By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
After years of dedication and commitment from the community, the Wing Luke Asian Museum has finally settled into its new home at the four-story East Kong Ying building in the International District.
The museum’s relocation was not an easy process. In fact, campaign efforts began in 2003. After five years of hard work and fundraising tactics, its efforts paid off. The museum successfully raised $23.2 million in February 2008.
The Wing Luke Asian Museum is the first and only Pan-Asian museum in the country. It tells the Asian American immigrant story. According to board member Ellen Ferguson, rather than being specific to one culture, 20 Asian Pacific Islander American communities are represented by the museum.
Beth Takekawa, the executive director of the museum, says the museum is striving to attract 50,000 to 60,000 visitors in its 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 of 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 an integral supporter of the museum.
Both Ferguson and Gloria Lung Wakayama, a 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 and civic activities as well as a great place for business as well.
“The community really invested heartily into the museum and really seems to be embracing it,” Ferguson said. “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.”
A little known fact about the museum is that the community curates all of the displayed exhibits, which ranges 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,” said Ferguson. “The community has stepped forward very generously with their contribution. That attributes to the success of the Wing Luke Museum’s new home.”
Ferguson encourages people to visit and take a tour of the museum because “there are constantly new installations, and there are always new things to see and experience.”
Wakayama agrees, and she calls the museum “an undiscovered jewel.” She hopes to spread more local awareness even though it has achieved national recognition.
“The community-based model that the Wing Luke Museum 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 said.
Through its community participation, museum employees and board members, the Wing Luke Asian Museum is truly a well-rounded organization rich in aesthetics and diversity. According to Takekawa, things continue to look bright. “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.” ♦
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.