By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
After years of dedication and commitment from the community, the Wing Luke Asian Museum has adjusted greatly into its new home at the four-story East Kong Ying Building in the International District.
It was not an easy process for the museum’s relocation. In fact, campaign efforts began in 2003. The museum successfully raised a total of $23.2 million in February 2008. After five years of hard work and fundraising tactics, it paid off.
The Wing Luke Asian Museum is the first and only Pan-Asian museum in the country that tells the Asian American immigrant story. Rather than being specific to one particular culture, 20 Asian Pacific Islander American communities are well represented by the museum, according to board member Ellen Ferguson.
Beth Takekawa, executive director of the museum, says they are striving to attract 50,000 to 60,000 visitors in their first year at the new location, including 10,000 to 12,000 students on educational tours. “Our intent is to be part of a revitalization of our unique historic neighborhood and to raise the cultural profile of the entire region,” Takekawa said.
The community is the backbone behind the museum. “We are extremely grateful. The museum has always been a community-based place,” Ferguson said. She has been on the board for 10 years and has always been appreciative of the museum.
Both Ferguson and Gloria Lung Wakayama, fellow Board of Trustees member of nearly 25 years, hope that the economic revitalization will help the ID continue to flourish. They both feel that the museum is a core space for social civic activities and a great place for business as well.
“The community really invested heartily into the museum and really seems to be embracing it. We hope members of the community continue to use the museum as a voice to tell different and untold stories as well as having more space to display contemporary art,” Ferguson said.
A little known fact about the museum is that the community curates all of the displayed exhibits, ranging from Asian American immigration to sweatshop workers.
“Dedicated support and participation from the community are the core aspects of what brings life and vivacity to the museum. The community has stepped forward very generously with their contribution; that attributes to the success of the Wing Luke Museum’s new home,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson encourages people to visit and take the tour of the museum because “there are constantly new installations and there are always new things to see and experience.” Wakayama agreed and called the museum “an undiscovered jewel” and hopes to spread more local awareness despite achieving national recognition.
“The community-based model that the Wing Luke is known for has been replicated by others throughout the country,” Wakayama said.
There are also a variety of opportunities at the museum for people of all ages to participate in. Wakayama mentioned that the museum implemented youth programs and offers volunteer and internship opportunities throughout the year.
“The museum looks at things through a different lens; not only does it preserve the past and its history, but it also looks at current events. We do things that are really cutting-edge and involve social justice. We’re not really looking backwards but looking forward,” Wakayama continued.
From community participation, museum employees to board members, the Wing Luke Asian Museum is truly a well-rounded organization rich in aesthetics and diversity. Things are looking bright for them according to Takekawa. “The museum’s future is entwined with the future of our neighborhood and with the future of a developing multi-ethnic force for cultural equity and change.”
“This is a 42-year-old museum birthed by its community and friends, and over the years this expanding circle of supporters has succeeded in growing the museum, and they still hold the museum’s future in their hands,” Takekawa said. ♦
For information about volunteer or internship opportunities, please visit the museum’s Web site at www.wingluke.org or contact Russel Bareng, education manager, at 206-623-5124 ext. 132.
Nina Huang can be reached at email@example.com.