Asian Women Giving Circle Awards $81,000 in Grants

A showcase of proposed designs amplifying the critical role immigrant Filipino women have played in care labor, a short rom-com film about a South Asian woman’s decision to end her pregnancy, and a series of murals on storefronts in Sunset Park are among the ten recipients of this year’s Asian American Giving Circle. 

“Our grantees thrilled us this year with their creative approaches to unearthing buried histories and undersung heroes, and their commitment to generating spaces and occasions for people to come together,” said AWGC co-founder Hali Lee. “After the worst of the pandemic, there’s a hunger in our community right now for solidarity and joy and these artists and activists are feeding that hunger.”

Each grantee will receive $8,000 in funds. Last year AWGC began a tradition of making a discretionary “boost grant” to a proposed project. This year’s $1,000 boost grant was awarded to former AWGC grantees Kit Yan and Melissa Li to support rewrites for their musical, “Interstate.”


Public Art: The Sunset Park Unity Mural Project 
Academy of Medical & Public Health Services (AMPHS) | “The Sunset Park Unity Mural Project,” led by AMPHS and artist Yukiko Izumi, will work with volunteers to install murals on the storefronts of small businesses in Sunset Park that highlight the joys and challenges of the local Asian community and its solidarity with Latino and Arab communities, and beautify areas of the neighborhood with the highest crime rates. The project draws inspiration from the Japanese concept of noren, fabric dividers that add life and vibrancy to commercial districts.
Documentary Film: [Untitled Project about Artist-Activist Tomie Arai]
Anna Okuyama Ozbek & ManSee Kong | A short documentary about artist-activist Tomie Arai, following her influential art-making and cultural organizing work since the 1960s—from her involvement with Basement Workshop to her present-day work with Chinatown Tenants Union and Chinatown Art Brigade. Featuring archival material, verite footage, interviews, and Tomie’s art, the film offers a firsthand account of NYC-based AAPI social movements past and present. 
Interactive Web Project: REFLECTIVE URBANISMS: Mapping New York Chinatown
Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong | “REFLECTIVE URBANISMS: Mapping New York Chinatown” is an interactive web project that collects and tells stories from Manhattan’s Chinatown community about its buildings. The project maps changes that Chinatown’s architecture has undergone over time, using archival research and oral histories with current and past residents, business owners, fraternal associations, temple caretakers, and others to chronicle and preserve the neighborhood’s living history. The multimedia website will feature an interactive map of 3D digital building models to visualize notable transformations over time. This project is also supported by The Laundromat Project’s Create Change Artist Residency and the Columbia GSAPP Incubator Prize.
Grassroots Community Arts Space 
Lulu Yao Gioiello | Inspired by Basement Workshop, the first Asian-American political and arts organization in NYC, the artist/publisher is creating a new grassroots community space in Chinatown for NY-based and visiting artists of Asian descent, with a concentration on promoting female and gender-expansive artists’ work and visibility. The program will include talks, exhibitions, film screenings and small gatherings, providing an informal and creative outlet to build relationships and link generations. 
Documentary/Narrative Film: Florence from Ohio
Mynette Louie, Stephanie Wang-Breal & Carrie Weprin | “Florence from Ohio” is a playful film about the generational and cultural divide between Florence Wang and her second-generation daughter, Stephanie, who, dressed in her mom’s iconic St John Knit power suits and re-creating her 1980s local TV cooking show, becomes Beta-Florence, a radical reinterpretation of Asian American identity. But soon Beta-Florence develops a mind of her own, exposing tokenism and the unspoken personal toll of racist acts, pushing mother and daughter into uncharted territory. This project is also supported by the Sundance Institute, Creative Capital, Field of Vision, NBC Universal, and SFFILM.
Documentary Film: Laying the Last Track
Shelley Cheung | “Laying the Last Track” is a feature documentary film about the story of the Chinese railroad workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, as told by their descendants and Asian American activists, and informed by the filmmaker’s friendship with the late Corky Lee as he set out west to restage a 1969 photograph that commemorated the completion of the railroad—this time centering the contributions of the Chinese railroad workers in an act of “photographic justice.”
Art Exhibition: Lives of Three Canners
Siyan Wong |  “Lives of Three Canners” is an exhibition featuring oil portraits of three elderly Chinese immigrants who collect cans for a living in the Lower East Side and Chinatown and who the artist has befriended over the years. Nine paintings illuminate their lives at home, on the street, as their younger selves doing work available to poor immigrants (garment factories, restaurants, homecare); and their work in China before migration. (Gallery 456 at 456 Broadway, Soho; October 27 through November 17, 2023)
Narrative Film: Just Potential
Piyali Syam & Snarky Elephant Productions | “Just Potential” is a romantic-comedy short film about Dhara, a young South Asian woman from a traditional Indian family who makes the difficult and complicated decision to end her pregnancy. In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, Just Potential humanizes and de-stigmatizes the abortion process through the rarely-seen lens of an Asian woman.
Exhibition: Tandang Sora Project
Tandang Sora Project | “Tandang Sora Project Exhibition” will showcase prototypes for proposed architectural projects, public art and monuments to commemorate and amplify the history and contributions of care labor—primarily carried out by immigrant Filipino women. Audiences will be invited to engage and give feedback to these works, part of a participatory public memory campaign inspired by Tandang Sora, a figure akin to Florence Nightingale in Filipino history, who tended to the sick, hungry, and wounded revolutionaries during the 1896 Philippine Revolution.
Documentary Film: Together
Yasmin Mistry | “Together” is  a feature documentary about a Vietnamese-American woman’s efforts to reconcile her tumultuous childhood by exploring her family history. This journey leads to the discovery of two sisters, a legacy of childhood abuse, and a forced confrontation with the haunting question: “How do you heal when you don’t know the truth?” Told through interviews, verité footage, archival imagery, and animation,  “Together” explores healing and the path to empowerment by reclaiming one’s own narrative. The film is projected to be released in 2025 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon.
Musical: Interstate
Kit Yan Productions | Kit Yan and Melissa Li, the creative team behind the musical “Interstate,” are revising a new draft for their Asian-American pop-rock poetry musical that follows Dash, a transgender spoken word performer who becomes internet-famous along with his best friend Adrian, a lesbian singer-songwriter, on a national tour across America. After two productions in LA and MN, Interstate now has interest from a major theater in NYC, but Yan and Li must finish a new draft as the pivotal next step. 
The Asian Women Giving Circle, the first and largest giving circle in the nation led by Asian American women, funds art projects that contribute to cultural and political change created by Asian American women artists and activists in New York City. AWGC is fiscally sponsored by the Ms. Foundation for Women. www.asianwomengivingcircle.org