Nearly 200 Asian American artists, activists, public servants, community and business leaders gathered to celebrate the Asian American Arts Alliance’s anniversary in mid-September at the Tribeca Rooftop in Downtown New York City.
The Alliance honored activist and actor George Takei and founding members of the Soh Daiko drumming troupe, Alan and Merle Okada. Former Mayor David Dinkins served as Honorary Gala Chair. Other notable guests included actor and comedian Maulik Pancholy from TV’s 30Rock and Larry Hama, of Marvel Comics fame.
The evening kicked off with cocktail hour, an open bar, savory hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. Moving into the ballroom, lit with high-hanging chandeliers, guests were seated for a 5-course meal. During dinner, guests heard from the Alliance’s Executive Director Andrea Louie as well as several community members, honorees and supporters who outlined the importance of A4’s work in the Asian American community, providing professional development services and advocating for increased financial and institutional support for artists of color.
“I would love to see the Alliance continue to expand its work in creating concrete pathways of access to cultural decision makers (such as curators, artistic directors, and editors) as well as serve as conveners of important dialog around race, identity, and artmaking,” says Louie.
The evening ended with a powerful performance by the Soh Daiko traditional Japanese drumming troupe.
The Asian American Arts Alliance is one of many organizations that grew from the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement during the 1960s, when, young first and second generation Asians saw the need to independently portray the experiences and contributions of Asians in the United States. At the time they lacked visibility and acceptance in mainstream American society and understood the need to create their own cultural and community spaces, and platforms for self-expression.
These early organizing efforts were the basis for The Basement Workshop. It ran programs spanning the arts, culture, social services and community organizing. As Basement Workshop grew, separate organizations became necessary. The Asian American Arts Alliance was one such offshoot.
If the high spirits and camaraderie of Wednesday night’s fundraising gala are any indication, it seems the Asian American Arts Alliance remains relevant and with a broad support base. “There’s no doubt that Asian Americans are already playing a significant role in American life, and making sure that members of the creative workforce are key voices in our ongoing conversations about our country is really important,” says Louie.
Thirty-three years later, the Asian American Arts Alliance has served hundreds artists in New York City and continues as a leading advocate and service provider, with a seemingly bright future.