Asian-American Artists Exchange

With a National Performance Network Community Fund grant, Asian Arts Initiative was able to advance an already exciting residency project and to deepen its impact for participating artists and the local community.  Our 2010 “Home: Far and Near” Artists Exchange of Asian American performance engaged some of the nation’s most innovative artists from across the country to collaborate with one another in a week-long residency.  Some would call them Asian American all-stars, an ad hoc ensemble of many faces familiar to NPN, including Regie Cabico, Robert Karimi, Dan Kwong, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, and Kristina Wong. The project kicked off with a three-night festival of solo showcase performances and continued with an intensive week-long creative retreat designed by Dan Kwong during which the artists delved into the theme/s to explore and create new work addressing the many meanings of family, migration, displacement, community, identity and culture in today’s globalized world.

While the Asian Arts Initiative’s Artists Exchange program has a long-running history of providing performers with the chance to examine social issues as a springboard for the creation of new work, this year in response to artist feedback the retreat fostered the creation of a culminating ensemble work, rather than individual solo pieces.  Artists expressed that working together and challenging one another as an ensemble was an unparalleled creative and community-building opportunity.

With added support from the Community Fund, Asian Arts Initiative was able to extend the experience to include three local artists chosen through a competitive process, dance and theater artist Makoto Hirano, filmmaker and performer Anula Shetty, and spoken-word artist Catzie Vilayphonh.  Each of them participated in the solo showcase and the ensemble retreat, providing a valuable opportunity to deepen relationships with their national peers, adding even more creative vigor to the project, and building upon the experience in their ongoing work in Philadelphia.  For Philadelphia-born Catzie Vilayphonh, the experience provided a unique platform to perform her signature piece Laos in the House, an eye-opening spoken word tribute to the Lao American experience.  Makoto Hirano used the solo showcase to experiment with a developing pre/sequel to his toured piece, Boom Bap Tourism, inviting audiences into his creative process with Boom Bap Tourism: The Lost Tapes.  Veteran artist Anula Shetty rounded out the trio with three short reveries exploring excess, pleasure and consumption: Uncle, Too Taboo, and Let Them Eat Cake.

The Community Fund is made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), the MetLife Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

September 2010

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