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How Asian Arts Initiative’s 25th anniversary celebration explores the concept of home

A pond formed in a bomb crater in Nguyen's native Vietnam. April 26, 2018 Category: EventFeaturedMediumPurpose
Multimedia artist Boone Nguyen’s latest exhibition was inspired by his journey back to his native Vietnam in winter of 2018.  His plan to visit his mother’s childhood home was thwarted by surprises both inspiring and painful: a roadblock in the form of an elementary school, and a body of water where her home once stood.

“The Mỹ Long River had basically eroded the land that her house used to sit on,” said Nguyen. “It struck me that you just can’t really get back to the place where you once were. There’s reclamation and a transformation of a space that is sort of mixed with a sense of loss and sorrow at the history that had taken place at that site.”

The installation, titled “Leave, then there is no way home,” is one of more than 25 creative displays on view at the Asian Arts Initiative’s (AAI) 25th anniversary celebration, which runs from Thursday, May 3, through Sunday, May 6, at venues around the city.

See the full event calendar

With major support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, the silver jubilee will feature everything from pop-up, civil rights-focused concerts to dance performances inspired by the resilience of women to a series of workshops and screenings organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

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“To see how [AAI has] developed as a space that galvanized the Asian American artistic community during a time of racial clashes in Philadelphia in the early 1990s to its history of working with youth and area artists, developing the careers of those in Philadelphia and beyond, as well as being engaged with placemaking is staggering,” wrote the project’s curator, Alexandra Chang, in an email.

To kick things off, those interested can sign up for the (ex)CHANGE Guided Bus Tour on May 3, which will take visitors to several site-specific installations around the city.

Nguyen, whose exhibit is a stop on the tour, was Asian Arts Initiative’s first coordinator when it began as a Painted Bride project in 1993.

“I’m really grateful that they commissioned the project,” said Nguyen. “It gave me an opportunity to again work in South Philly but also to work in Vietnam — to expand what I’ve been working on and looking at through my photography and video installation work.”

AAI is also planning a collaborative release of a special edition of the Asian American Literary Review in Fall 2018 that will include limited-edition art by Colette Fu, one of the festivity’s featured artists, and will serve as a catalogue for the commissioned works presented in the anniversary celebration.

The celebration comes just before AAI Executive Director Gayle Isa’s last days with the organization: She announced her June leave in February.

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