“Finding Home”: the new AACC fresco celebrates 40 years of dreams and organization

On the 40th anniversary of the AACC, a commemorative mural was unveiled to celebrate advocacy, culture and community.

Contributing journalist

Tenzin Jorden, collaborating photographer

The exterior wall of the Asian American Cultural Center building was once empty, overlooking an equally empty parking lot. On Thursday, November 18, that changed for good, with a vibrant mural celebrating community advocacy, culture and power.

The AACC is one of four Yale Cultural Centers that serve as community bases for students of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Founded in 1981 as a result of lobbying by the Asian American Student Alliance to establish campus space for the Asian community, the AACC celebrated its 40th anniversary with a new mural titled “Finding Home”. The mural was unveiled during the 40th anniversary of the AACC, which took place on November 18.

According to Joliana Yee, director of the AACC and associate dean of Yale College, “art by and for a community can be a source of healing, which is more necessary than ever after having experienced so much collective and individual loss these two. last years. during viral and racial pandemics.

(Tenzin Jorden, collaborating photographer)

The wall installation process was inspired by the murals that adorn both sides of the La Casa Cultural building by Julia de Burgos. The AACC community wanted a visible marker on their building to represent the importance of the space.

In September 2021, artist Lauren YoungSmith’s proposal was selected by the mural’s advisory committee, made up of students, alumni, staff and faculty involved in the AACC. YoungSmith is an urban artist based in Los Angeles who paints murals, leads workshops and exhibits in galleries around the world. They have over eight years of experience in making murals and have painted murals all over the world from Macau to Peru. YoungSmith underwent rounds of community feedback sessions regarding the mural, then began a three-week artist residency at AACC in November 2021.

For inspiration in the mural, YoungSmith read the history of the AACC and listened to the oral histories compiled in the cultural centre’s online museum.

“I then set to the extremely difficult task of trying to distill what I understood of the space’s legacy, past and future hopes, into a visual composition that would communicate movement, dynamism and the many eggs of the space. Easter that spoke to the Asian American Diaspora experience. “said YoungSmith.

The mural features two young, non-sexist Asian figures walking forward and carrying backpacks. One of the characters has a megaphone and a backpack containing tomes referencing the history of the AAPI and the Black Panther movement. Ginkgo leaves and seeds overflow from the megaphone – in Asian culture, ginkgo is a symbol of resilience and longevity as it can live for thousands of years.

Ginkgo also signifies a period of equilibrium. The leaves of the mural are red and yellow, reflecting the fall colors seen on several New Haven ginkgo trees.

“It’s cool to see all of the different aspects of our identities that make us come out in the open,” said Karley Yung ’25.

YoungSmith noted that their style echoed the fashions of the 1960s and 1970s, a period marking the nascent stages of AASA. The praying mantis on the mural symbolizes harmony, focus and focus. The Student Stride is designed to capture the power and movement of the students’ continuous journey to find home, both physically and ideologically.

“I hope this mural will bring visual form to AACC’s rich history and the powerful energy of activism, advocacy, community and culture it carries on campus and beyond,” said said YoungSmith. “I hope it welcomes the Asian American community from all walks of life and brings color and vibrancy to the outside of what is already so vibrant inside.”

(Tenzin Jorden, collaborating photographer)

The two individuals featured in the mural are intentionally made to appear more Southeast Asian and South Asian. According to Yee, this is part of an effort to center ethnic groups within the Asian diaspora who often feel marginalized due to the common stereotype of Asian Americans as a single monolithic group. By representing the wider Asian Diaspora, the AACC sought to challenge the widely held assumption that Asian Americans are equivalent to East Asians.

As a queer African American woman, YoungSmith said she had a passion for visual storytelling, creating space for queer and BIPOC stories and promoting “anti-racism and a just future.” With this mural, YoungSmith continues its mission to evoke the importance of protest, community organization, social justice and awareness.

“This will be the first and only public artwork on the Yale campus – and possibly New Haven – that features Asian people and centers our community in such a bold way,” Yee said.

The AACC building is located at 295 Crown Street.

James C. Tibbs