Active Cultures Night with Eliot and Gotham

February 25, 2011

Guests braved the rain, hail, snow and freezing weather to make it to our Active Cultures event on Friday night. While the weather was frightful outside, the auditorium was cozy and beautifully decorated for the evening. Guests enjoyed the free hors d’oeuvres and cash bar while waiting for the speakers to begin.

Eliot Kiang, our first speaker, focused on the prevalence of Mao’s image in contemporary Chinese art. What is it about him that makes him such a figure of study for so many Chinese artists, especially since he is seen as villain by so many people? The talk focused on how Mao has become an icon in modern Chinese society.  Eliot discussed how the Chinese government has encouraged and perpetuated Mao’s image as a symbol of China. He also shared many images of works by contemporary Chinese artists who use Mao’s image to convey the message of their individual works. Some artists create new interpretations of Mao’s image, some artists use Mao to represent China and Chinese society as a whole, and some artists examine the Mao myth itself, demystifying the legend that is Mao.

Gotham Chopra’s presentation focused on a documentary film he is currently directing and producing entitled Soul’d Out which focuses on his father Deepak Chopra. Gotham screened some of the footage, shot several months ago in Thailand where Deepak went through a process of being ordained as a monk per the Thai tradition. The material showcased a more intimate and vulnerable side of Deepak that few have seen as he has increasingly risen to represent a spiritual conversion that we seem to be undergoing.  This was the first public screening of any of the film’s footage, and judging by audience reaction the complete film should be a big hit.  We certainly look forward to screening it at the museum!

Eliot then joined Gotham on the stage for a most riveting discussion regarding some of their intersecting themes. Several audience members brought up questions about the concept of the father figure and how that theme is portrayed in art or in film.  Questions about whether these artistic interpretations of Mao were censored by the government (yes, in a few cases) led to a larger discussion of whether personal growth through spiritual teachings such as Deepak’s can help improve society as a whole.

The audience was excited to hear about the fabulous line-up of speakers for the Active Cultures finale on March 25 with Joe Rhode, Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering who will discuss the creation of the thrill ride “Expedition Everest”…An attraction, while ostensibly a thrill ride, conveys such a convincing and detailed portrayal of Himalayan culture that it has been used as an educational tool for the real Nepal. Our other speakers will be Ewan Chung and Charles Kim who are co-producers and performers in the award-winning sketch comedy troupe OPM (Opening People’s Minds). They will discuss sketch comedy as a tool for storytelling and political activism, as well as their thoughts on the role of Asian-American artists vis-a-vis mainstream media.


Behind the Scenes: Who We Are!

February 17, 2011

We always get questions about who the PAM staff, docents and volunteers are and what we do all day! So in an effort to get to know us better we’ll be starting a monthly series highlighting one of our own and giving you a peek into who we are and what we do!

Annie Kuang is the Assistant Registrar of the Pacific Asia Museum.  She graduated from UCLA in 2008 and joined the Museum right after.  Her studies in college focused on East Asian Studies and Art History.  Before graduating she was selected to be part of the Getty Multicultural Internship program and worked at PAM as an intern and volunteer for a year.  Her daily tasks at the Museum involve all aspects of registration in the care of the permanent collection and all aspects of borrowing and lending for exhibitions.


Lunar New Year Festival Recap

February 8, 2011

Our Lunar New Year Festival was an absolute success!  Over 4,000 people turned out to celebrate – and what a party!  Almost instantly we had a line down the street as people took their turn on sponsor Wells Fargo’s prize wheel and stopped to get their Pacific Asia Museum balloon. 


Soon the lion dance pulled people into the tent, however, and from then on it was nonstop.  Crowd favorites were the lion dance, or course, but also the magical face changing, rabbit and magician, and the difficult to describe but even more difficult to believe bowl kicking. Let’s just say most people could barely stay balanced on a unicycle taller than themselves, much less flip multiple bowls from their feet onto their head while riding a unicycle. 

The food and craft vendors were busy all day, and sponsor Wells Fargo were particularly popular with their free coloring books, Hands-On Banking financial literacy program, and super cute rabbit banks for new accounts. 

Inside the galleries, China Modern enjoyed record crowds in its final days before going on tour around the country and the dress up clothes in our Silk Road exhibition got quite a work out.  The crafts were also very well received; people created lovely calligraphic banners and new years badges, tried their hand at paper cutting and folding, and decorated our lovely gold rabbit very thoroughly.  (Given away as a prize item in our event survey drawing, we were pleased to learn that he ended up in a local Mandarin Dual Immersion Kindergarten classroom!)

Thanks again to Wells Fargo for supporting the Festival, and a Happy Year of the Rabbit to everyone!

New Member Night

February 2, 2011

New Member Night was a blast! Our auditorium was full with our newest members mingling over wine and cheese as Membership Manager Chelsea Mason gave an overview of all the fun things PAM is planning for the year. Upcoming events like Fusion Fridays and an Appraisal Day and exhibitions like the upcoming Visions of the Orient had them excited to put their new membership to good use—they’ll get in free to it all! To top off the evening, Assistant Curator Bridget Bray gave a tour of PAM’s Himalayan gallery.

We have many treasures in there, including our wooden sculpture of the Buddhist deity Amitabha seated with his consort, which we recently discovered to have a scroll and other small items encased in his back. Many sculptures of deities and revered teachers are carved or cast so that they have a hollow cavity in their interior which can be filled with sacred materials.

New Member Night has been a new experiment for us that we’re happy to be continuing! We plan to hold these twice a year to give our newest members a little background on our history and a sneak peek at things to come. If you’re not a member yet, you can always join at our website to be invited to the next New Member Night. With our full 2011 exhibition and events schedule, you won’t want to miss out on free admission and members-only events! ~CM