The Houston Asian American Archive (HAAA) comes alive in a new exhibition at the Julia Ideson Building in the downtown Houston Public Library.
The exhibit, “Our Vibrant AAPI Community: Selections from the Houston Asian American Archive,” tells personal stories that reflect the deep and varied contributions of the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community to the fabric of Houston. The exhibit is accompanied by monthly programs and together they highlight the advocacy work of the AAPI community leaders, the immense creativity of the Asian artists, and the innovation and courage of the early immigrants.
Included in the exhibition are a wooden boat, a Chinese opera costume, a replica of a congressional gold medal, an original band T-shirt, newspaper clippings, letters, awards and old photos.
Several themes highlight the exhibit — art, food, music, politics, religion and civic engagement. Also included are three documentary videos, featuring Houston’s AAPI-owned eateries, musicians of different genres, and artistic performances ranging from ballet to traditional ethnic dances to the Miss Chinatown beauty pageant.
Four monthly events have accompanied the exhibit, starting this past February with a musical concert featuring two Taiwanese musicians, who played Chinese instruments, the pipa and sheng. They performed both traditional Chinese and contemporary music to a standing-room only audience in the building’s auditorium. The concert was organized by HAAA interviewee Shih-hui Chen, a composer and professor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.
The second event, “Dancing Across Asian America!,” took place in March, featuring two dance groups and an individual dancer from the HAAA community. This was followed by “Exploring the World of Asian American Poets” in April, a poetry reading panel consisting of an East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian poet. Ariana Lee, the 2022–2023 Youth Poet Laureate, opened the program by reading one of her poems. It was moderated by renowned poet Robin Davidson, who was the 2015 Poet Laureate.
The final program will feature a fashion show in May, showcasing the work of renowned local Asian American designer Chloe Dao, Tina Zulu and Anthony Pabillano.
The exhibition, which will run until June, was made possible thanks to the help of the Houston Public Library, Rice University’s Multicultural Community Relations Office, and Rice’s Woodson Research Center and HAAA. Many of these artists and performers are former HAAA interviewees.
“I am grateful that the Houston Public Library, together with Rice University’s Houston Asian American Archive, has brought to light the enormous vitality and contribution that the AAPI community has added to Houston,” Anne Chao, HAAA’s program manager and adjunct lecturer in humanities, said.
Founded in 2010, HAAA fulfills the Greater Houston AAPI community’s need to record and preserve its history. Its first interview with retired newspaper publisher, Gene Lee, was met with great approbation from the community. Interviewee referrals poured in following that interview, and in 13 years, more than 450 interviews have been collected. Each semester, around 10 to 20 interns conduct new interviews and manage the transcripts.
The mission of HAAA is to offer a source of primary materials to deepen our knowledge of history. We invite everyone to view our collection at the Houston Public Library exhibit, and to visit our website at https://haaa.rice.edu. More details on visiting the exhibit and the events can be found here.
— Sarah Kong
Houston Asian American Archive