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Activism Culture

Using Art To Share The Asian American Migration Experience

Through the power of art, even the most complex stories of immigration and assimilation can be expressed.

Located on the 1200 block of Vine Street, the Asian Arts Initiative has linked art and communities since 1993. AAI is a multidisciplinary arts center dedicated to exploring experiences of Asian Americans and bridging dialogue with diverse communities.

Founded as a result of the racial tensions between Korean Americans and African Americans after the Rodney King verdict and LA riots in 1992, AAI’s mission is to create community and promote social justice and racial equity. How can it be accomplished? Well, through art.

AAI offers exhibitions, performances, artist residencies, youth workshops, and a community gathering space that explores cultural expression and social change. People of all skill levels, age, race, and class backgrounds can view and create art that reflect their lives.

AAI’s latest exhibition, Hurry Up and Wait encounters the tensions between policy and humanity during migration. The exhibition highlighted three components of the migration process: the voyage, the arrival, and the acclimation to a new life.

“What we really wanted to compile with this body of work was thinking about immigration actually as an experience, as something that we embody whether or not we were actually on a boat or on a plane or in some kind of vehicle to get over here,” said Adriel Luis, the curator of Hurry Up and Wait. “It’s something that affects all of us.”

Melissa Chen, AAI’s program and communications assistant, used art to connect with her family’s past and to better understand her family’s history of migration – first from southern China to Cambodia and later from Cambodia to the United States as refugees.

Chen utilized text and images found in history textbooks and her parents’ English as a Second Language (ESL) workbooks to create her featured piece in the exhibition, called “Is this a map or a clock?”

“My piece specifically is trying to engage with the relationship between time and space,” said Chen. It’s just trying to look at the ways that people can change, or like language can change when they’re taken out of their original environment, and how they react to these new experiences, and also with the expectations that they have.”

The exhibition is free and will be available until December 15.

You can view Sylvia and Marianna’s video here.