May Is For Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage

Nikki S. Lee, Layers, Rome 2, 2007

Nikki S. Lee, Layers, Rome 2, 2007 (courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York)

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month and there are a plethora of fill-in-the-blank cultural heritage events you could attend. But the expansive and growing Bay Area Asian American community has much more going on than fan dances and food festivals. There are countless events, exhibitions and programs happening this month, but here are just a few sure fire ways that demonstrate Asian American culture tells us much more about American culture than it does of our distant and often mythical homelands.

Mutt: Let’s All Talk About Race a play by Christopher Chen at Impact Theater with Ferocious Lotus

With the primaries looming, imagine what would happen if the GOP suddenly decided to run a candidate who is “hapa” — someone of mixed Asian decent — for the 2016 presidency? In the Glickman Award-winning new play from Christopher Chen, they do just this. Mutt is a full force satirical confrontation of race, politics and politicians (of all varieties) and a perfect way to close out Impact Theater’s season. Through June 8. For more show times and other information, visit

Forbidden Cities U.S.A. exhibition at the SF Public Library.

Stop by the Civic Center Off the Grid then swing by the San Francisco Public Library’s Jewett Gallery for the Forbidden Cities exhibition. In the period between the 1930s and the ’60s, especially in San Francisco, Chinese American nightclubs, singers and dancers were experiencing their “golden age,” performing routines that were considered “white” forms of entertainment. The exhibition, in conjunction with the curator Arthur Dong’s new book Forbidden Cities U.S.A.: Chinese American Nightclubs 1936-1970 is a unique look into a little known part of San Francisco’s history. Open until July 7; for hours and more information, visit

Wrong’s What I Do Best at San Francisco Art Institute’s Walter and McBean Galleries

Put on your walking shoes, grab some dim sum in San Francisco’s Chinatown for fuel and meander through North Beach to San Francisco Art Institute’s Walter and McBean Galleries. The exhibition Wrong’s What I Do Best will be well worth the hike which features work from the likes of Nikki S. Lee, Kara Walker, Dana Schutz, Laurel Nakadate and many more. All of the artists take on the poignantly hapless task of “playing the role of one’s self as someone else” in this multidisciplinary presentation of stirring, and at times disturbing, works. On view through July 26. For more information, visit

I’m an Asian American and… Reality TV series on Myx TV ’s (8/7c)

If you are intent to stay home, then check out Myx TV’s new reality television show. This docu-series follows an unexpected cast of individuals from the Asian American diaspora, as they go about their daily life in Los Angeles. Each of the 10 episodes present a range of heartbreaking, comedic and sobering experiences, from lives ranging from a lawyer fighting human trafficking to a big-time radio DJ to a dating coach for virgins. The first episode features performer and comedian Kristina Wong as she uses online dating as a way to get guys with “yellow fever to do outrageous things for her,” what she calls “reparations.” Though tongue-in-cheek and at times deliciously absurd, Wong addresses real stereotypes within mainstream culture against Asian American women that do have significant impact on their lives. Episodes can also be viewed online at

Super Awesome: Art and Giant Robot exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California

The OMC exhibition, at its heart, explores Giant Robot’s robust 20-year history of Asian cultural coverage, capturing the spirit of an alternative scene that couldn’t really be pinned down and was definitely not represented in mainstream media culture. In the ’90s, Giant Robot was a place where Asian pop culture and Asian American subculture fearlessly carved a space for itself through photocopying and stapling. What began as a lo-Fi zine printed in Eric Nakamura’s bedroom in 1994 evolved into a legit full color magazine and later expanded into several art galleries, a restaurant, stores, and much more. The exhibition highlights the artists and production of the many iterations of Giant Robot. Open until July 27. For museum hours and other information, visit

Astonishing Animation: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

There are many fingers still crossed hoping that acclaimed storyteller, animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement will be short-lived — again. But while you wait for a comeback, stop by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to see any or all of the fifteen animations from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli being screen through May. And if Miyazaki animations are already on full rotation at home, step out anyway to catch them on the big screen again. There is nothing quite like full immersion in Miyazaki’s worlds to help usher in spring. For schedules and more information, visit

May Is For Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage 7 May,2014Michele Carlson


Michele Carlson

Michele Carlson is a practicing artist, writer, educator, and curator in the SF Bay Area who spends most of her time thinking and writing about art, television and digital culture. She is also the Managing Editor at Hyphen and is an Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts.

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