Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Launches Keystone Initiative for Permanent APA Gallery

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The pale-blue dress worn by Constance Wu in “Crazy Rich Asians” was displayed during the gala. Marchesa donated the dress, featured in a pivotal scene in “Crazy Rich Asians” to the National Museum of American History. Standing next to the dress is Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. At the podium is Theodore S. Gonzalves, Ph.D., curator of Asian Pacific American history at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (Photos by TERESA LUND)

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, a migratory museum that shares Asian Pacific American history, art, and culture through innovative community-focused experiences, has announced the launch of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Keystone Initiative, which is designed to rally support for the first permanent exhibition gallery space dedicated to the APA experience in Washington, D.C.

The initiative was announced at the Smithsonian’s inaugural annual event, The Party, on May 18 in Los Angeles, which honored APAs transforming American culture.

Lisa Sasaki, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, celebrates the achievements of Asian Pacific Americans at The Party, a gala celebration on May 18.

The Keystone Initiative seeks to raise over $25 million in Phase 1 of fundraising for the gallery space. Funding will also provide support for programs, curator positions and internships, and collections that will increase the presence of APA stories across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and nine research centers of the Smithsonian.

“The American story is richer, more compelling, and more powerful when it includes the contributions and struggles of Asian Pacific Americans,” said Lisa Sasaki, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. “Through the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Keystone Initiative, we seek to deepen America’s understanding of the Asian Pacific American experience and recognize 200 years of this community’s contributions in ways that stretch across the entire Smithsonian Institution and the nation.”

Elizabeth An, Helene An and other members of the An family were recognized.

The Keystone Initiative not only aims to preserve the past but also looks to the future, with the goal to increase opportunities for Asian Pacific American students and museum professionals within the Smithsonian, helping to create the next generation of scholars, curators, and leaders. The initiative will establish endowments that ensure the ongoing funding of Asian Pacific American staffing, programs, exhibitions, and collections.

“For over 200 years, Asian Pacific Americans have been an integral part of America’s cultural fabric,” said Rep. Doris O. Matsui (D-Sacramento), Smithsonian regent and a member of the center’s Advisory Board. “It is time for our struggles to be recognized and our diverse contributions honored within the respected halls of America’s Smithsonian Institution.”

June Kuramoto of Hiroshima performs. The Japanese American jazz band was recognized for their role in transforming culture.

The launch of the Keystone Initiative at The Party was accompanied by special performances by hip hop and R&B phenom Jay Park, iconic jazz band Hiroshima, “Crazy Rich Asians” singers Katherine Ho and Cheryl Koh, as well as New York-based rock band Andy Suzuki & The Method.

Spotted in attendance were Terrence Howard, Debbie Allen, Tia Carrere, Norm Nixon, Hudson Yang, Rep. Maxine Waters, Janice Min, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Mark Takano, Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Akira Chiba, Jose Antonio Vargas and more.

Reps. Mark Takano, Doris Matsui and Ted Lieu with actor Harry Shum Jr.

Spanning categories including Culinary Arts, Music, and Sports, The Party honored Helene An, the chef known as “the mother of fusion cuisine,” and her family; Hiroshima, the Grammy-nominated and first Asian American R&B jazz band; Jay Park, the multi-platinum global hip-hop and R&B artist, choreographer, entrepreneur, and songwriter; and Vivek Ranadive, the founder of TIBCO and owner of the Sacramento Kings.

“The Party celebrated the indelible contributions of Asian Pacific Americans to the American experience,” said Sasaki. “From music to technology, sports to entertainment, these modern history makers inspire Americans of every ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic background by demolishing barriers and challenging time-worn stereotypes with their talents, perseverance, and ingenuity.”

Sponsors of The Party included Presenting Platinum Sponsor, legal powerhouse Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP; Gold Sponsor, SeAH Holdings; Silver Sponsor, the An family of the House of AN; Patron Sponsor, Julia and Ken Gouw, J&K Gouw Foundation, and Joan Shigekawa.

Jay Park (center) performs.

Andy Suzuki and The Method

About Lisa Sasaki

Lisa Sasaki is responsible for setting the mission and vision of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; leading the development of exhibitions, public programs and digital initiatives about APA history, art and culture; and coordinating the center’s fundraising and budget advancement.

As the director of the Audience and Civic Engagement Center at the Oakland Museum of California, she was responsible for the museum’s marketing and communications, public programs, school and teacher programs, community engagement and visitor services departments. Sasaki led the museum’s audience development initiative, which helped double the museum visitation in four years.

Prior to that, Sasaki was the director of program development at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles (2003–2012), where she directed major institutional projects. During her tenure at JANM, she supervised the museum’s curatorial, public programs, web, education, and collections departments and managed and led the strategic planning for programs, exhibitions, audience development and fundraising.

Previously, Sasaki was a museum curator at the Southeastern Colorado Heritage Center in Pueblo and the assistant collections manager at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Sasaki earned her bachelor’s degree in history and archaeology from Cornell University and her master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Denver. She currently serves on the advisory council for the Council of American Jewish Museums and is the board president of the Western Museums Association. She is a guest lecturer for the museum studies graduate program at John F. Kennedy University and has also lectured internationally for ICOM-China and the Museums and Galleries of Queensland.

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