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Civil Art hopes to be an anchoring point for younger and older generations, as well as people in the art world and beyond. To those in the API community, we hope to provide familiarity and empathy. To those who are yet unfamiliar, we wish to be an entry point into the rich and diverse world of API narratives.

Civil Art is a place where opportunities become meaningful.

The ChallengeThe API community in the US alone is 20 million and growing, but resources for encouraging possibilities and disassembling discrimination remain scarce. This lack of representation is an ideological and systematic issue that can create external and internal neglect that can dismantle the community’s sense of self. Externally, the lack of representation normalizes hate, disrespect, generalization, and misappropriation of the underrepresented API community. Internally, the lack of representation generates self-neglect, discontent, and the inability to love oneself. The lack of recognition by the API community disables its potential for positive development and expression.

Although self-love and appreciation may come easier to those in privileged positions, the idea of loving oneself – a type of love that every person deserves as it is natural and organic – is often unapproachable to those who are alienated by society. Alienation can render a person’s relationship with his or her own culture bitter. For instance, the commonly shared experience of API school children being embarrassed about their parent’s packed lunches because of their “foreignness” is an example of the API community’s displacement from its culture and history.

Reintroducing the love of self and one’s culture can begin with storytelling because it is fundamental to humanity. A good story can persuade, inspire, and motivate. Telling a story – a compelling story – is an effective way of changing people because changes made through storytelling are accomplished through persuasion and education and therefore have longevity. As the lack of internal and external love for the API community is ideological and systematic, the pursuit of the API community empowerment must utilize storytelling so that the institutional change that is advocated inspires and educates, all the while ensuring the longevity of a better future.

Art is an effective tool for institutional change because it is a medium that embodies storytelling. Artifacts are physical manifestations of artists’ cultural, historical, and personal stories. In addition to its inherent narrative qualities, art, unlike simple commodities, has the ability to portray the nuances of humanity. Consumerism and utilitarianism value speed and simplicity for rapid production and distribution and, therefore, simplify complexities into shallow images. However, art cherishes depth, intentionality, and creativity, and it naturally fights simplification.

Unfortunately, the current art ecosystem lacks the resources and opportunities that API artists need. The current art industry is driven by the market value of art and does not elevate art beyond its function as a commodity. Museums and high-level institutions have built-in infrastructures to provide the narrative aspect of art; however, they provide only limited space and opportunities for younger artists. On the other hand, commercial galleries can feature and provide vastly greater exhibition opportunities; however, the majority of them have limited financial resources and are unable to provide the support to make artists’ narratives accessible to society.

Not only does the art industry need to help API artists gain visibility, but it also needs to create platforms that enable artists to create art that shares cultural narratives in context and that express the diversity of the community through storytelling.

What Civil Art Plans To DoCivil Art is a nonprofit organization that makes the API community’s voices accessible through curated exhibitions and social engagement programs that utilize all forms of creativity. Civil Art organizes programming:

  1. Where storytelling in art can flourish to underscore the diversity and complexity of the API community. 
  2. That uphold art’s intrinsic values so that it can be more effective in creating rightful representations of the API community and distinguish itself from simple commodities.
  3. That ensures longevity, impact, and accessibility of the API community’s presence and voices.

Civil Art’s focus is on 1) API artists, scholars, and creatives, 2) young and emerging art professionals, 3) patrons, and 4) charitable organizations. Unlike many arts organizations that target only artists, Civil Art seeks to influence all of the major stakeholders in the sector to help bring about effective institutional change. Civil Art leads by example to present a healthier model of the art industry where culturally appropriate representations of the API community can impact society through the arts. Each of Civil Art’s programs:

  1. Provide curated spaces where art can become accessible in context.
  2. Educate and communicate to create a bridge to artists’ cultural histories, experiences, and other narratives, which may not be readily available on view.
  3. Help inspiring stories of API artists become reachable to a wider demographic.
  4. Create sustainable and accessible infrastructure that fosters longevity and opportunities for the API community.

For those in the API community, Civil Art becomes a place of empathy and home. For individuals outside of the API community, Civil Art becomes an entry point into the rich and diverse world of API for those who are yet unfamiliar. The problem that Civil Art is addressing is a two-fold problem. The API community is marginalized, and the market-focussed art industry undervalues the cultural value of artworks, where API artists need the most opportunity to create genuine representations of API. Therefore, as Civil Art is a microcosmic ecosystem of the art industry, the organization’s commitment and display of diversity, integrity, and accessibility will demonstrate the possible future that the contemporary art world can embody. Without Civil Art, artworks will continue to be simplified as simple commodities. Such quantification without quality endangers the API community because:

  1. Patrons seek API art for their financial value and therefore do not seek API art for their qualitative value. Although cultural narratives will be present in art, they are hidden as they are seen as a secondary value and limit art’s potential for storytelling. 
  2. Artists are motivated to create while heavily affected by trends and what is sellable. Reliance on market trends is dangerous because trends are monolithic, which has the negative potential of rendering the API community’s diversity homogenous. 
  3. An API art that solely relies on market trends creates a market bubble. A market bubble suggests expiration, and upon the expiration date, a lack of representation of the API community will resurge. The cultural goal of API art is to inistigate the API community’s voices to become a major stakeholder in the global social economy, and the community’s cultural input has to be an ongoing circulation. 
  4. Dehumanizes the humanity in API art, which by transitive property, dehumanizes the API community. 

Civil Art does its work abiding by a set of Leadership & Integrity Principles.
Civil Art is also developing a set of qualitative and quantitative metrics to assess its impact to ensure the best possible use of its resources. 

Civil Art recognizes the value of collaboration and is committed to sharing its resources with others and developing and implementing its activities by working with partners. Civil Art is led by its co-founder, Ho Jae Kim, and has a Board of Directors of leaders from across the art sector and beyond.

Our Origin StoryCivil Art was conceived in 2022 amidst rising cases of xenophobia during the Coronavirus pandemic. Its first event, At the Table, was a unique large-scale exhibition to promote API awareness in New York City. In addition to featuring more than 50 prominent API creatives through an exhibition and supplementary art and educational programs, Civil Art raised funds for a Chinatown feeding program for the elderly. Building on that success, Civil Art has brought together sponsors, artists, art administrators, and various individuals from the creative sector in a series of subsequent events that have benefitted artists, reached significant public audiences, and stimulated meaningful dialog within and about the API community, its culture, and contributions to American life.

Learn More About  At the Table

Civil Art is a fiscally sponsored (Player Philanthropy Fund) 501(c)(3) non-profit organization & principal exhibitor. All contributions to Civil Art are tax-deductible to the fullest extent under law.   

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