May is the month that the U.S. highlights Asian and Pacific Islander peoples and cultures, whether it's called Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month (the national title) or Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (San Francisco's name). In the Bay Area, local governments, libraries, the Asian Art Museum and other organizations are presenting entertainment and events. New in 2012 is Asian Contemporary Art Week in San Francisco, a program of exhibits, talks, tours and films. The month's single biggest bash is the May 19 Asian Heritage Street Celebration at Civic Center. Read on to find out more about the street fair and other Bay Area activities marking Asian and Pacific Islander history and heritage.
Abundant and diverse programs at the main library and its branches around San Francisco include talks by and about Japanese-Americans incarcerated at a Utah internment camp during World War II, recitals with traditional Chinese musical instruments, readings by Asian American authors, and lessons in Chinese paper-cutting and other crafts. At the main library, the Thursday noon film series shows movies like Mulan, and there are exhibits of contemporary Japanese handicrafts, of works by artists in internment camp, and about Taiwan. At San Francisco Library, 100 Larkin St., and various branches. Free.
The center's heritage month line-up includes cooking classes, a writing workshop, concerts, sing-a-longs, a performance of new Japanese Butoh dance, and an open-mic literary night that features former San Francisco poet laureate Janice Mirikitani. At the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 Ninth St., Suite 290, Oakland 94607. Ticket prices vary; several events are free.
Using various media, 17 Asian American artists made works that explore, reflect upon and critique their relationships to the past, present and future. At SOMArts Gallery, 934 Brannan St., San Francisco 94103. Free.
An inaugural week devoted to Asian contemporary art, including performance art, talks with curators, critics and artists, receptions, and exhibits in San Francisco galleries. Among the offerings: YBCA screens a series of videos by Tokyo artists. May 16--three Bay Area artists perform pieces that take on kung fu and other Asian American stereotypes. May 18--a talk about three landmark works by Chinese artists, and a conversation between the curator of Tokyo's Mori Art Museum and Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. At various San Francisco and Bay Area venues. Ticket prices vary.
An Asian Pacific American cast performs Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, a set of intimate, heart-breaking, painful, humorous and uplifting stories about women and love, sexual assault, war and self-discovery. Proceeds benefit the Bay Area chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. At the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco 94114. Tickets $15-65.
The night before it opens, sneak a peek at the Asian Art Museum's first blockbuster contemporary art exhibit, meet some of the 30 artists whose works you're looking at, and dance to DJ-spun tracks. Phantoms of Asia explores spirituality, spirits, mortality, the cosmos and the afterlife, and weaves ancient artifacts with newly created pieces. At 200 Larkin St., San Francisco 94102. Tickets $12, 15.
As an extension of the Asian Heritage Street Fair (next item below!), the inside and front steps of the Asian Art Museum host storytelling, docent tours, art-making activities, and performances of music and dance from Southeast Asia. The Center for Asian American Media presents Asian American film shorts and music videos from 2 to 4 pm, and the Bay Area Flashmob drops in for a surprise. At 200 Larkin St., San Francisco 94102. Free general admission.
Cooking demos by Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook), Charles Phan of Slanted Door restaurant, cookbook author Andrea Nguyen and other chefs; mah jongg; Thai kick-boxers and mixed martial arts fighters; food vendors and food trucks; handicrafts to buy; dance, jazz and other live performances; free Hepatitis B, Hep C and other health screenings; wine tasting; and games and a rock-climbing wall for kids. On Larkin between Grove and Ellis streets, San Francisco 94102. Free.
Using storytelling, music, vocalists and multimedia, Nancy Wang re-enacts the experiences of her immigrant ancestors in Monterey in the 1850s, and Kenji Oshima explores multi-ethnicity. At CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St., San Francisco 94103. Tickets $10-20.
Kids can make samurai helmets, do other Asian-themed arts and crafts, and at a mock excavation, help Stanford archaeology students dig for, identify and reconstruct artifacts. A youth taiko ensemble from San Jose drums at 2 pm. The park houses a reconstructed Chinese community temple, where you can learn about Santa Clara Valley’s Chinese Americans as far back as the mid-1800s, and the Museum of the Boat People & the Republic of Vietnam, which will be open. At Senter Road and Phelan Avenue, San José 95112. Admission: Free-$8.
Storytelling, a haiku workshop, and lessons in playing traditional Chinese musical instruments. Japanese Americans recount their lives of being confined to internment camps and trying to re-adjust to broader society after World War II. At Foster City Library, 1000 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City. Free.
A program of dance, music, costumes and entertainment from various cultures of Asia. At San Francisco Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco 94102. Free.