Art illuminating Colorado’s refugee communities is fundraiser for APDC

Language of the Journey - APDC fundraiserHere are several reasons to attend this Friday’s very cool “Language of the Journey – Through the Eyes of Artists” fundraiser for the Asian Pacific Development Center.

First, the project is a showcase of artists at Metro State College’s Department of Art, led by professor Carlos Fresquez, one of Denver’s most talented veteran painters and muralists. The art reception includes over 70 pieces from painting to jewelry, all up for auction.

Second, the artwork spotlights the experiences of Colorado’s multicultural refugee communities. The artists spent time and got to know local refugees from diverse locations such as Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Sudan and Laos. You may have read in the past year about how Bhutanese and Burmese refugees have been attacked in Colorado, a sad irony since they came here to flee the violence and repression of their home countries. Colorado has welcomed refugees from all over the world for over 30 years. According to APDC, in 2010 alone, over 1,000 refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand came to Colorado.

Third, most of the proceeds from the artwork will go to the Asian Pacific Development Center. If you’re not familiar with it, APDC is a remarkable organization that’s provided culturally appropriate health and mental health and related services to the area’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities for over 30 years, including having interpreters on hand for immigrants who often have cultural values that prevent them from reaching out for help. APDC is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new central facility to replace the three separate smaller locations the organization currently operates.

Fourth, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Senator Mark Udall are the co-hosts for “Language of the Journey – Through the Eyes of Artists,” and Hancock will be there to offer his remarks. It’s always cool to rub shoulders with Hizzoner, who follows in the footsteps of previous Mayor Hickenlooper in his support of both the arts and the Asian community.

Fifth, how can you resist the super-cool poster for this event? It has the emotional punch, dynamism and energy of classic 1950s and ’60s graphic arts with its funky type treatment and evocative upheld arm.

The event is 6:30-8:30 pm Friday, Nov. 11 at Tears-McFarlane House (1290 Williams St., Denver), which some of you may know as the headquarters for Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, the folks who bring us the Capitol Hill Peoples Fair every year. Admission is $30 and you get to enjoy not just the artwork, but live glass blowing, live body art, live music, appetizers, wine and cupcakes — you know, the usual fundraiser stuff.

Be there or be square.

Next on visualizAsian: Kip Fulbeck – hapa artist, author, slam poet, professor

Kip Fulbeck is a mixed-race artist and performer
Photo by Suzanne Bernel

Think of it as a racial mashup. We’re living in an era when the President of the United States is multiracial, and we’re changing our perspectives on ethnic identity — especially what it means to be Asian American. We’re moving beyond single cultural identification. Many of us are connected to our ethnic heritage and add the layer of American culture. Hence, I’m both Japanese American and Asian American.

In addition, the richness of mixed-race America is going to continue to have a huge impact on the U.S. in the future.

For example, the Asian American community of the future will be a multicultural tapestry with a bright thread of mixed-race Asians. In the Japanese American population, the mixed-race fabric is already very evident — since the 1970s, JAs have married outside our own community more than any other group. So we’ve been familiar with the term “hapa” for decades.

I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to call mixed-race JAs “ai noko,” which literally translates as “love child,” or maybe “hafu” (“half”), and she would say it disparagingly (sadly, she’s not PC at all). Likewise, “hapa” is a Hawai’ian term that means “partial” — and it was used originally in a derogatory way, for “hapa haole,” or “half-white.” Although I know people who are offended by the use of the word hapa, it’s become a common term for mixed-race people of all ethnicities, not just Asians. I’ve heard it used within the black and Hispanic communities.

Because of the importance of the mixed-race AAPI community, Erin and I are proud to announce our next interview for Kip Fulbeck, an artist, author, performer, slam poet and….uh, professor! Kip’s ethnic background is Cantonese, English, Irish, and Welsh, and he’s nationally known for his exploration of mixed-race identity.

Our conversation with Kip Fulbeck will be on Tuesday, July 21 at 6 pm PT (9 pm ET). Continue reading

PostMimi: send a postcard with your Asian American secret

Psst… listen… do you want to know a secret? Fans of the ongoing art project “PostSecret” will be happy to see that an Asian American version of the idea has just launched.

Like the original, PostMimi is a site that invites Asian Americans to send in postcards expressing a secret (“mimi” means “secret” in Chinese). Well, I think the point is to have postcards but it looks like the site’s already getting just emails with text.

Here’s what Karen, the founder of PostMimi, has to say in her introductory blog post:

“MiMi” is the Chinese word for “secret.” What’s yours? Share your inner happiness, joys, sorrows, triumphs, and frustrations in being an Asian-American today. Sometimes, other people just don’t “get it,” but we can help each other.

NOTE(s): Do not think that your MiMi’s HAVE to be culturally related. Just make what comes organically. Your background and culture already colors how you perceive everything. Also, if you are not Asian-American, but have something to contribute, submissions from ALL people are welcome.

I would also like to encourage people to create response PostMiMi’s (aka Holler Back MiMi’s) to any that are posted on the blog. The goal is to get a dialogue going through pictures and words.

E-mail your lovely, thought-provoking, Asian-American creations to:

or, they can be mailed to:

Apt. 206
3215 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

All postcards will be kept anonymous.

I’ll have to think a bit about what secret I want to share… how about you?

Asian American artists’ hidden history (and my claim to almost-fame)

Asian Americans are finally showing up in American pop culture at large, but Asian American fine artists are still mostly invisible. Only a few have had notable — or rather, noted — careers in the art world.

When I was an art student, I didn’t think much of my heritage. You might say it was my “Banana Period.” As an artist, I didn’t appreciate my ethnicity, even when I was included in a group show of Japanese artists and my painting was bought by a famous playwright (keep reading below).

I simply didn’t identify myself as an Asian American artist. I was simply an artist, and the art I made was informed by my 8th grade art teacher, Julie Maiolo, my high school art teacher, Jay Filson, and all my professors (especially color theorist Mary Buckley), as well as the art history teachers and books I soaked up. Which meant my awareness of art was all Euro-centric.

In all of that art history and theory, what I knew of Asia in art was that calligraphy was beautiful, ink painting was hard but similar in process to watercolor, and that Japanese woodblocks inspired the French Impressionists that I loved so much.

So it’s understandable that I assumed any artist with an Asian name was Asian, not Asian American. For instance, for years I thought the sculptor Isamu Noguchi was Japanese, even though he was born in Los Angeles.

But now, the hidden history of Asian American artists is finally getting a jump start, thanks to two projects.

First is the first extensive exhibition of Asian American artists, “Asian/American/Modern Art: Shifting Currents, 1900–1970,” curated by the de Young Museum, part of the San Francisco Fine Art Museum (there’s a companion book available). The exhibit opened in October, and runs through late January. Then the work moves to the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City near New York.

Second is the publication of “Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970,” by Stanford University Press.
Continue reading