On the Basis for Gallery Talks - A one on one approach designed to awaken and engage personal identities and culturally diverse sensibilities and integrate a stronger sense of self into our highly systematized society. 2001
An Interpretive Approach for the Traditional Arts - The special value of traditional arts & master folk artists in an Asian ethnic enclave is crucial to understand the "realpolitik" of cultural survival in a NYC subculture. 1996
On the Basis for Gallery Talks
Gallery talks were undertaken to test an approach designed to awaken and integrate culturally diverse sensibilities into a highly systematized society. A method of personal encounter with an art work in relation to one’s own background/ethnicity was developed. The goal was to open a viewer’s eyes, to becoming aware of their eyes and becoming conscious of what is learned intuitively subliminally mythically, combining this with cognitive faculties to shape meanings and conclusions. This is the nature of looking at art. Done well, art can re-establish its place in our daily lives in a culture that has lost its connection to this primordial ability. An arts institution such as AAAC premised on three pillars – art, community, and Asianness - unlike other institutions, aims to contribute what was lacking in the US before the 1960s - ethnic awareness, ethnic history, personal knowledge and shaping an ability to see a different future for how one may want to live one’s own life, and ultimately an ability to envision a future for this nation less dominated by materialism. As a facilitator, at other times, as an example of leadership, I have sought to open a perceptual door closed to most people. Doing this with young children has demonstrated how diversity and visual focusing games can be integrated seamlessly as a valid, enriching and fundamental addition to their education. In a statement on Multicultural Education drafted for the NYC Board of Education by AAAC in 1994 stated, “It is in the meeting of people who are different, not in a crowd but one on one, in a reliance on first hand primary sources, where personal identities and values are engaged that education comes alive. A book can only be secondary to the human encounter which needs to take place.”
An Interpretive Approach for the Traditional Arts
The Arts Centre's Traditional Arts program aims to research and present the traditional arts as art practices with spiritual, ethical, health, and communal components. Far from naive, these folk art/life practices serve to maintain a satisfying balance in life. The Arts Centre is mindful of traditional art's potential to offer contemporary perceptions an equanimity that has eluded the stress of modern conceits and the pursuit of excellence.
Community organizations reflect the dynamics of their community. They retain their existence through an interlocking growth relationship with their community, preserving their history and reinventing their creative cultures. Community Arts organizations unlike major institutions, take their spark of life from the tumult, confusion and anguish of an unstable existence suppressed by a racial and cultural majority. Such organizations negotiate a relationship between the mainstream and their community's subculture. In seeking to institutionalize, they pass on their special outlook and characteristic procedures to the next generation of culture workers. Community arts organizations are a storehouse of racial and cultural knowledge unique to their context. The cultural work of diverse people provides an entry point, both for understanding this "real politic" dynamic, and for understanding the reality of difference. They are a gateway for artists, staff, interns, members, volunteers, and audience, a window to see and grasp art in a subculture.
Traditional artists themselves have multiple orientations: they may simply remember fondly the past and continue their art practice within the context of their own social peers; they may find a way to adapt their traditional practices to their modern life; they may consciously resist modern ways; they may affirm traditional ways as a contribution to contemporary life; or their art form may embody a clear outlook and philosophy enriching contemporary diversity and ambiguity.
The Art of traditional practices in a community context is inflected by the historical American struggle to legitimize and celebrate diversity. The Arts Centre's presentation of traditional art in a community context aims not at quality so much as truth. The Arts Centre seeks to maintain the integrity of its community's cultural transformation. The interpretation of traditional Asian arts within the context of the United States begins with this fundamental premise.
"The Gold Mountain Road"
mainstream, and its new web site program is "The Gold Mountain Road".
ASIAN AMERICAN ARTS CENTRE ARTISTIC STATEMENT
Asian artists in America are in a unique position to draw from asian, western and international sources. These artists are pioneers in breaking new ground of artistic exploration. Nurtured by the modern milieu and the individual freedoms that are integral to Western society, yet confronted by a heritage of spiritual and philosophical probity, Asian American artists have the opportunity to face a personal congruence between issues of identity, aesthetic sensibility and the crisis of western thought.
Asian American artists work however, ranges widely in intent and character. Asian elements and their
generative role are frequently reflected in this body of work. This art increasingly carries with it a
consciousness of racial and cultural identities, as well as the issues that plague our cities. A critical view of artists and their work according to racial and cultural connections reveals lines of interpretation of the contemporary context of change and fragmentation. The historical experience of Asians in America plays a key role in this interpretation. Examining traditional folk forms help to reinterpret continuity between the past and contemporary artists work. One of the Arts Centre's goals is to elucidate this critical viewpoint. A secondary goal is to implement an educational context in public schools based on this view point.
The work of Asian American artists enables people of Asian background to see authentic images of
themselves, to see their beliefs and values expressed in tangible forms, dispite the seamlessness of a mass media environment. Identity issues of an asian ethnic group, it should be emphasized, have not been the central goals of the Arts Centre. Artistic issues remain primary. This has been a strategic response to the defining issues of this century, ie. the conflict between East and West. (For some, this conflict has now been resituated as a northern/southern hemisphere issue.)
Artistic ideas and innovations cross fertilize one another through multiple connections. The Arts Centre supports the growth of a diverse cultural sensibility. The Arts Centre seeks to bring Asian artists and their communities together, to open these communities to the multiple cultures and creative energies that hold the seeds to a new society.
In 1974, when the Arts Centre began, very few Asian American artists had received more than token
attention. Now in 1990, Asian American artists are visible participants in the cultural life of many cities. The Arts Centre has played a role in the development of this change. For many years, both the Archive and the Exhibition program, focused on Asian American artists, were the only programs of its kind in the nation. Traditional Asian dance was rarely seen. Contemporary Asian dance was almost nonexistant. The ongoing mission, to establish Asian American artists, their historical presence and aesthetic contribution has had some fruitful results. Programs based on the Arts Centre has developed in other parts of the nation. Artists such as Ti Shan Hsu, Toshio Sasaki, Yong Soon Min, Arlan Huang, Tetsu Okuhara, Bing Lee, Ming Fay, Mel Chin, Margo Machida, Emily Cheng, Ming Mur Ray, Martin Wong, Lily Yeh, Zhang Hongtu, Ik Joong Kang, Byron Kim, Kip Fulbeck, Albert Chong, Dinh Le, Nuyen Long, Zarina, Tai Dang, Ken Chu, Xu Bing, Tomia Arai, Dorothy Imaguire, Li Lan, Ling Ling, Mo Bahc, Kazuko, Chihung Yang, Helen Oji, Charles Yuen, and many others had all been exhibited early in their careers at the Arts Centre.
Such performing artists as the following have all performed with or received grants through the Arts
Centre: Barbara Chang , Satoru Shimazaki, Sun Ok Lee, Saeko Ichinohe, Audrey Jung, Muna Tseng,
Junko Kikuchi, Naini Chen, Frank Lee, Kei Okada, East West Fusion, Swati Bhise, Kuang Yu Fong, Tomie Hahn, Fred Ho, Wu Shao Ping, Jo Humphrey, Janaki Patrik, Yung Yung Tsuai.
by Robert Lee
Written under FAQ in About artasiamerica these remarks can be found.