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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.