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AAPI creatives address how the community is part of the ‘larger fabric of Cincinnati’

Cory Sharber
Panelists discussed the importance of AAPI creative spaces within communities during a discussion held at the Art Academy of Cincinnati on May 26, 2022. Pictured (from left to right) are Michelle D'Cruz, Emily Hanako Momohara, Simon Tam, and Jay Kalagayan.

Artists from Cincinnati discussed AAPI representation through arts and how expression through creative spaces connects communities.

The Art Academy of Cincinnati hosted the event Thursday evening for people to learn about local projects and to advocate for an “inclusive artistic culture.” The event was a part of AAPI Heritage Month being celebrated throughout the city.

Panelists discussed topics ranging from integrating communities and allowing spaces for full expression and creative freedom.

Each panelist, including the moderator, are artists across multiple mediums including photography, music, and graphic design. Simon Tam is the founder and bassist for The Slants, an Asian-American rock band who’s Supreme Court case impacted how the First Amendment is applied in trademarks. He says creative spaces focusing on specific demographics help people connect with each other through shared experiences.

“If you’re thinking about it in terms of visual art or a photograph or a painting, sometimes it helps to be very, very close because you can see the details in ways that you can’t from afar,” Tam said. “But other times it helps to back up so you can get the whole picture of how a piece can fit into a much larger picture and I think for spaces like this, we’re getting close. We’re seeing why and how our community is a part of the larger fabric of Cincinnati and what that means.”

Emily Hanako Momohara is a photographer, filmmaker, and a professor at the Art Academy. She says AAPI visibility highlights how the demographic makes a difference within the region.

“There’s only 2% AAPI in Cincinnati proper, but we are giving back so much, so if that visibility, I think, could be raised just to just acknowledge the contributions, I think that would go a long way,” Momohara said.

MDC Design Studio Creative Director and Lead Designer Michelle D’Cruz moderated the discussion. She says she would love to be part of the community of folks normalizing the involvement of AAPI people in creative arts.

“I want kids to walk through artistic spaces and feel completely at home and see themselves reflected in the work that’s around them,” D’Cruz said. “Also, on a purely selfish level, I never want to stop learning so the more I’m in these spaces, the more enriched I am as an artist, as a human being, and that’s incredibly valuable.”

You can listen to the panel discussion below including MeSseD Comics creator and writer Jay Kalagayan.

AAPI Creatives Round Table
Recorded at the Art Academy of Cincinnati on May 26, 2022.