AAWAA Tree created for the organization’s 20th Anniversary. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Tom

Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) was founded in 1989 in San Francisco by Betty Kano, Flo Oy Wong, and Moira Roth 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 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, talks, and the distribution of educational 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 both exhibited and or lectured at the de Young Museum, College Art Association, UC Berkeley, SF State University, Stanford University, Driftwood Gallery, SomArts Cultural Center, Chinese Culture Center to name a few.

In 2007, AAWAA was guided to non-profit status under the leadership of Debbie Yee and Nancy Hom. From 2008 to the present Cynthia Tom and Shari Arai DeBoer have been at the helm.


For 25 years, AAWAA has been implementing community programs in order to provide opportunities and resources for Asian Pacific American women in the arts.

Since its founding, 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. Today, these talks and presentations are part of the Speaker’s Bureau program. In  2007, AAWAA published a unique anthology, Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women. It is the curriculum at University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University. Cheers is included for a special curatorial fellowship at New York University, focusing on Asian American Art.

In 2008, as part of a women’s arts healing project, AAWAA’s curatorial director, Cynthia Tom, began developing A PLACE OF HER OWN art exhibitions at Driftwood Gallery, the De Young Museum, and SomArts Cultural Center (as part of Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s United States of Asia America Festival). It was created into a series of workshops in 2011 for Asian American social workers and clients. During that same year, AAWAA implemented the Emerging Curators Program to encourage a curatorial focus on Asian American Art. Each year, AAWAA assists up two curators to jury and produce art exhibitions featuring the work of Asian American women artists at various venues in the Bay Area.

In 2012, AAWAA implemented the Emerging Curators Program to build a curatorial focus on Asian American Art. Each year, AAWAA assists up two curators to jury and produce art exhibitions featuring the work of Asian American women artists at various venues in the Bay Area. Through this professional development program, both curators and participating artists gain skills within the context of planning, programming, producing, promoting, and presenting an art exhibition.

In 2013, AAWAA created underCurrents & the Quest for Space, a multimedia, provocative arts exhibition that exposes the myths and ancestral trauma suffered by Asian American women. AAWAA continually produces these programs as a means to break down stereotypes, open dialogue on taboo subjects, and build a stronger, more compassionate and interactive community.

For a full list of our programs, please see our Programs page.



Lenore Chin Speaks during Bernice Bing Panel

AAWAA artist member Lenore Chin speaks during a Bernice Bing panel. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Tom.

AAWAA boasts an extensive network of members that include various artists, curators, writers, authors, educators, etc. We are currently accepting memberships for those who want to broaden their career in the arts, are social and arts activists, and are dedicated to the documentation and visibility of Asian American women in the arts.

Some of our notable members include: Kathy Aoki, Bernice Bing, Lenore Chinn,Nancy Hom,  Betty Kano, Dawn Nakanishi, Genny Lim, Isabelle Thuy-Pelaud, Canyon Sam, Valerie Soe, Flo Oy Wong, Wendy Yoshimura,and Katherine Westerhout.

For more information about our two types of memberships, please see our ARTISTS & AFFILIATES page.