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AAWAA History

Origins

AAWAA was founded in 1989 by Betty Kano and Flo Oy Wong to promote the visibility of Asian American women artists and to serve as a vehicle for personal expression with a view of Asian American cultures and history from a women’s perspective.

Over the years AAWAA has encouraged dialogue across cultures and generations and built community among Asian American women artists through exhibitions, publications, readings, speakers’ bureau and the distribution of visual and audio Educational Presentation Packets. By educating art establishments that have historically excluded works by Asian American women artists, including major museums, galleries, collections and publications, AAWAA has provided access to these venues and furthers the goal of establishing the place of Asian American women in American art history.

AAWAA has given lectures and visual presentations at more than 23 institutions throughout California. Its publications are used in academic curricula in Art, Ethnic and Asian American Studies departments. AAWAA’s 2007 anthology, Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women has been adopted in courses at University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University. As a group, and as individuals, AAWAA has exhibited work at numerous galleries, museums and community organizations, including the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, SomArts Cultural Center, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, Euphrat Museum of Art at De Anza College, C.N. Gorman Museum at U.C. Davis and the St. Supery Winery in Napa. AAWAA hosts workshops, salons and maintains an email group for its members. More than 100 artists have been members of AAWAA, including Flo Oy Wong, Wendy Yoshimura, Bernice Bing, Nancy Hom, Betty Kano, Kathy Aoki, Dawn Nakanishi, Katherine Westerhout and Lenore Chinn.

Chronology

1989

Artists Flo Oy Wong and Betty Kano begin contacting Asian American women artists to submit slides for the Women’s Caucus for Art slide registry.

First gathering of artists, poets, and musicians meet at Betty Kano’s home.

The Asian American Women Artists Association is formed as subsequent gatherings take place as artists share their work and discuss projects.

Kano and Wong present a slide show of art by Asian American artists at “Sources of a Distinct Majority: Agenda for the 1990s” conference, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA.

Slide presentations at Mills College, California College of Arts and Crafts, and the Cuba Biennele.

1990

First retreat at Shenoa, Mendocino County, CA.

Slide presentations given at “College of Creative Arts Symposium,” UC Santa Barbara and Multicultural Center Open House, Sacramento, CA.

1991

Second edition slides of members’ work is organized.

Slide presentations given at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, and Berkeley Public Library.

Oakland Tribune article, “Art Beyond the Borders” and KFRC radio interview with members Indigo Som, Diane Tani, and Flo Oy Wong (July 15).

Exhibitions:

  • “Spirits of East- and West-Asian American Women Artists”, Berkeley Store Gallery, Berkeley, CA. First membership exhibition, coordinated by Betty Kano, Diana Yoshida, and Wendy Yoshimura.
  • “Asian American Women Artists Association”, Community Arts Gallery, Holiday Inn Chinatown, San Francisco, CA.
  • “Aawaa-kin,” Art Works Gallery, Fair Oaks, CA.

1992

Members participate on panels for Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art conference at Mills College and UC Berkeley’s “Persistence of Vision Asian American Arts Conference.”

Slide presentations at UC Santa Cruz; San Jose State University Art Department; and The Fairmont Hotel, Asian American Studies presentation, San Jose, CA.

Guerrilla Girls are invited guests to AAWAA meeting.

Reviews in Sacramento Union (Jan/Feb); UC Santa Barbara paper; and Metro, San Jose, CA.

Exhibitions
“Different Voices,” UC Santa Barbara Women’s Center, Santa Barbara, CA.
“Gathering,” dedicated to the late Hisako Hibi, Lite Rail Gallery, Sacramento, CA.
“Executive Order,” Art League of San Jose, San Jose, CA (August).

1993

Third membership slide packet organized.
         Kim Anno represents AAWAA at the National Women’s Caucus for Art Caucus conference in New York on a panel called “Cross-Continental Dialogue: Asian American Network.”
         Slide presentations given at San Jose City College, San Jose, CA.
         Artweek interview of Flo Oy Wong and AAWAA (June); KGO TV, Channel 7.
         Sunday at 7 interview with member Miki Hsu Leavey.
         Exhibitions:
         “Object As Identity,” 1078 Gallery, Chico, CA.
         “Power and Grace,” St. Supery Winery, St. Helena, CA.
         “Time Echoes,” C.N. Gorman Museum, UC Davis, Davis, CA.

1994

Members Norine Nishimura, Lenore Chinn, and Betty Kano challenge Berkeley radio station KPFA’s programming choice of musician John Zorn, who exploits Asian women in his use of photography for his CD jackets, public relations, and performances. Betty is on a radio discussion panel (April 16).
         “Yellow Forest, AAWAA 5th Anniversary Exhibition,” SomArts Gallery, San Francisco, CA. 85 artists represented.

1995

Recipient of California Arts Council Grant to produce slide binders of members’ artwork.
         Karin Higa, curator, Japanese American National Museum of Los Angeles, meets with AAWAA at San Francisco State University gallery for a walk-through of the exhibit, “With New Eyes: Toward an Asian American Art History in the West, 1865-1965.” Two of the show’s curators are members of AAWAA: Diane Tani and Dawn Nakanishi. AAWAA artists Bernice Bing and Anna Wu Weakland have work in the exhibit.
         South Bay Women’s Caucus for Art attends the meeting and walk-through.
         Rice, Works Gallery, San Jose, CA. Co-presented by AAWAA, open call to artists.

1996

Second retreat at the home of Bernice Bing in Philo, CA.
         AAWAA meets with Vas Prabu, Director of Education at the de Young Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco.
         Slide Presentations:
         Headlands Center for the Arts, Fort Barry, Sausalito, CA, March 4.
         Calero Community School, San Jose, CA, March 14.
         UC Berkeley, Kim Anno’s class, Berkeley, CA, March 19.
         Kearny Street Workshop, San Francisco, CA, March 25.
         Chinese Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA, April 3.
         California College of Arts & Crafts, Oakland, CA, April 4 .
         Mills College, Oakland, CA, April 18.
         John F. Kennedy University, Orinda, CA, May 3.
         University Women’s Association, May 23.
         San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, May 30.
         Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco, CA, May 31.
         Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA, June 4.
         UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, June 4.
         UC Berkeley, Keiko Yamanaka’s class, Berkeley, CA, November 19.
        
         Article on AAWAA, “A Gathering of Kindred Spirits” by Diane Tani and Dawn E. Nakanishi for (Detail) A. Journal of Art Criticism. Volume 3, Number 2, 1996.

1997

AAWAA receives a California Arts Council Grant to produce a catalogue of members’ work.
         SF Chronicle article featuring Dawn E. Nakanishi and AAWAA (March 21).
         Lecture:Flo Oy Wong and Lenore Chinn represent AAWAA at the National Women's Caucus for Art Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Flo Oy Wong is co-moderator of panel 3x2: An Intergenerational Dialogue Between Asian American Women Artists. Panel includes Lenore Chinn and others.
         Slide Presentations:
         Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.
         Santa Clara University, Asian Student Body Career Day, Santa Clara, CA.
         SF State University, Asian Women’s Studies, San Francisco, CA.

1998

Publication of “Of Our Own Voice” by Asian American Women Artists Association.
         Celebration of publication at Kearny Street Workshop, San Francisco, CA.
         Celebration of publication at Center for Visual Art, Oakland, CA.

1999

“They Hold Up Half the Sky,” comprising two exhibitions:” Of Our Own Voice 1999” and “Bernice Bing: A Memorial Tribute and Retrospective,” SomArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA.
AAWAA and M.H. de Young Memorial Museum host a celebration of the museum's acquisition of a work on canvas by founding AAWAA member Bernice Bing.
         Slide Presentations:
         “The Life and Works of Bernice Bing,” SomArts, San Francisco, CA.
         “Contemporary Issues of Asian American Women Artists,” SomArts, San Francisco, CA.

2000

Exhibitions:
“Seven Voices,” San Francisco Arts Commission Chinatown Community Arts Program Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Works by AAWAA artists Kavita Bali, Shari Arai DeBoer, Jancy Chun-Sai Chang, Yeung Ha, Lori Kay, Cynthia Tom and Anna X.L. Wong.
“Passing,” Euphrat Museum, Sunnyvale, CA.AAWAA artists included  Kay Kang, Gayle Tanaka, Cynthia Tom, and Flo Oy Wong as well as other aritsts Candi Farlice, Daniel Harris, Lisa Kokin,  and Rev. Timothy T. Tayor.

2001

Exhibitions:
“Crossing Bridges,” CBS MarketWatch.com corporate offices and studios, San Francisco, CA. Over 20 AAWAA artists represented, juried by Bettina Leong.

2002

“Slowly Enter,” San Francisco Arts Commission Chinatown Community Arts Program Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Works by six AAWAA artists represented, curated by Rachel Osajima.
         “Samplings from AAWAA,” San Pablo Arts Gallery, San Pablo, CA. Works by eleven AAWAA artists represented, curated by Anne Austin.

2003

Educational Presentation Packet project completed. The packet includes 5 samples of work from each of the 50 artists and writers, as well as artist statements, biographies, demographic information and essays.
         Exhibitions:
“Making their Mark: Concepts, Visions and Narratives by Asian American Women,” in association with Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s annual festival, “United States of Asian America 2003,” SomArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA. Visual and literary works by 32 AAWAA artists, curated by Nora Nguyen.
“Association for Asian American Studies Conference,” San Francisco, CA. An exhibition of work by AAWAA artists and a slide display of the AAWAA Educational Presentation Packet.
Literary Readings:
“Making their Mark,” SomArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA.
“Under a Two-thirds Moon: An All-genre Reading,” Chinatown Community Arts Program Gallery, San Francisco, CA, featuring AAWAA writers.
Reading at Lola Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Gallery reception and reading featuring AAWAA writers.

2004

AAWAA 15th Anniversary Celebration and Silent Auction, Womens Building, San Francisco, CA.
Literary Readings:
Literary Reading by Barbara Jane Reyes, San Francisco Arts Commission Chinatown Community Arts Program Gallery,  San Francisco, CA.
“Mother’s Land: artists on the theme of motherhood,” co-presented with Locus Arts, Galeria de la Raza, San Francisco, CA.
“(S)kinship: African American and Asian American Connections,” SomArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA.
Exhibitions:
“(S)kinship: African American and Asian American Connections,” in association with Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center “United States of Asian America Festival 2004,” SomArts Cultural Center Main Gallery.
“Crossing Bridges,” CBS MarketWatch corporate offices, San Francisco, CA.
“AAWAA Member Exhibit,” d.p. Fong Galleries, San Jose, CA.

2005

“Bay Area Asian American Women Artists,” slide presentation by Mills College students Lori Chinn and Maika Yuri Kusama and AAWAA artists Mary Rose Nakazato LaFreniere and Cynthia Tom, Mills College, Oakland, CA.
         “Tao, Tea & Art,” art sale and benefit for AAWAA, Tao Café, San Francisco, CA.
         Exhibitions:
         “Full Circle: Nancy Hom and Betty Nobue Kano,” 8th Annual United States of Asian America, SomArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA, co-presented by AAWAA.
         “Accumulated Allusions,” San Pablo Arts Gallery, work by seven AAWAA artists, curated by Anne Austin.

2006

“Cheers & Incantations,” exhibition, Encantada Gallery of Fine Art, San Francisco, CA.
         “Cheers & Incantations,” poetry reading by Asian American and Latina poets, Encantada Gallery of Fine Art, San Francisco, CA.
         “AAWAA Open House,” celebrating AAWAA’s first office space, 1890 Bryant Street Studios, San Francisco, CA.

“Estate Planning and the Working Artist: The Artist's Legacy,” workshop presented by attorney Debbie Yee, AAWAA Office & Studio, San Francisco, CA.

2007

Publication of anthology, “Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women,” 128 page book featuring 77 visual and literary works by 64 artists and writers.

         AAWAA awarded tax exempt status as a 501c3 non-profit organization.

“Cheers to Muses Book Launch,” Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA.

“Cheers to Muses Artist Panel Discussion,” Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA.

“Golden Paints Workshop,” presented by Tesia Blackburn, AAWAA Office & Studio, San Francisco, CA.

         “Mojito Mixer,” AAWAA Office & Studio, San Francisco, CA.

Exhibitions:

“Sense & Sensuality,” Encantada Gallery of Fine Art, San Francisco, CA.

“Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women,” Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA.

Literary Readings:

“Sense & Sensuality,” poetry reading at Encantada Gallery of Fine Art, San Francisco, CA.

“Cheers to Muses Literary Reading,” Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA.

“Cheers to Muses Literary Reading,” Modern Times Bookstore, San Francisco, CA.

“APAture 9: Literary Showcase,” co-presented with ZYZZYVA and Kearny Street Workshop, Space 180, San Francisco, CA.

“Cheers to Muses Literary Reading,” San Francisco Public Library Koret Auditorium, San Francisco, CA.

“Cheers to Muses Literary Reading,” Bird & Beckett, San Francisco, CA.

“Cheers to Muses Literary Reading,” Eastwind Books of Berkeley, Berkeley, CA.

“Cheers to Muses Literary Reading,” Mills College, Oakland, CA.

“God of Good Luck,” reading and discussion by author Ruthanne Lum McCunn, co-presented by AAWAA, Manilatown, San Francisco, CA.

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Kindred Spirits
Flo Oy Wong, Kindred Spirits

Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women

Cheers to Muses cover

Cheers to Muses is a spirited tribute to the creative efforts of Asian American women artists and writers across generations and cultural backgrounds. Honoring those who inspired them, the works in this collection offer readers intimate glimpses into the contemporary sensibilities and experiences of Asian American women's lives.”
— Margo Machida, Associate Professor, Art History and Asian American Studies, University of Connecticut
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