ASAPI Stories Told Through Art at Evanston Art Center

Local artists who identify as Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander are featured in Kitchen table storiesthe first ASAPI exhibition at the Evanston Art Center, from July 9 to August 21 at the center, 1717 Central St.

The Evanston Art Center is busy on the opening night of kitchen table stories, with the sculpture of Indira Freitas Johnson seen in the foreground. Credit: Yancy Hugues

Twenty-eight artists were chosen from 44 submissions, all from the greater Chicago area, including many from Evanston. Artists were invited to “share stories passed down to them by their ancestors, family, and friends, and to create works of art that reflect their own lived experiences.”

Melissa Raman Molitor, curator Credit: Photo provided

“The result is an exploration of the intersections of immigration, citizenship, race, culture, social identity, multigenerational relationships and family background. Viewers are invited to reflect on universal themes such as language, food, home, family, heroes and belonging – through the lens of their ASAPI neighbors,” curator Melissa Raman Molitor wrote.

The exhibition curated by Molitor, an artist of Indian and Filipino origin, is a visual attempt to highlight the narrative and identity aspects of ASAPI cultures. Molitor is associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, director of Children create changeand the founder of Kitchen Table Stories Project. She also sits on the Evanston Arts Council.

Rahul Sharma, sitarist. Credit: Yancy Hugues

Molitor received a one-year curatorial grant from the Evanston Art Center. She is only the second artist to receive the new award, given to conservatives of color who can draw attention to their marginalized communities. The first scholarship curators mounted an exhibition at the center but, due to COVID-19, attendance was limited. In addition, they offered online events: the “lookbook” of the exhibition, round tables between the artists and installation images.

Opening night attendees, left to right: Meena Sharma, Yiming Fu, Sophie Yang and Akari Yamada. Credit: Yancy Hugues

The title of the exhibition, kitchen table stories, refers to the place of food culture, the kitchen table. We all know the tales of the table, whether it’s in our kitchen, our dining room, or our holiday get-togethers. There, family histories are shared and family rituals and traditions are honored – all of which helps to create an identity.

Two young participants take part in a community weaving. Credit: Yancy Hugues

This writer admits to being unexpectedly touched by the exhibit: Some of the artwork and accompanying writings were not only eye-opening, but poignant.

Asian confections at the opening reception. Credit: Melissa Raman Molitor

More than 10% of Evanston residents identify as Asian, Molitor says.

The opening reception on July 15 was a crowded and festive event, with sitar music from Funkadesi’s Rahul Sharma and Asian-inspired dishes provided primarily by Daniel Aquino of Nayon Asian Bakery on Noyes Street, Chicago’s Tropicake, NaKorn on Orrington Avenue and the Sari Boutique Sari on Prairie Avenue.

The Kitchen table stories The exhibition hosts accompanying in-person programming at the Evanston Art Center in July and August. All programs and events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise stated. Some events have a limited capacity. Click here for more information on the event.