The Filipino American Museum: How art creates cultural identity?

Nancy Bulalacao, Zephyr Guan, Ursula Liang, Yi-Hui Chen, Samson Hung, Dan Raymond, Dilan Walpola, Herb Tam, Carolyn Antonio

Article by Wun Kuen Ng
Photo credit Jonathan Grassi

The Filipino American Museum, the first of its kind, launched on October 29, 2013, in a loft on 10 Greene Street, for one night, featuring a sound piece, “Salvaging the Aether” by Stephen Decker. Decker created new sound to activate the space and invite the audience to engage in the art. With microphones, speakers, and wind chimes, he used a different mode of performance. The room was packed with a diverse group, raising the temperature to steaming.

Stephen Decker

According to the press release, Filipinos were in California since 1587. Filipinos are the second largest group of Asian Americans, after the Chinese, numbering 3.4 million nationwide. They leave their footprints and make their homes in all corners of the United States.

The founding member of FAM, Nancy Bulalacao, who has many years of experience as Director of Public Programs at Museum of Chinese Americas (MOCA), was inspired by Ching Valdes Aran, who visited MOCA, and asked, “Why don’t we have something like this for Filipino Americans?” The seed to create FAM was planted many years ago. She sets out with a team of eleven members and seven advisory board members to redefine the museum space and explore the question, “what does it mean to be Filipino American?” It aims to get the untold stories of the Filipino diaspora. The space for the exhibition will change and only lasts for one night. The current funding for the museum comes from one anonymous donor. There are plans to find a permanent space and seek traditional as well as non-traditional funding.

Herb Tam, Nancy Bulalacao

Why is FAM relevant now? According to Herb Tam, curator, he feels that the museums in New York City need a counterpoint. “Most museums present historical facts, and display standards of beauty and excellence in specific crafts, design, and fashion” but there is a need for a new kind of museum that experiments with what it does and how it does it. The curatorial choices for FAM will be very inclusive featuring female, LGBT, and multi-generational artists.

Rio Guerrero, Frank Jimenez, Carlos Esguerra

The next event, “Gathering the Grassroots 2013: How do we build our movement?” will be at the Queens Museum of Art on Sunday December 8, 2013 at 2PM. It is a gathering of twenty and more grassroots organizations to discuss the Community Safety Act.

Art is deep in every culture; it shapes and inspires the core of our very being. Look for future events from FAM. It shall be exciting since every new exhibition will be something new and fresh, a different look and a different venue.

For more about the Filipino American Museum:

Mary Ping, Gina Pham


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