SAN FRANCISCO — This May, to celebrate national Asian Pacific American Heritage (APAH) month, the Asian Art Museum shines a (digital) spotlight on the achievements and cultural impact of a wide-ranging community of creators.
The museum has expanded its art experiences to encompass a full suite of #MuseumFromHome online offerings, transforming the “virtual museum” into a digital clearinghouse for anyone in search of inspiration and connection in this time of shelter-in-place and social distancing.
“We’re the largest museum devoted to Asian art and culture in the U.S., located in a city and region that is home to the largest percentage of Asians and Asian Americans in the country. This means we can offer a unique perspective on the value of intercultural bridge-building and understanding during this time of increasing anti-Asian sentiment and action,” says Jay Xu, Barbara Bass Bakar director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum. “Through contemporary artists talks, writing workshops, and compelling, collaborative online content, the ‘virtual’ Asian Art Museum is a place of cultural enrichment and exchange, celebrating the APA community whose many contributions have shaped the spirit of the Bay Area — and the nation — for generations.”
Marquee APAH programs take place each Thursday evening in May, with tickets available via the museum’s calendar webpage:
• May 7 – Ensemble Mik Nawooj: Bay Area-based hip-hop orchestra showcases some of its “meta music” by sampling hip-hop and classical. Join a conversation with the ensemble about their innovative musical style.
• May 14 – Writing the Storm: Poetry in Upheaval Writing Workshop with author Jason Bayani. Explore how we can access mindfulness in times of upheaval and disruption to fulfill our need to create, document, and unravel our experiences.
• May 21 – Zen and Self-Cultivation. Rev. Takafumi Kawakami, live from the Shunkoin Temple in Kyoto, Japan, leads us in a practice of self-cultivation and personal resilience.
• May 28 – Acting, Healing, Learning: Artist Talk with Chanel Miller, Jas Charanjiva, Jenifer K Wofford, all artists the museum has commissioned for new public work; hosted by Abby Chen, head of contemporary art.
The museum’s own online engagement efforts have continued to expand since California’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect in mid-March, and APA Heritage Month remains a critical opportunity to deepen connections across the cultural sphere:
• A new partnership with Google Arts & Culture launching in May includes online presentations of museum exhibitions, highlighting some of the most compelling and beautiful artworks featured at the museum. Anyone anywhere can experience the richness and complexity of 6,000 years of Asian art, including:
• Hundreds of highlights from across the museum’s collection spanning all of Asia, as well as contemporary feminist art commissions.
• A special reprisal of “Philippine Art: Collecting Art, Collecting Memories,” an unprecedented exhibition — one of the first in the U.S. to present Philippine art from the precolonial period to the present — and the result of more than a decade of study and collecting by the museum’s curatorial team.
• Like many arts organizations, the museum’s Instagram account remains the best place to engage with its community of culture-lovers. Engagement on the museum’s Instagram has increased 744% since shelter-in-place took effect in mid-March and 59% across its social media platforms overall. Followers can check in daily for thematic content that changes every week — from pandemic-inspired Hair-stories to dance and music to cooking demos for your shelter-in-place nourishment needs.
• APAH Month welcomes an innovative rhino-themed collaboration with the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens — the first of its kind in San Francisco between an arts organization and a zoological society — celebrating the artistic legacy and inspiration of the rhinoceros in Asian art and culture, including the museum’s mascot masterpiece “Reina,” while underscoring the rising conservation challenges facing wild rhinos during the pandemic.
• The museum is proud to once again partner with Mayor London Breed’s APA Celebration Committee, joining the Center for Asian American Media, San Francisco Public Library and others in an online salute to the community through a slate of film, literary and other programs for audiences of all ages. More info at apasf.org.
• May 2020 was initially slated to see the unveiling of the Asian Art Museum’s multiyear, multimillion-dollar transformation and expansion (postponed to later this year). Now, the art, craft, food, and music that would have welcomed visitors on-site have moved online, bringing APAH into your home:
• Behind-the-scenes peeks into the Asian Art Museum for those interested in what it takes to keep a museum running.
• Storytelling tours from our galleries that bring the collection to life.
• Guided meditations from Zen masters to help us find a moment of calm when we most need it, and art that will bring you some peace.
• Art making activities for crafters of all ages, including special learning packets released each week celebrating important APA artists, containing a brief biography of the artist and lesson plans. Featuring artists Jade Snow Wong, Arthur Okamura, Kay Sekimachi, Chiura Obata, Bernice Bing, Carlos Villa, Ruth Asawa, Ernie Kim, and Leo Valledor.
• Fun-filled cooking demos and recipes from Bay Area chefs like Molly Kitamura, Felicity Chen, and Christine Yi of Potli, as well as museum executive chef and New York Times-bestselling cookbook author Deuki Hong.
• Interviews with installation artist Jean Shin, exploring the environmental impact of our obsession with technology.
• Coloring Books from community mural artists.
• The museum’s high school interns have been leading workshops and activities online, including downloadable mindfulness zines.
• Zoom backgrounds from the museum collection are available to brighten your day, impress your colleagues, and show off your appreciation of Asian art.
• A week-long pop-up Spring Artisan Market in May (including special artist-designed face masks) will offer an eye-catching antidote to the usual online shopping experience and a great way to support local makers.
“Our pivot to becoming a ‘virtual museum’ was an essential move at a difficult time, and it has allowed us to deepen engagement with our existing audiences and appeal to new audiences online. I’m incredibly proud of my colleagues and institutional partners who have shown just how resilient cultural communities can be in a challenging moment,” continues Xu. “Resilience is grounded in empathy, compassion, and also staying nimble as the world around us changes — values that have always guided how we share our amazing collection, the stories we can tell, and how people can best connect with everything we have to offer.”