AAAC Fights To Keep 26 Bowery

November 30th, 2004

On November 4, thirty years ago, the Asian American Arts Centre was incorporated and became a legal entity. Two years later, we moved into our current space at 26 Bowery and opened its doors for cultural activism. In promoting Asian and Asian American culture through the arts in Lower Manhattan, we joined artists and community advocacy together in a mission and a purpose that continues to resonate.

When AAAC began there was no such thing as Asian American art. Today this art has begun to find acceptance in many quarters. The diversity of the United States, however, and the character of its culture remains a deeply contested issue, as the elections have shown.

In Chinatown the effects of 9/11 have not been overcome. Many businesses are still hurting, We do look forward to the possibility of the creation of a major new cultural center in Chinatown. With the support and the encouragement of the mayor and the governor this may one day become a reality. If and when it does, we want to have a home there to establish a Museum for Contemporary Asian & Asian American Art.

Our home, however, of 28 years is now in jeopardy. Our landlord has served us with eviction papers and we have retained legal council to fight this. We are still seeking a probono lawyer, but that will take months and may result in someone too inexperienced in the area of law we need. Our lawyer is knowledgeable about the Loft Laws of New York City, that have enabled us to do our work with an affordable rent.

This 2500 sq. ft loft space has been: a dance studio for classes, an art school, a reception/waiting room, a gallery, a rehearsal and performance studio, storage space and office area, computer room, archival space, a library and research area, as well as a living area. It has been so much a part of our history it would be terrible to lose it now.

This problem has been quiescent for 13 years until now. Further background can be found in the New Yorker Magazine Back Issues dept, ask for the June 17, 1991 issue pages 75-77 of the article on Chinatown by Gwen Kinkead, or see her book entitled, "Chinatown: Portrait of a Closed Society" published in 1993 pages 99-104. E-mail copies of a few of these pages can be requested from AAAC. If you have questions please e-mailed us, so replies can be facilitated. Your letters on the value of AAAC's work, would also be very helpful. Such letters will be submitted to the court towards affecting the decision of the judge.

The Arts Centre's purpose and work has really just begun. Diversity in the United States is only inevitable if we make it so. We share with you this journey of paying attention to art. Now we must ask help to defend the Arts Centre in this legal battle and protect the many years of work accumulated. Only individual donations can be used for this purpose; program grants can only be spent on programs. Please contribute generously to offset our legal fees.

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