Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hungry Ghost artist talk in San Francisco this Saturday

Today is the last day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the end of a jam-packed period of wonderful cultural activities in the San Francisco Bay Area. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to curate an art exhibit during this time featuring the work of 38 Asian American women artists.

This Saturday, the Asian American Women Artists Association will host an artist salon where several of the Hungry Ghost artists will join me in discussing their pieces and the overall exhibition.
  Hungry Ghost exhibit
Artist Salon:
Saturday, June 2, 2012, 4 PM
Free event - donations gratefully accepted! 

Exhibition Dates:
Monday, April 23 - Friday, June 8, 2012
9 AM - 5 PM

Thoreau Center for Sustainability
The Presidio, Building 1014
Torney Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94129

Join us for the Hungry Ghost: Yearning for Fulfillment Artist Salon to engage in an intimate discussion with artists from the dynamic exhibition. This is an opportunity to hear about their art making process, learn about how they interpreted the culturally rich metaphor of the "Hungry Ghost" and understand how they personally addressed the questions: How do we crave acceptance and fulfillment? What feeds us?

The Artists: Octavia Baker • Mitsuko Brooks • Jennifer Cheng • Karen Chew • Linn Chiu • Wei Ming Dariotis • Ganga Dharmappa • Stephanie Han • Khay Hembrador • Julie Huynh • Jaimee Itagaki • Zilka Joseph • Rosie Kar • Leslie Kitashima • Susan Kitazawa • Julia Kuo • Amy Lam • Lucy Liew • Elaine Gin Louie • Grace Hwang Lynch • Wei Ma • Mia Nakano • Choppy Oshiro • Cat Chiu Phillips • Michelle Salnaitis • Linda Shiue • Leah Silvieus • Sokunthary Svay • Elizabeth Travelslight • Cynthia Tom • Vivian Truong • Solongo Tseekhuu • Cat U-Thasoonthorn • Nancy Uyemura • Susan Lien Whigham • Pamela Ybanez • Stephanie Yu • Leslie Zeitler

The Curator: Lisa Chiu is a Taiwanese American writer and food fanatic. Her interest in curation stems from a desire to cultivate creative opportunities that foster cultural awareness. She conceived Hungry Ghost as a forum to amplify Asian American women’s voices and showcase their art.

Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA)AAWAA is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to ensuring the visibility and documentation of Asian American women in the arts. Through exhibitions, publications, and educational programs, we offer thought-provoking perspectives that challenge societal assumptions and promote dialogue.

Emerging Curators Program: AAWAA’s Emerging Curators Program provides a platform for curators residing in the San Francisco Bay Area to develop their vision and encourage curatorial expertise in the Asian American Art. Support this project by donating to AAWAA.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Student newspaper memories

It's fitting that I'm writing this on a Wednesday night (and Thursday morning). Seven years ago, I spent many Wednesday evenings with a dozen or so college kids in the basement of a university building.

Today, I had a wonderful chat with a friend who was one of those students I met when I was the adviser to The Observer, Case Western Reserve University's student newspaper. We reminisced about those Wednesday production nights where we ate pizza from Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood and the students put together the weekly campus newspaper.

Serving as an adviser to The Observer was among the most rewarding experiences in my career and led me to write about it for the CWRU alumni magazine. I went to work at CWRU, my undergraduate alma mater, 10 years after I earned an English degree there. It was exciting being on campus again and I loved my job. The university used to be known mainly for science and engineering, but now attracts students from all over the world for its arts, humanities and social science programs as well. When I was a student there, there weren't any any journalism classes. Today, the English department offers classes taught by faculty including Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jim Sheeler and bestselling novelist (and former journalist) Thrity Umrigar.

The student body has changed dramatically too. It used to be that CWRU students were perceived as nerdy academic overachievers and little else. The students I got to know at The Observer were also supersmart, but they were multidimensional. Predictably, they fretted over homework assignments, research papers, exams, lab reports. But they also packed their days full with student leadership roles, Greek life activities, sports, performing arts, volunteering. They were bright, inquisitive, conscientious and committed. I adored them.

They enriched my life by sharing their lives with me. They welcomed me and my toddler son into their domain and didn't seem to mind that he ate the most pizza week after week. (It should be noted that the copy editor was exceptionally gracious when Nico powerfully filled his diaper while sitting in her lap.) Nico was two years old then, right at the midpoint between my age and that of the newspaper editors. So while these students were developing as young adults, they could still relate to my little boy. Sometimes, the sports editor would take a break to play with my son and his Thomas the Tank Engine toys. The cartoonist drew a special dinosaur illustration for him to color. The photography editor played movies on his laptop to keep him entertained. I loved that Nico was surrounded by so many caring, positive influences. 

Where are they now? Some of them are married and have kids. One former editor-in-chief, who was a first-generation college student, finished a Teach For America stint. Another is an internal medicine resident. The features editor is a pediatrics resident. The sports editor graduated from law school. The cartoonist is studying geology in graduate school. The production manager is a software developer at CWRU. One of the photographers is a Facebook engineer. (Thanks to Facebook, it's been easy to keep tabs on everyone after they graduated!) They are leading active, full lives and finding their way in this world. 

They inspired me then and still do today. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Starry Skies

This essay was published in the Final Exam section of CWRU, the magazine for Case Western Reserve University, in Spring 2002. 

Starry Skies

After several sweaty trips between our car and my dorm room, the last of my boxes and suitcases were finally stashed into my new home in Michelson House at Case Western Reserve University. It was a hot August afternoon, and my parents dumped me off (their firstborn child on her first day of college) without so much as a hug or tearful goodbye. I offered to take them on a campus tour, but my dad scoffed. He had been working at CWRU for years and already knew his way around the university.

The campus was nothing new to me either, after countless visits to the lab where my dad, Song-mao Chiu, worked, dozens of piano recitals at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and seemingly endless trips to the orthodontist at the dental school. Still, even though my family lives just a few miles from campus, I hadn’t anticipated that CWRU would open up a new world to me – a rare, diverse international community.

By living on campus, I developed friendships with people from all over the globe. I lived on a floor with students from Sweden, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates. In the first week of school as we all got to know each other, I found myself struggling to find an easy answer to the question: “Where are you from?” Did this mean where was I born? Or where do I live? Or what is my ethnicity? I didn’t know how to offer a succinct answer without providing a long-winded explanation: I was born in Canada to Taiwanese immigrant parents but grew up in Cleveland.

Spending time with a close circle of international students introduced me to other cultures, while crystallizing feelings about my own. It also helped me better understand and cherish the idea of living in a multinational community. Sometimes our political discussions lasted all night. Ethnic differences were not always celebrated. One time, a group of American-born freshmen grilled a Middle Eastern student, accusing him of being associated with terrorists. They questioned what his father did for a living. Surprisingly, the student remained calm and joked that his dad was a farmer. When pressed for details on what was grown on the farm, he replied with a straight face, “Ravioli.”

Overall, though, living in a multinational community proved to be positive and enlightening. One night, a Swedish graduate student, after decorating our suite in blue and yellow streamers, threw a “Swede party” for all of us. Muslim students explained Ramadan. An Iranian student described the dazzling sight of stars lighting up a desert sky.

In the classroom too, I developed a broader perspective on international cultures and traditions. In my senior year, I took an English class called the Immigrant Experience. We read literature from Asian, Russian, and Mexican writers, among others. We wrote and shared our own stories, which illustrated how each of us found our way to the United States and to CWRU. We wrote about how our families arrived in the country, the reasons we came, and the reasons we stayed. We wrote about living between cultures, among languages, within religious customs.

I began to sense that being American does not preclude coming from an Asian, Arab, European or any other ethnic background. In fact, in many ways, the immigrant experience is uniquely American. Coming to this realization helped me in my decision to formalize my commitment to this country. I decided to become an American citizen.

Considering how much our world has changed since September 11, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be an American today. I’ve been thinking about the situations that bring us together and the conflicts that drive us apart. I’ve been thinking about the friends I made during my freshman year and in that remarkable English class. I’ve been thinking about the Iranian student and wondering if he still looks up at the stars. And I’ve been hoping that we are looking at the same sky.