Kearny Street Workshop (KSW)

Kearny Street Workshop (KSW)

Kearny Street Workshop (KSW) has a mission to present, produce, and promote art that empowers Asian Pacific American (APA) artists and communities. We envision a more just society that fully incorporates our voices, histories, and cultures. Founded in 1972 during the height of the Asian American cultural movement, KSW is

Kearny Street Workshop (KSW)

Kearny Street Workshop (KSW) has a mission to present, produce, and promote art that empowers Asian Pacific American (APA) artists and communities. We envision a more just society that fully incorporates our voices, histories, and cultures. Founded in 1972 during the height of the Asian American cultural movement, KSW is one of the oldest APA multidisciplinary arts organizations in the country. We emerged from a community-rooted vision for arts, battling against injustices such as the fight for housing for elders in the International Hotel in Chinatown where we were founded. For 50 years, KSW has continued to ground our work in art as transformation. As we build intersectional futures, and as the pandemic impacts us in ways we are yet to realize, KSW prioritizes using art as a means towards creating a more just, healed, and imaginative world. We offer professionally produced exhibitions, performances, workshops and classes, and create artist-led programs and artwork which speak to the current needs of APAs. We make artists out of community members and community members out of artists. KSW nurtures the creative spirit, offers an important platform for new voices to be heard, and connects artists invested in their communities to one another. Our organizational praxis is ever evolving, but is driven by KSW’s long history of nimble, socially responsive community organizing and most of all, by communities of artists, activists, and culture makers at the forefront of movements for change in this country.

About the Organization:

Kearny Street Workshop (KSW) has a mission to present, produce, and promote art that empowers Asian Pacific American (APA) artists and communities. We envision a more just society that fully incorporates our voices, histories, and cultures. Founded in 1972 during the height of the Asian American cultural movement, KSW is one of the oldest APA multidisciplinary arts organizations in the country. We emerged from a community-rooted vision for arts, battling against injustices such as the fight for housing for elders in the International Hotel in Chinatown where we were founded. For 50 years, KSW has continued to ground our work in art as transformation. As we build intersectional futures, and as the pandemic impacts us in ways we are yet to realize, KSW prioritizes using art as a means towards creating a more just, healed, and imaginative world. We offer professionally produced exhibitions, performances, workshops and classes, and create artist-led programs and artwork which speak to the current needs of APAs. We make artists out of community members and community members out of artists. KSW nurtures the creative spirit, offers an important platform for new voices to be heard, and connects artists invested in their communities to one another. Our organizational praxis is ever evolving, but is driven by KSW’s long history of nimble, socially responsive community organizing and most of all, by communities of artists, activists, and culture makers at the forefront of movements for change in this country.

organizational budget

$100,000 - $500,000

existence for

31+ YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

National • Massachusetts • New Hampshire

organizational budget

$100,000 - $500,000

existence for

31+ YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

National • Massachusetts • New Hampshire

The Issue:

APAs make up 1/3 of the population in SF and 50% in some Bay Area cities. In a population of 800,000, 1/8 lives in poverty, and 40% of those in poverty are from the Asian diaspora. In the United States, Asians make up roughly 6% of the population. Yet, our communities continue to grapple with mis- and under-representation in mainstream cultural institutions. Legacies of colonization, exclusion, and prejudice contribute to a public that continues to view APAs as perpetual foreigners, a monolithic model minority, or completely invisible. Asian Pacific American communities are not monolithic but comprises diverse ethnicities, with some holding more privilege than others. There is harmful public perception that APAs don’t experience discrimination; yet, ongoing federal policies target Asian immigrants and refugees, and access to education and mental health crises are issues exacerbated by Covid-19. Because of the pandemic, we’ve seen the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. It will take years to turn the tide. APA communities are exhausted, burnt out at work, reeling from racist violence, as well as the shared experience of living in late-stage capitalism during a worldwide pandemic. We are living with a proliferation of mental health crises in our communities. Due to systemic racism, repression, and nepotism in the media and arts, our stories are going unheard. Asian community members are underrepresented also in the highly competitive media, arts and culture fields, leading to a public that does not see, understand, or connect to our stories. APA artists struggle to find community, belonging, and mentorship and must search for opportunities to connect with an audience. Interest in APA art from the larger community is often focused on traditional arts and artists, with few opportunities for contemporary artists to showcase innovation in their work. Artists of the Asian diaspora come to KSW to find mentorship, fellowship, and support in cultivating their art.

The Solution:

KSW aims to transform our society through bridging art, creativity, healing modalities, and community building. Through the arts, we believe a world that is inclusive and uplifting of marginalized voices is possible. We meet the challenges of the issues described above by: Resourcing intergenerational artist communities - We turn community members into artists and artists into community members. We as a society lean on artists to understand what is possible for humanity, and so for 50 years, KSW has been a true hub for artists especially on the West Coast, bringing critical resources such as funding, community networks, opportunities to showcase work, education and mentorship, and much more to artists of the Asian diaspora. These opportunities are otherwise extremely rare. Grounding the arts in racial & healing justice - KSW’s work is grounded in racial justice, with a long history of utilizing the arts to support structural change, speaking up to power and bringing together marginalized communities. We know how important it is to have community-informed arts programs at the center of culture building. In addition, we are seeing more and more that the transformation of our society requires healing justice interlaced with racial justice. APAs can no longer ignore the widespread grief and mental health crises of our time. KSW creates healing spaces such as retreats and wellness activities for artists so that intergenerational healing can extend to our communities at large. Bridging healing justice and racial justice in the arts is a unique position that KSW occupies. Storytelling for us by us: Artists create stories that inspire us to change our circumstances for the better. Increasing representation within arts and media is critical to the foundational work that needs to be done, and it is only the beginning. Telling our multitudinous, authentic stories in concert with community organizing is how the power of the people grows. We break apart the model minority myth, informed by ethnic studies scholarship, powered by our radical histories, and informed by our community driven approach. Through tailored arts programming, KSW focuses on uplifting and developing APA creative voices to enrich the lives of our communities.

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