(Photo: Second year cohort of artists and cultural workers in the Resident Artist Collaborative.)
by Luann Algoso
Community Engagement Manager
“A revolution that is based on the people exercising their creativity in the midst of devastation is one of the greatest historical contributions of humankind.” – Grace Lee Boggs
If you have ever attended an APANO event in the past, chances are there was a cultural or performative component to the event. Whether you attended our Statewide Convention and felt energized by the power of Taiko drumming, or if you laughed until you cried at our annual Dis/orient/ed Comedy showcase, which highlights national and local AAPI female, queer, and trans comedians, or if you have listened to the stories from API community members on their experiences around abortion, sex, gender, and reproductive health through the WE CARRY OCEANS project – art and culture has historically been a part of APANO’s social justice work since its conception.
At APANO we focus on the usage of the term “cultural work” instead of “art” with the belief that cultural work can be used as a long-term strategy to impact beliefs, actions and policies through elevating the voices of those most impacted and silenced. Cultural work strives to shift harmful narratives and messages, and envision alternatives. We work to center the voices of communities that are directly impacted by injustice and oppression, and ensure that they are leading the creation of these cultural messages. At APANO we believe that there are no lines that separate artists and activists, and hence use the term “cultural worker” as someone who is in service to building movement for justice and liberation.
We are now in a time in APANO’s growth and development where we are starting to make sense of how cultural work can be more integrated as a strategy to help advance our mission to achieve social justice. The two programs that have helped guide us in this process are the member-led APANO Arts and Media Project (AMP) and the grant program, Resident Artist Collaborative: Jade-Midway Placemaking Projects.