasing arts access and engagement. For more information on PNC Arts Alive and the grant recipients, visit pncartsalive.com.
About the Knight Arts Challenge
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge is a $9 million initiative funding innovative projects that engage and enrich Philadelphia’s communities. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.