Austin’s various art scenes are a defining part of our ever-expanding culture. Galleries, performers, dancers — the city is full of amazing artists, all leaving their mark on our communities. The Asian American & Pacific Islander communities are Austin’s fastest-growing demographics. Delight in traditional dances, captivating film screenings, and enriching exhibits.
Here are some of the places, organizations, and people in the Austin Asian American & Pacific Islander arts scene that have brought their incredible passion and talent to the city.
West China Tea House. Credit Montshso Thoth.
Shops and Spaces
Asian American Resource Center hosts a large variety of programs and exhibits displaying art from the spectrum of identities under the Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander umbrella. Established in 2013, the center has served the community with many helpful spaces that are completely open to the public. Take a moment and relax in the intergenerational community garden! While the main facility is temporarily closed, the museum is offering a host of online programs to educate and enrich everyone who is interested.
Kinokuniya Austin is a Japanese bookstore that sells stationery, cultural items and artbooks. Want to become a better artist yourself? Pick up one of their Art Boxes: a stationary kit with beautiful brush pens that can help you make some gorgeous ink illustrations. For anime fans, the beautifully sunlit store has a wide assortment of figures, pins, and manga (available in both English and Japanese). They host cultural events in the back half of the store, which they have set up to resemble a 1920s Japanese classroom.
Lotus Asian Arts and Antiques Gallery showcases fine antiques and collectibles from a variety of Asian cultures. Next time you are walking through the windy streets of downtown, step in and see this first-class collection of art from China, Tibet, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, India, Thailand and Burma. While most items are on sale for art collectors, the store owners are known for their welcoming attitude and willingness to share their deep knowledge and passion about Asian art.
West China Tea House lets visitors participate in gong fu cha tea ceremonies. The ritual preparation and presentation of the tea is an art itself. Assemble your cup of tea in a more thoughtful way, with this traditional practice. The tea house offers classes and events, and a tea of the month subscription service. In light of the pandemic, they offer sanitary private tea tastings to small groups of less than five.
Courtesy of Austin Asian American Film Festival.
Productions and Organizations
Lucky Chaos Productions is Austin’s major Asian American theatre and Arts production company. Founded in 2012, the company has made over 60 productions. They are great at filling theatres and telling stories that capture the depth of the Asian American experience. The company also actively supports other underrepresented communities. Catch a play, comedy show, or one of their mental health open mics!
The Love of China School of Dance is committed to sharing the beauty of traditional Chinese dance to the greater Austin area. An Austin staple, they have operated in the city for over two decades. They are the real deal. You can find updates on upcoming performances here.
Austin Asian American Film Festival is committed to showing greatness in Asian and Asian American cinema. In addition to their annual film festival, they host year-round screenings and special events. A lot of films they put to screen are hard to find in the U.S. or are not shown anywhere else. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to catch new perspectives and narratives. They recently co-presented Prismatic Taiwan: A Queer Film series. You can find more information on upcoming screenings and panels on their website and social channels.
Austin Moonflower Performing Arts Group brings a vast range of talented artists to the stage. With their choir, dance team, waist drum band and Qipao fashion team (and more!), they promote Chinese cultures through performing arts.
The Agni Dance Company opened its doors back in 2008, and since then, they have brought the energy of Bollywood dance to community members of all ages. Get moving with either private, group or workshop classes. Or book a choreography class to take your wedding or music video to the next level. If you feel up to it, you can also sign up for fitness classes that combine high-intensity cardio with upbeat Bollywood music.
"Zoe and Hanh" Film Still. Courtesy of Kim Tran.
An art scene requires artists. And there is no shortage of talented creatives here in town making beautiful work for all of us to enjoy. Here are just a few of the artists who can enhance your trip to Austin. Follow them to get updates on available products, future shows, and appearances.
- Christine Hoang is a Vietnamese American playwright, actor, and storyteller. Her new short audio drama "Under 30 Minutes: Strange Tales of Pizza Delivery,” is available on YouTube.
- Jieun Beth is a conceptual artist dealing in existential topics and personal identity. Her exhibits have been shown internationally and in town at the Austin Central Library.
- Kim Tran is a first-generation Vietnamese performer and filmmaker. Kim often performs in-person and online shows with her comedy groups.
- Minda Wei is a queer actor, writer, comedian, and the festival director of Austin Sketch Fest, the premier venue for scripted comedy in Austin.
- Nagavalli is an Indian-American musician with an “Eastern Soul” style that blends pop, rock, trance, and eastern tradition. She was named one of the Top 10 Female Vocalists and World Music artists at the 2015-2016 Austin Music Awards.
- PJ Raval is a Filipino-American award-winning filmmaker. His documentaries have received international praise and have shown at Austin’s own SXSW and the Austin LGBT Film Festival.
- Sho Humphries is both a popular musician and a high school student. Specializing in the ukulele, Sho is the perfect artist for the era with his frequent live streams and online concerts.
Contributed by Jade Fabello
Jade Fabello is an Austin-based writer and a recent graduate of the University of Texas, where he was a double major in the Journalism and the Communication and Leadership programs. You can find his work at JadeFabello.com.
Instagram @Jade__Fab. Twitter: @Jade_FW