Celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in LA

Cultural exhibits, film screenings, live performances and more

Every May, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) presents Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a citywide celebration that honors the cultures of the AAPI community, and the generations of AAPIs who have helped make Los Angeles one of the most diverse cities in the world. The theme for this year's celebration is AAPI Included, selected to recognize the significant contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in various industries.

Read on for highlights of the numerous cultural exhibits, film screenings, live performances, and virtual activities taking place throughout the month. For the full list of AAPI Heritage Month events, download the DCA's 2022 Calendar & Cultural Guide, which features the artwork of local AAPI artists and includes a Children's Bibliography and a list of Community Resources.

"Collective Resilience" exhibit at the Chinese American Museum
"Collective Resilience" at the Chinese American Museum | Photo: @camlaorg, Instagram

"Collective Resilience" - CAM (through May 27, 2022)

The Chinese American Museum (CAM) is the first museum in Southern California that's dedicated to the Chinese American experience and history in this region.

Now on view at CAM, Collective Resilience: Asian American Artists Honoring Our Community’s Strength & Unity features seven artists from different backgrounds reflecting on their varied experiences during a global pandemic, a national reckoning with systemic racism towards BIPOC communities, and a rise in racially motivated violence against Asian Americans. Individually, their works include explorations into the relationship between (in)justice and social movements; the confluence of (mixed) identity and heritage; and connections between storytelling and communication. The exhibition is an opportunity to celebrate community accomplishments and look forward to an optimistic future, together.


"BeHere / 1942" - JANM (May 7 - Oct. 09, 2022)

Located in Little Tokyo, the mission of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.

JANM’s newest exhibition, BeHere / 1942: A New Lens on the Japanese American Incarceration opens exactly 80 years after Exclusion Orders 32 and 33 forced Japanese Americans to leave Little Tokyo. Created by visionary Japanese media artist Masaki Fujihata, BeHere / 1942 invites visitors to experience the photographic archive of this dark history in new ways.

Fujihata's curation of little-known photographs by Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee - some presented in hyper-enlarged form or reimagined as video - allows visitors to discover things in the archive that they never knew were there. Cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) technology takes the discovery a step further, inviting visitors to become photographers themselves, actually participating in the scene.

The exhibit inside JANM is complemented by a groundbreaking public AR installation in the plaza between the museum’s main campus and the historic Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. A dedicated BeHere / 1942 app lets visitors step into the past, and walk among Japanese Americans on the verge of leaving for the camps. Realized with the participation of members of the local Japanese American community, this recreation includes three people who themselves experienced life in the camps as children.

Tway Nguyen at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center
Tway Nguyen | Photo: Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

Since opening its doors in 1980, the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) has become one of the largest cultural art and community centers in the U.S.

On view from May 7 to June 4 in the George J. Doizaki Gallery, Doing Our Own Thing features a group of artists who are all born and raised in Los Angeles. The artists are invited to retrace their multigenerational family histories in LA and the profound effects the city has had on their artistic production.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays of AAPI Heritage Month, JACCC will open the doors to Little Tokyo’s first-ever Rising Chef Series. The Toshizo Watanabe Culinary Center will host pop-ups by four emerging Asian American chefs: David Nguyen, Kevin Lee, Tway Nguyen, and Chris Ono.

Live performances at JACCC include OKI: Music of the Ainu, which kicked off AAPI Heritage Month; and taiko master Kenny Endo on May 14.

"Surf Nation" at. the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
"Surf Nation" | Photo: Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (May 5-13, 2022)

Since 1983, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival has presented over 5,000 films, videos, and digital media works by AAPI artists, along with seminars, panels, in-person guest appearances, and filmmaker awards. The festival continues to be the largest of its kind in Southern California and is the premier showcase for the best and brightest of Asian Pacific cinema.

The 38th edition of the festival includes Narrative Features, Special Presentations, Documentaries, Animation and Shorts Programs. Venues include the JACCC and JANM in Little Tokyo; and the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood. For tickets and a complete schedule, visit the LAAPFF website.

"The Best We Could Do" by Thi Bui at Los Angeles Public Library
"The Best We Could Do" | Photo: Los Angeles Public Library

Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Public Library is hosting a month-long calendar of in-person and virtual events for all ages, from arts & crafts to film screenings, book clubs, author chats, Asian language classes, and more. Several events are centered on this year's NEA Big Read selection, The Best We Can Do by Thi Bui. For the full calendar of AAPI Heritage Month events, visit the LAPL website.

"The Kalampag Tracking Agency" at REDCAT
"The Kalampag Tracking Agency" | Photo: REDCAT

"The Kalampag Tracking Agency" - Redcat (May 23, 2022)

Coming to LA for the first time, The Kalampag Tracking Agency: 30 Years of Experimental Film and Video from the Philippines will feature works by Raya Martin, Roxlee, Miko Revereza, John Torres, Tito & Tita, and more. Featuring some of the most striking films and videos from the Philippines and its diaspora, this initiative continues to navigate the uncharted topographies of Filipino alternative and experimental moving image practice. REDCAT is offering ticket options for in-person and virtual screenings.

"Angkor: The Lost Empire of Cambodia" at the California Science Center
"Angkor: The Lost Empire of Cambodia" | Photo: California Science Center

"Angkor: The Lost Empire of Cambodia" - CA Science Center (through Sept. 5, 2022)

Now on view at the California Science Center, Angkor: The Lost Empire of Cambodia uses science to reveal insights into the rise and fall of ancient Angkor as well as its legacy. Once considered the most extensive metropolis in the world, Angkor houses more than 100 temples, now mysteriously quiet and surrounded by the dense Cambodian forests.

Guests will explore the ancient empire of Angkor through 120 original artifacts - half on tour outside Cambodia for the first time - as well as hands-on exhibits and an immersive 3D IMAX movie. Visitors will learn how the tools of archeology, from decoding inscriptions to aerial surveying and laser scanning, have enriched our knowledge about the engineering and cultural marvels of an empire, the daily life of its people, and the environmental challenges that shaped its future.

"Queering South/East Asian Diasporas" at ONE Archives
"Queering South/East Asian Diasporas" | Photo: ONE Archives

"Queering South/East Asian Diasporas" - ONE Archives (through May 27, 2022)

Located a half-mile from the USC campus, ONE Archives at the USC Libraries (ONE) is the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world. Founded in 1952, ONE currently houses more than two million archival items including periodicals, books, film, video and audio recordings, photographs, artworks, organizational records, and personal papers.

In collaboration with USC Visions and Voices, USC Pacific Asia Museum (PAM) and South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), ONE presents Archival Intimacies: Queering South/East Asian Diasporas – a multi-part exhibition and series of programs. At ONE, three artists-in-residence, Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, Vinhay Keo, and Pamila Matharu, have developed new works in response to the archive. These new works reflect their engagement with histories of immigration, family histories – both blood and chosen – diaspora, and queerness. Accompanying these new works is an exhibition examining the history of Satrang, an organization supporting queer South Asian communities in Southern California and placing its evolution in context of broader histories.

"Masao and the Bronze Nightingale" at CASA 0101
"Masao and the Bronze Nightingale" | Photo: CASA 0101

"Masao and the Bronze Nightingale" - CASA 0101 (through May 15, 2022)

Located in Boyle Heights, CASA 0101 is dedicated to providing inspiring theater performances, art exhibits and educational programs - nurturing the future storytellers of Los Angeles who will someday transform the world.

In association with the Japanese American National Museum, CASA 0101 presents Masao and the Bronze Nightingale, now playing through May 15. In the aftermath of WWII, formerly incarcerated Japanese Americans are shocked to discover Little Tokyo has become “Bronzeville,” an African American community. When a Japanese American jazz musician from Boyle Heights falls for a Bronzeville jazz singer, the ripple effect of their romance causes upheaval in every direction as the Japanese, Black, and Mexican American communities react.

Tickets start at $20 and are on sale at the CASA 0101 website. Special guest speakers will be featured after each Sunday performance.

"Kapwa: Communal Spirit" at Avenue 50 Studio
"Kapwa: Communal Spirit" at Avenue 50 | Photo: @waxstyles, Instagram

"Kapwa: Communal Spirit" - Avenue 50 (through July 2, 2022)

Avenue 50 Studio is an arts presentation organization grounded in Latina/o culture, visual arts, and the Northeast L.A. area that seeks to bridge cultures through artistic expressions.

Now on view at Avenue 50, Kapwa represents the communal spirit – a shared identity and interconnectedness with our fellow beings. In observance of AAPI Heritage Month, a community of creatives have united to express what it means to possess a communal spirit. "As we band together during tough times, we consider how much we can accomplish as a community. Kapwa encourages our artists to express what it means for us to dissolve our ego wholeheartedly into the collective."

James Hong at the Huading Film Awards
James Hong at the Huading Film Awards | Photo: IMDb

James Hong Walk of Fame Ceremony (May 10, 2022)

Legendary actor James Hong will be honored with the 2,723rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 11:30am PT on Tuesday, May 10. The star will be dedicated in the category of Motion Pictures at 6931 Hollywood Blvd. in front of Madame Tussauds. Hong is the oldest honoree to receive a star on the Walk of Fame and the only living actor to have worked with Clark Gable and Groucho Marx.

Joining emcee Lupita Sanchez Cornejo for the star unveiling will be Jamie Lee Curtis and Daniel Dae Kim, who sponsored Hong’s star. The Shaolin Entertainment Group will be performing a traditional Chinese Lion Dance to bless the occasion. The ceremony will be live-streamed exclusively on the Walk of Fame website.

One of the most prolific actors in Hollywood history, Hong's 700 credits (and counting!) include iconic films like Blade Runner and Chinatown; the cult classic Big Trouble in Little China; voicing characters in the Kung Fu Panda franchise and Mulan; and hundreds of TV show appearances. At 93, Hong shows no signs of slowing down, with current credits including Everything Everywhere All At Once, Turning Red, and the upcoming Gremlins animated series.

Bruce Lee exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Bruce Lee exhibit at the Academy Museum | Photo: Joshua White, AMPAS

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Opened in September 2021, the spectacular Academy Museum of Motion Pictures houses more than 13 million objects in a 300,000 square-foot campus designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano.

Martial arts icon Bruce Lee is featured in an exhibit that includes a blue suit he wore in Enter the Dragon, a pair of nunchaku, and The Way of the Dragon script with his drawings. On the museum's fourth floor, Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is celebrated in an 11,000 square-foot immersive experience featuring hundreds of original animation cels, character designs, storyboards, backgrounds and posters.

Artifacts in other displays range from yellowface makeup to Ang Lee’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000) and Eiko Ishioka’s Best Costume Design award for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). In another gallery, wraparound screens present decades of significant Oscar acceptance speeches, including Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, the first South Korean to win Best Director. Parasite (2019) made history as the first non-English language film to win Best Picture and the first South Korean movie to win Best International Feature Film.

"The Best Secret Agent" (1964) screening at LACMA
"The Best Secret Agent" (1964) | Photo: LACMA

FILM at LACMA (May 18-31, 2022)

To celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, FILM at LACMA presents Dreaming Impossible Dreams: Taiwanese-Language Films from the 1960s. The virtual series of restored black & white films from the Golden Age of Taiwanese-language cinema shatters preconceptions about the Taiwanese New Wave and Second New Wave periods. Despite low budgets and tremendous hardship behind the scenes, the titles in this limited run explode with themes of longing, lust, adventure, and fantasy.

Available for streaming from May 18 to May 31, the six-film program includes bonus content with guests such as National Book Award winner Charles Yu.

"Flower-Headed Children" exhibit at Craft Contemporary
"Flower-Headed Children" | Photo: Craft Contemporary

"Flower-Headed Children" - Craft Contemporary (through May 8, 2022)

Now on view at Craft Contemporary, Flower-Headed Children is the first comprehensive museum survey of New York-based artist and curator Jaishri Abichandani’s varied creative production. Over her 25-year career, Abichandani has utilized folk and vernacular aesthetics and craft-based materials to create intricate figurative sculptures and painted portraits. Her works open traditional devotional iconography and narratives to contemporary anti-racist, feminist, queer, and politically radical possibilities. The exhibition is curated by writer, independent curator, and educator Anuradha Vikram.

"The 49th Hexagram" at the Hammer Museum
Ho Tzu Nyen - "The 49th Hexagram" (2020) | Photo: Hammer Museum

"The 49th Hexagram" - Hammer Museum (through May 8, 2022)

Now on view at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, The 49th Hexagram (2020) is a two-channel video and sound installation that explores the construction of cultural memory and political narrative surrounding the history of the Korean peninsula. Artist Ho Tzu Nyen employed the services of an animation studio in Pyongyang, North Korea to reinterpret scenes of political uprising and mass demonstration as depicted in South Korean narrative film and television. The project aims to form a direct relationship between South Korea’s political history and the tensions that still define the country’s relationship with its northern counterpart.
The video installation is complemented by an experimental soundtrack with two vocal renditions of texts from the 49th hexagram of the I-Ching, an ancient Chinese divination manual. The soundtrack was developed in collaboration with Korean artists and musicians Bek Hyunjin, Park Minhee, and Ryu Hankil.

Kyodo Taiko at UCLA Fowler Museum
Photo: Kyodo Taiko

Fowler Out Loud: Kyodo Taiko (June 2, 2022)

The Fowler Museum at UCLA explores global arts and cultures with an emphasis on works from Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and the Indigenous Americas—past and present.

Fowler Out Loud is an evening concert series that invites UCLA students from various disciplines to perform at the museum. As part of Fowler Out Loud, the museum presents Kyodo Taiko, the nation’s first and oldest collegiate taiko drumming team. Founded in 1990, Kyodo Taiko has shared the unique form of Japanese drumming with the community through captivating performances and interactive workshops.

The two-hour performance starts at 6pm and the museum galleries are open until 8pm. Free admission, RSVP at Eventbrite.

Night view of the Chinese Garden at The Huntington Library
Night view of the Chinese Garden | Photo: The Huntington Library

"On Gold Mountain" - The Huntington Library (May 2022)

Founded in 1919, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is world-renowned as a cultural, research and educational center. Two of its must-see gardens are the beloved Japanese Garden and Liu Fang Yuan ("Garden of Flowing Fragrance"), one of the largest classical-style Chinese gardens in the world. Enjoy traditional Chinese music in the Garden of Flowing Fragrance every Wednesday afternoon from 1-3pm.

On select nights in May, experience On Gold Mountain, a unique outdoor opera based on the best-selling novel by Lisa See. Taking place in the Chinese Garden from 7:30 – 9pm, On Gold Mountain features performers from the LA Opera and a colorful musical score by Nathan Wang that blends Western and traditional Chinese music.

The opera tells the true story of Fong See, a pioneer of LA's Chinatown who immigrated to America to work and find his fortune. Along the way he overcame many obstacles, finding both love and hardship. Most importantly, he discovered himself. In the opera, we not only relive the experiences of Fong See, his American wife Ticie, and other Chinese pioneers, but we also realize the ways in which memory and experience influence our sense of who we are.

Eight performance dates: May 5–8, and May 12–15. Tickets to On Gold Mountain are $135 for Members and $150 for Non-Members. Seating is first-come, first-served.

Indian Chess Set at the Norton Simon Museum
Chess Set from India at the Norton Simon Museum | Photo: @nortonsimon, Instagram

Norton Simon Museum

Located in Pasadena, the Norton Simon Museum houses a world-renowned collection of art from South and Southeast Asia that includes examples of the rich sculptural and painting traditions that developed in that region for more than 2,000 years. Sculptures from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Cambodia, and Thailand are on permanent display, as are selected works from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

"Bali: Agency and Power in Southeast Asia" at the USC Pacific Asia Museum
"Bali: Agency and Power in Southeast Asia" | Photo: USC Pacific Asia Museum

"Bali" - USC Pacific Asia Museum (through June 12, 2022)

Dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands, the USC Pacific Asia Museum (PAM) has a collection of over 15,000 objects, spanning more than 4,000 years of the region from Persia to the Pacific Islands.

Bali: Agency and Power in Southeast Asia centers on paintings collected in Bali by cultural anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead during their fieldwork on the island from 1936 until 1939. Utilizing the paintings as a foundation for exploring the stories, beliefs, and daily lives of Balinese people, Bali: Agency and Power in Southeast Asia will guide visitors to a greater understanding of this often romanticized but frequently misunderstood island and examine the role that painters, tourists, and anthropologists had in shaping new art styles for communicating detailed aspects of Balinese society and beliefs.

Pacific Islander Festival at Aquarium of the Pacific
Pacific Islander Festival | Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific

Pacific Islander Festival (June 4-5, 2022)

Now in its 19th year, the Pacific Islander Festival will feature traditional music and dance, cultural displays, and craft demonstrations. Hosted by the Aquarium of the Pacific, the festival will take place from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5. The festival is included with aquarium admission and celebrates Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan, Chamorro, Marshallese, and Maori cultures.