Friday, March 31, 2017
Louis Chan Exhibits Work at Pearl River Mart

Louis Chan, an Asian American photographer, exhibited his work at the Pearl River Mart. "The larger-than-life pictures from out latest artist-in-residence," Pearl River Mart's official blog states, "explore New York City immigrants' live in America through their possessions and how they display them."

Photo by Bob Lee

Photo by Bob Lee
"Founded in 1971, Pearl River Mart is an eclectic emporium where you can find one-of-a-kind Asian-inspired home furnishings, fashion and everything in between. A beloved destination for people from all over the globe, Pearl River has become symbolic of the uniqueness, authenticity and multi-culturalism of New York City." 

To read an official interview with Louis Chan, conducted by Pearl River Mart: https://www.pearlriver.com/blogs/blog/louis-chan-artist-in-residence-explores-homes-and-belonging

For more information about Pearl River: https://www.pearlriver.com
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The Asian American Arts Centre is proud to provide the final version of the People's Cultural Plan! It will be officially made for public view soon.

It is important to note that everything posted on our blog pre-dates this version.

The People's Cultural Plan for Working Artists and Communities in New York City

Inequity in arts and culture is a persistent problem in New York City. The worsening climate of fear, intolerance, and fascism, especially affecting immigrants and people of color, must be countered with more than lip service in support of “diversity”: Only by implementing true equity in all city policies will the most vulnerable be protected from the multiple crises facing our communities.
Displacement and dispossession (also known by the euphemism “gentrification”) are the greatest threats to culture in NYC, because culture is rooted in place, and skyrocketing rent threatens to displace working class black communities and communities of color, working artists, and underfunded arts organizations. The contracting of real estate development firms James Lima Planning + Development and BJH Advisors LLC as NYC Cultural Plan consultants indicates that yet again, arts and culture are being used as a Trojan Horse to usher in still more displacement and dispossession. We demand a plan that calls for the elimination of these pro-developer policies and rezonings, for an immediate rent freeze, and for the development of more just rent control policies at the State and City levels.

The exclusion of artists and workers of color and the exploitation of artists and low- wage workers has always been a threat to culture in NYC. But in combination with the housing crisis, that threat is compounded, pushing most artists, especially those who are working-class people of color, elders or disabled, close to their breaking point. From low-wage workers servicing museums, to underpaid administrators of nonprofit organizations, to the unpaid labor of artists—workers across the supply chain contribute to making the arts a multi-billion dollar industry. We demand a plan that insures truly equitable inclusion (not tokenization) of artists and cultural workers of color, equitable and adequate wages, employee benefits, job protection, and upward mobility for all artists and cultural workers.

Cultural funding is among the most inequitably distributed resources in NYC, and the policies of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) exacerbate that inequity by giving nearly 60% of its funding to Manhattan alone out of the five boroughs, and almost 80% of its funding to only 33 of the 1,000+ organizations funded. Inadequate funding to oppressed and exploited communities – and austerity in public services generally – operates in tandem with real estate development schemes to displace communities; inadequate funding to small and POC-run organizations makes it difficult to pay adequate wages and artist fees. We demand a plan with generous and equitable public cultural funding that directs all increases in DCLA funding to the neighborhoods, organizations, and artists who need it the most, rather than to institutions that are already receiving generous allocations, many of which are not adequately serving the communities they purport to.

We, the people, a multi-racial coalition of artists, culture workers and tenants from the many neighborhoods of NYC, demand a cultural plan with concrete policies to: 1. End displacement and dispossession in NYC; 2. Insure truly equitable inclusion of artists and cultural workers of color & equitable wages for all artists and cultural workers; 3. Distribute public funding equitably; and 4. Commit to rectifying the documented history of neglect, disinvestment and theft from communities, organizations, and artists of color in NYC, by investing new funds for these groups and supporting their self- determination. We further demand that changes in funding and housing policies be subject to community control – that the neighborhoods to be affected by policy changes determine the specifics. The most crucial component of equity is equity in power and in decision-making, and we will accept nothing less.

Because we recognize that indigenous communities, black communities and all communities of color have been disproportionately disenfranchised through historically unjust policy making at the municipal, state, and federal levels, as well as through the de facto funding priorities of private philanthropy, we call on the DCLA to endorse and support all of the following demands in its Cultural Plan for New York City, and we call on The State and City of New York to implement the necessary legislation that will lead to true equity for all New Yorkers.
As a sanctuary city, any cultural plan for New York must be supportive of the lives an contributions of tribally-enrolled indigenous people, black communities, communities of
color, and immigrants.
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Wing on Wo & Company Turns in Site for Asian American Activism

On March 26, 2017, the Museum of Chinese in America hosted an event for the Wing on Wo (W.O.W) & Company.

Audience Members

The W.O.W & Company Project's mission is to "engage the community to shape the future of Chinatown by bringing together youth, elders, business owners, and concerned residents in a conversation and innovate idea generation." This past week, W.O.W & Company organized "Residency: Artist Talk + Arts & Activism Roundtable," which was organized by artist Melissa Liu.

Mei Lum, a Sponsor at W.O.W & Company, introduces the guest speakers

The event kicked off with Mei Lum, a sponsor at W.O.W & Company, introducing guest speakers Ryan Wong and Jay Koo.
The Experience of Trauma, within the Chinese community, is rarely discuss. Jay Koo Brings this Topic Into Conversation, Which Will Hopefully Prompt More Recognition and Research Towards the Overlooked Issue.


Ryan Wong, a Curator at MoCA, Talks About the New Form of Activism Within Chinatown, Including the Barriers the Come With Them

Ryan Presented a Slide That Features Contributions,  Made by theAsian American Arts Centre, to the Community

Afterwards, Lum allowed Liu to lead the roundtable discussion. "The roundtable on art and activism in Asian American communities," W.O.W & Company's official statement explains, "will focus on the relationship between art and social change, gentrification, and bridging cultural and international gaps, as well as activism around Asian/Asian American representations in the arts." Activists from The Yellow Jackets and An/other NY were guest speakers at the panel.

The Yellow Jackets & An/other NY

The Yellow Jackets & An/other NY

The Yellow Jackets, as well as An/other NY, are a group of Asian American activists who helped protest an exhibition, featured in SPRING/BREAK, entitled "Show Mein." In the show, Asian American food and culture became (yet another) victim to stereotyping. Here is a statement from An/other NY: https://www.facebook.com/ANOTHERNY/posts/799595050179273

Melissa Liu (劉慧慈) also talked about her work, an oral history project entitled "Chinatown Diaspora: Red Envelop Oral Histories." Here is an official statement from W.O.W & Company:

"[At the Artist in Residency Event,] Participants will have the opportunity to design and make their own red envelopes, in which they will place a question to share with a family member or friend from an older generation and collect a written response from. Participants will also receive basic training on how to conduct an oral history interview within their community, and have a safe space to discuss issues that Asian communities face in today’s political moment.

Through her window display project, Melissa hopes that the exchange of questions through red envelopes between younger and older generations will spark deeper conversations and moments of empathy that can help bridge intergenerational understanding in Chinatowns and Asian American communities through shared Lunar New Year traditions, and also result in the sharing of stories, experiences, and memories from the Asian Diaspora with locals and street passersby."

Melissa Liu Talking About Her Work

Here is Melissa Liu's official statement on her work:

"I developed this oral history project from the realization that there is often an understanding and cultural gap between older generations who grew up in different circumstances and those of us who have been raised as 'Asian Americans.' ...Oral history is a practice rooted in listening and privileging a narrator in a conversation, and therefore a tool that lends itself naturally to this work... My longterm goal is for those who have been part of this project to continue creating safe spaces to discuss issues that Asian communities have confronted in the past and face in today’s political moment. The window display at Wing On Wo & Co. is a place to share what has come out of a series of oral history workshops I have held with participants who identify with the Asian Diaspora.

Though red envelopes containing money are passed from those of married age and older to younger generations, I have encouraged participants to reverse this exchange by giving their handmade red envelopes to someone from an older generation in their family or community. But rather than money, the red envelope will be exchanged with a question, opening up an opportunity for a conversation to happen."

For more information about Wing on Wo & Company: http://www.wingonwoand.co
For more information about An/other NY: https://www.facebook.com/ANOTHERNY/
For more information about Melissa Liu and her project: http://www.wingonwoand.co/artist-residency/

*All photographs were taken by Bob Lee
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Monday, March 27, 2017
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In recent news, (President) Donald Trump has announced plans to exterminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), as well as the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), in an attempt to balance the Federal Budget. According to National Priorities Project, the Federal Budget in 2016 was approximately $3.871 trillion. According to their websites, both the NEA and the NEH spent around $148,000,000 within the budget, which is, according to Washington Post’s Philip Bump, is only 0.03% of the overall budget. Despite these statistics, Trump believes that these organizations should still be defunded, and even terminated.

The defunding of the NEA and NEH could lead to devastating consequences, especially for community-oriented 
artists and organizations, as Dr. Marta Moreno Vega explains in her article entitled, “Eliminating the NEA Will Disproportionately Hurt Communities of Color”:

“Slashing federal art funding will not only have a disproportionate effect on organizations of color, it will also further limit access to funds at the city and state levels. Those communities with the most need for arts and culture programs stand to lose big from these measures.”

To put this idea into perspective, she highlights efforts made by the Caribbean Cultural Center (CCCADI). They had held an annual event, “Trade/itions: Trans-Atlantic Orisha Sacred Traditions,” last February, that attracted “hundreds of members of the African Diaspora from across the U.S. and the Caribbean.” There, they framed “Black sacred and cultural traditions as key elements in the movement for social justice.” Community gatherings, on that scale, would be possible without the held of federal funding — the NEA partially funded the event. Now, with the NEA under threat, community-based organizations and events will be in serious trouble. She provides further explanation:

“According to a 2011 research report by Holly Sidford for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the top 2 percent of American arts organizations with budgets over $5 million are those that receive significant foundation grants.
These organizations predominantly focus on Eurocentric arts. Very few organizations ‘rooted primarily in non-European aesthetics, or founded and run by people of color [have budgets of over $5 million].’ Only 10 percent of grant dollars benefit art groups that represent the ethnic and cultural diversity of the nation.”

These cuts extend beyond marginalized communities, and may effect state and city institutions. “Slashing federal art funding,” Vega writes, “will not only have a disproportionate effect on organizations of color, it will also further limit access to funds at the city and state levels. Those communities with the most need for arts and culture programs stand to lose big from these measures.” This means that schools who provide programs, as well as training for educators, that aim to enforce multicultural experiences, will be a victim. 

“Beyond the financial implications,” Vega writes, “eliminating the NEA would exact a symbolic toll. Trump’s budget proposal clearly outlines, in his view, what aspects of human experience are worthy of our taxpayer dollars—war, yes; art, no. It also seeks to define who gets to speak, who has the right to culture, and who has a license to creativity. It silences and de-values many of the individuals that have built this nation.” Authentic representation of different marginalized communities — elite institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Lincoln Center only scratch the surface of the rich and complex narratives each individual artist holds. 

The Asian American Arts Centre lived from 1976 to 2009. We survived, and were able to squeak by largely because of NEA funding, particularly the Expansion Arts Program — which got cut and, eventually, eliminate because of Senator Jesse Holmes. The program was the watchwork for who we are, and who we continue to be: a cultural institution deeply rooted in, and a part of, our community.

To quote Vega, “It is the responsibility of each of us to call, write, demonstrate, and stand up to the attempts to silence our freedom. We must speak louder than ever through our creativity, our art. Anything else would be an affront to our nation’s promise of embracing the full spectrum of human experience.”

The full article can be found here:
https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-eliminating-nea-will-disproportionately-hurt-communities-color

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Friday, March 24, 2017
Controversy Around Emmett Till Painting in Whitney Museum of American Art

Recently, activists and black artists are protesting a painting by Dana Schultz, who based her artwork on the portraits of Emmett Till, that's included in the Biennial exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York.


"Open Casket"
Dana Schultz (2016)
Biennial Exhibitions in the Whitney Museum of American Art
All Credit Goes to the Artist

Here is more from The New York Times:

"An African-American artist, Parker Bright, has conducted peaceful protests in front of the painting since Friday, positioning himself, sometimes with a few other protesters, in front of the work to partly block its view. He has engaged museum visitors in discussions about the painting while wearing a T-shirt with the words 'Black Death Spectacle' on the back. Another protester, Hannah Black, a British-born black artist and writer working in Berlin, has written a letter to the biennial’s curators, Mia Locks and Christopher Y. Lew, urging that the painting be not only removed from the show but also destroyed.

'The subject matter is not Schutz’s,” Ms. Black wrote in a Facebook message that has been signed by more than 30 other artists she identifies as nonwhite. “White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.'


The protest has found traction on Twitter, where some commenters have called for destruction of the painting and others have focused on what they view as an ill-conceived attempt by Ms. Schutz to aestheticize an atrocity."


The curation of the Biennial Exhibition is extremely significant, as highlighted by Hyperallergic:

"The 2017 Whitney Biennial is more diverse than the last: about half of this year’s included artists are female, and about half are non-white. Curated by [Mia] Locks and [Christopher Y.] Lew — the youngest curators to organize this long-running exhibition to date, and both Asian-American — the show grapples with current social issues and identity politics; its artists depict the horrors of hate crime, police brutality, and gun violence...Yesterday, [Parker] Bright met with Locks and Lew. 'Nothing was resolved, but it was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had,' he told Hyperallergic. 'It means a lot. I never thought I’d get that close. I don’t think the Met would talk to me, or a lot of other big institutions.' In light of this year’s Biennial, however, Bright says he would avoid working with the Whitney if given the option, and encourages other artists of color to consider their affiliations carefully. “If anything is going to change, it has to come from the white art community,” he said. “We need white allies to help stand up for us, but not talk over us.”

The curators also highlight the importance of empathy:

“The 2017 Whitney Biennial brings to light many facets of the human experience, including conditions that are painful or difficult to confront such as violence, racism, and death...Many artists in the exhibition push in on these issues, seeking empathetic connections in an especially divisive time.” It’s easy to be become dismissive or contemptuous of either side of the fence, and continued discourse is our only hope. In these dangerous Trump times, if we don’t find ways to talk to each other, we are in deep trouble."

It is important to know how to read and understand what a white institution does when it brings on, for the first time, Asian American curators by giving them seemingly a free hand in their curatorial choices. These two curators were simply following orders, yet they are the ones who are receiving the harder-end of the fallout of the controversy. Thankfully, they are trying to communicate with the different community members in order to expand their perspectives on the issue.

Ultimately, the issues surrounding the painting are extremely complex and will most likely not be resolved for a long time: it's a progressive debate that will only continue to develop as human consciousness does. In the end, there are two possible outcomes: either the protesters will give up, or they will continue to advocate for the painting's removal until it is done.

-Bob

The full Hyperallergic article can be viewed here:
http://hyperallergic.com/367012/protesters-block-demand-removal-of-a-painting-of-emmett-till-at-the-whitney-biennial/
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Thursday, March 23, 2017
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Hello!

During these next few days, the People's Cultural Plan are hosting a series of community events, throughout New York City, pertaining to #WeCreateNYC #CreateEquityNYC, the People’s Cultural Plan, town halls being coordinated by arts/cultural groups as well as many feedback events (both live and virtual) being offered by #CreateNYC. 

Here is an official statement from the People's Cultural Plan for Working Artists and Communities in New York City:

The People's Cultural Plan 
for Working Artists and Communities in New York City

Inequity in arts and culture is a persistent problem in New York City. The worsening climate of fear, intolerance, and fascism, especially affecting people of color, must be countered with more than lip service in support of diversity: Only by implementing true equity in all city policies will the most vulnerable be protected from the multiple crises facing our communities. As a sanctuary city, any cultural plan must be supportive of the lives and contributions of communities of color and immigrants.

Displacement and gentrification are the greatest threats to culture in NYC, because culture is rooted in place, and skyrocketing rent threatens to displace working class black communities and communities of color, working artists, and underfunded arts organizations. The contracting of real estate development firms James Lima Planning + Development and BJH Advisors LLC as NYC Cultural Plan consultants indicates that yet again, arts and culture are being used as a Trojan Horse to usher in still more gentrification and displacement. We demand a plan that calls for the elimination of these pro-developer policies and rezonings, for an immediate rent freeze, and for the development of more just rent control policies at the State and City levels.

The exploitation of artists and other low-wage workers has always been a threat to culture in NYC, but in combination with the housing crisis, that threat places most artists, especially those who are working-class people of color, close to their breaking point. From low-wage workers servicing museums, to underpaid administrators of nonprofit organizations, to the unpaid labor of artists—workers across the supply chain contribute to making the arts a multi-billion dollar industry.  We demand a plan that insures equitable and adequate wages and employee benefits and protections to artists and workers in the field of culture, and additional supports to artists and workers of color

Cultural funding is among the most inequitably distributed resources in NYC, and the policies of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) exacerbate that inequity by giving nearly 60% of its funding to Manhattan alone out of the five boroughs, and almost 80% of its funding to only 33 of the 1,000+ organizations funded. Inadequate funding to poor neighborhoods – and austerity in public services generally – operates in tandem with real estate development schemes to displace communities; inadequate funding to small and POC-run organizations makes it difficult to pay adequate wages and artist fees. We demand a plan with generous and equitable public cultural funding that directs all increases in DCLA funding to the neighborhoods, organizations, and artists who need it the most, rather than to institutions that are already receiving generous allocations, many of which are not adequately serving the communities they purport to.

We, the people, demand a cultural plan with concrete policies to: 1. End displacement and gentrification in NYC; 2. Insure equitable wages for artists and cultural workers; 3. Distribute public funding equitably; and 4. Provide additional supports to communities, organizations, and artists of color, to begin to rectify the documented history of neglect and disinvestment for these groups in NYC. 
We further demand that changes in funding and housing policies be subject to community control – that the neighborhoods to be affected by policy changes determine the specifics. The most crucial component of equity is equity in power and in decision-making, and we will accept nothing less. 


Contact: peoplesculturalplan@gmail.com
The calendar link below will provide information pertaining to the the scheduled events, such as the National Endowment for the Arts Rally, on April 3. Here is the link to the full schedule:

https://wecreatenyc2017.tumblr.com/post/157627917755/a-calendar-for-us-to-use

The calendar will continually be updated by the People's Cultural Plan.

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