PHILADELPHIA — Celebrating two decades of creating community through the power of art, PARTICIPATE: Asian Arts Initiative’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition (Feb. 7 – May 23) is an interactive, evolving visual art project that addresses what it means to be Asian American and how Asian Arts Initiative has explored that experience over the course of its 20-year history. Developed through an exchange with the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle, the planning process for PARTICIPATE was supported in part by the National Performance Network, Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) and The Ford Foundation.
The exhibition is divided into three parts: First, Asian Arts Initiative released an open call to artists, inviting them to submit new or recent artwork that addresses the question, “How would you define the Asian American experience? What is your experience?” The result is a wide-ranging multimedia group show containing powerful messages in the form of two-dimensional works, performance art, video, community-based participatory art and installation. One example is Gui (pictured, above), a multimedia sculpture/installation by University of the Arts alumnus Mou Zhu that explores one ancestor’s request that the younger generation return to China through a spiraling series of turtle shells made of glass, wax, plaster and other materials.
“We hope this exhibition will leave viewers with a sense of Asian Arts Initiative’s place in our community,” says executive director Gayle Isa, “and reflect multiple facets of our mission, that we seek to empower Asian Americans by sharing their experiences and stories through art; foster dialogue and relationship-building among Asian Americans and people of all backgrounds; and nurture neighborhood partnerships and make social impact through our work as an organization.”
Continues Katherine Shozawa, exhibition curator and gallery coordinator: “It’s been meaningful for Asian Arts Initiative to integrate social practices into our work as an organization by opening the exhibition planning process to community constituents, neighborhood partners and participants of our youth programs. We are growing a deliberate community-based exhibition planning process which is as important as the exhibition itself.”
The second part of PARTICIPATE is a visual timeline of Asian Arts Initiative’s history that invites viewers to add personal elements into the collective exhibition. The timeline will begin with three key geographical milestones, charted through personal snapshots and silhouettes of the buildings that have been home to Asian Arts Initiative — the organization’s roots at Old City’s Painted Bride (1993-1997), its move to the Gilbert Building in Chinatown (1997-2007) and its now-permanent headquarters on Vine Street in Chinatown North. Over the course of the exhibition’s four-month run, Asian Arts Initiative will invite community members to add to the timeline, sharing stories, photos and other memories.
The third component of PARTICIPATE focuses on the concept of “welcome,” which addresses the community’s day-to-day experience as visitors to Asian Arts Initiative, or members of a neighborhood, city or nation. PARTICIPATE welcomes viewers to a series of curated public programs on First Fridays in March, April and May that engage with communityand will include various participatory activities, in line with Asian Arts Initiative’s mission to encourage constituents to cultivate their own creativity. PARTICIPATE kicks off on Friday, February 7, with a First Friday opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m.
Asian Arts Initiative is located at 1219 Vine St., Philadelphia, PA 19107. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 12-6 p.m., and by special appointment. Admission to the gallery is free. For more information, call 215-557-4055 or visit www.asianartsinitiative.org.
Schedule of Events
PARTICIPATE: Asian Arts Initiative’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition
February 7 – May 23, 2014
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Opening Reception: Friday, February 7, 6-8 p.m.