This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

AAPIs Do Exist in the Arts!

Senior Deputy Chairman of the National Endownment for the Arts, Joan Shigekawa, shares her experience at APPI's emerging artist showcase.

On May 15, 2010, Ms. Joan Shigekawa attended an AAPI artist showcase called SULU DC. The event was held at the U Street Music Hall in Washington, D.C. and brought out approximately 150 people. Here's what Ms. Shigekawa shared about her experience:

In their own words, here is Sulu: "Sulu DC is an underground, grassroots network for Asian American and/or Pacific Islander American (AAPI) artists, which provides a home for AAPI focused spoken word and multidisciplinary artists in Washington, D.C. On the third Saturday of every month, we host a performance showcase of emerging and established AAPI artists in music, spoken word, video, and multidisciplinary performances. Sulu DC fosters relationships with local and national activist organizations, nurtures the artistic development of emerging AAPI artists and builds inter-generational alliances with cities across North America."

I attended Sulu's monthly showcase of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists in spoken word poetry, theater, music and multidisciplinary arts which took place in a new club called the U. Street Music Hall. It was a high energy underground event with a wonderful mix of AAPIs of all ages, but mostly Millenials expressing themselves through spoken word, dance, music and graphic arts in a cool club setting complete with DJ9-Volt as the DJ.

To give you some idea of the vibe, Sulu volunteers had to bring chairs to the event, since the club is mainly a large dance floor surrounded by multiple bars, a small stage and a DJ set-up on the back wall facing the stage.

I had the opportunity to meet the Sulu founders and learn how they are trying to build and sustain a new artists' network through monthly performances and to support an emerging AAPI arts scene in Washington D.C. They were enormously gracious to their guests from the Federal government, which included representatives from the White House, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Department of Homeland Security, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Housing and Urban Development Agency.

I learned that there is a growing network of young artists determined to create community here in DC and to link the DC community to a national network of Sulu centers in New York and on the west coast.

Joan Shigekawa is the Senior Deputy Chariman of the National Endowment for the Arts.