By Assunta Ng
The Wing Luke Asian Museum’s annual fundraising dinner is the envy of many Asian community organizations. This year yielded another record-breaking amount, $460,000 raised, a 13 percent increase from last year.
The amount they raise each year, keeps increasing. How does the Wing do it?
Having a generous board is important, but the board president has to set high standards. Ellen Ferguson, co-president of the Wing, is the highest contributor every year. Although she isn’t Asian, she believes in social justice, and her enthusiasm for the Wing is contagious. Last year, she donated $10,000 during the “ask” for the Wing’s youth program, and no one followed her lead.
This year, she jumped it up to $15,000. Surprisingly, Paul Mar, another board member, reciprocated. Yes, another $15,000!
“Ellen has done a lot for the museum and not just donating money,” said Gloria Wakayama, Wing’s former co-president.
An inspiring theme
Earlier, the museum held a big celebration for the Luke’s 90th birthday (see https://nwasianweekly.com/2015/03/wing-lukes-90th-birthday-celebration-reveals-fascinating-history/). Inspired by Luke’s 90th, the dinner committee decided to recognize Asian American pioneers who have been instrumental in the museum’s success in its early years. Many of them are now 90 years old.
These individuals still look fantastic, unbelievably youthful, and in good health. Their stories were amazing, and their presence brought wonders and support for the Wing.
What an incredible gesture! And they brought along their friends and family too.
“It made me feel young,” said one of the guests who applauded for the 90-years-old folks.
What fascinated the audience was the Wing’s ability to bring the old and young together as part of the program. The students talked about what they got out of the museum’s Youthcan program.
“Get your boss promoted, so you can get his job,” was what Christina Nguyen, one of the students, learned from Abe Goo, former Boeing president.
Stars are welcome
Many “Who’s Who” were in the audience, including Mona and Gary Locke, former governor and U.S. Ambassador to China, Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell, and wife Joanne, former Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge and husband Jon, and former State Representative John S. Eng.
No long speeches
The program was organized and scripted to allow as many people on stage as possible, but no one gave lengthy remarks. The change of pace was fast, and there was never a dull moment.
The only ones who dominated the scene were the auctioneer and his reader for auction items. That’s the way it should be.
Focus on Asian American art
The majority of their auction items were sold above their listed price. “What we have matches the interest of those who came (for the event,)” said Beth Takekawa, the Wing’s executive director.
From Aki Shogabe’s Japanese paper-cutting techniques of waterfalls to Roger Shimomura’s pop art imagery on socio-political issues of Asian America, the Wing’s auction artwork was one of a kind. It focused on the art of Asian Americans rather than Asian national artists. By doing this, the Wing has made a strong statement promoting Asian American artists and that their talent is special, if not unique.
Attract a new crowd
Many Asian community events I attended have the same audience. The Wing is one of the few venues that is able to attract the mainstream to support the event. These mainstream folks have deep pockets and are used to bidding big and high. They understand this is for a good cause, and looking for deals shouldn’t be their goal.
Bruce Lee helps
The current Bruce Lee exhibit definitely helps to bring awareness of the museum, said Beth. People were still buying tickets at the last minute for the dinner. Attendance for the museum had shot up 70 percent lately. There were local visitors who came to the exhibition who had never been to the Chinatown/International District before.
Despite all the worries the organizing committee had at the beginning, it turned out to be unwarranted. It didn’t matter that the date they picked had a lot of schedule conflicts such as the Final Four games, spring break and yes, even close to the tax filing deadline date—people came anyway. It didn’t matter that the event day, April 4 was supposed to be unlucky in Asian culture. The word “four” rhymes with death in some Asian countries. Seattle Westin Hotel’s ballroom was packed with 490 guests and dozens of volunteers.
Looking back when the Wing was only able to raise $1200 during the “ask” in 1997, Beth said she was surprised how supporters just “open up” their wallets and of course, their hearts for the Wing. (end)