Museum celebrates the rise of Chinese American creative artists

By Kelly Chung Dawson (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-16 16:05
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NEW YORK — The inaugural Young Professionals Expo (YPX) was held in Manhattan on Nov 10, honoring and celebrating young Chinese American artists in America.

Themed "Celebrating Culture, Creativity & Couture," the gala was presented by the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), its Young Professionals organization, and actor Lucy Liu and playwright David Henry Hwang.

Attendees perused an array of creative wares from fashion and jewelry designers, sampling light fare from local restaurants as various music acts performed above a bustling crowd that ranged in age from 20 to 40.

"This event is to showcase creativity happening in the young Chinese community," said Gerald Lam, an organizer and a Young Professionals board member.

"There are very few venues and events that truly recognize Chinese artists. The other thing is outreach and exposure, to give the larger community a chance to hear music and see art, and to promote exchange."

Beatrice Chen, MOCA's director of education and programs, said the event was an opportunity to reach out to new audiences for the museum.

"But primarily, our directive here is that we want the Young Professionals group to have a voice," she said.

"I think for MOCA in particular we talk about a Chinese American experience, which is very diverse.

"So we have hopes of inspiring young Asian professionals and artists to think about how they would talk about their individual Chinese American experiences."

MOCA, founded in 1980, is the leading museum in the US for Chinese cultural preservation and promotion. The MOCA Young Professionals is dedicated to giving young Asian American leaders and professionals the resources necessary for in-depth exploration of relevant issues.

Most members are either Chinese Americans, or came to the US at a young age, Chen said.

"YPX is the embodiment of our Young Professionals' dynamic energy, an exciting signature event that celebrates the cutting edge of Asian American culture," said S. Alice Mong, the director of MOCA.

"It contextualizes this rich culture within the proud 160-year history of the Chinese in America, and highlights the growing impact of Asian Americans in this creative arena."

CSI actor Archie Kao, one of the honorees of MOCA's inaugural "M88," a group of young creatives selected by MOCA for their accomplishments in the arts and business worlds, told China Daily that the Chinese presence in America is becoming more and more influential.

"I think that the way that you begin to penetrate the consciousness of a society is with entertainment, rather than with legislative action. It's creative action, or soft power," he said.

Other honorees included Nobu chef Chris Cheung, musicians Dana Leong, who has been heralded as the "hi-def Yo-Yo Ma", and Dave Liang of The Shanghai Restoration Project, which performed at the event.

Many participants emphasized the communal aspect of the event.

"The Asian American community is still fairly dispersed, so it's important for all of us to recognize our peers," said actor Michelle Krusiec, who starred in Saving Face.

"You don't know where people come from, so the fact that this is designed to celebrate Asian artists and to connect everyone, I think there's a lot of value in that," she said.

Also present was a recruiter for the Boys & Girls Club of America, searching for young Chinese professionals to serve as mentors for new Chinese immigrants ranging in age from 7 to 17.

Attendee Joseph Ko said events such as YPX reflect the rise of the young Chinese consumer.

"We have a lot more disposable income at an earlier age, and we're recognized as 'spenders'," he said.

"Ten years ago, you'd stand in line at a hot club, and you couldn't get in. Now it's different.

"I think it's wonderful that young Asians are going out, and celebrating other Asian artists."

Tony Bo Chan, designer of Bo Clothing, and Ce Ce Chin, designer of shoe company 80%20, spoke of the lack of a cohesive Chinese artistic community while they were growing up in the US.

"A lot of us were raised without that creative interaction that we really needed and wanted," Chan said.

Chan, who has been involved in the clothing industry for many years and sits on the YP board, said they didn't have a place where Chinese young people could have a voice.

"I think this is the only place right now where you can reach out to other young Asian artists," he said.

"There isn't a centralized artist's community yet, but I really think this is filling the void."