Friday, April 16, 2010

Chinese American Museum

In his book A World of Its Own, Matt Garcia explores the complex web of interaction present between various immigrant groups and American culture. While he notes the importance of many groups, including the Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino, he focuses on the consistent attraction of Mexican laborers to American opportunities and vice versa. Later on, he discusses the Padua Hills Theatre and offers a cautious praise of the theatre’s intentions to bring Mexican culture into a dialogue with American consciousness through the stories, words, and representations of Mexicans themselves. While Garcia notes the importance the theatre held in offering the Mexican Players opportunities to perform and interact with an artistic community, he reminds readers that the white community failed “to recognize the valid artistry of the Mexican performers” (Garcia, 150). Instead, critics and observers tended to subscribe the talents of the performers to a supposed natural and inherent inclination toward art.

Using Garcia’s focus on the arts, I looked at another immigrant group’s artistic legacy in Los Angeles, the Chinese. The Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles offers visitors a chance to explore the Chinese impact and history within California. At the same time, it aims to give voice to the often- silenced personal experience of Chinese immigrants. In this way, the museum, like the Padua Hills Theatre, seeks to illuminate the different understandings of the American experience in the words of the people themselves. Currently, the museum has an exhibit entitled “Hollywood Chinese.” This exhibit looks at the representation of the Chinese in and the contributions of the Chinese to American films. According to the Executive Director of the museum, “this exhibition will help to inform our communities about the transformative role of race and media and the immense power it continues to have in shaping public perception of Chinese American identity” (Press Release, 2). In this way, the exhibit, like the Padua Hills Theatre, attempts to open up a new understanding of immigrant cultures by exploring artistic representation.

Link to CAM exhibit information page:

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