Celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2024

By NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD
a collage of photos of an Asian American man holding a boom box over his head, an Asian American woman sitting on a cherry picker to paint a mural, and a South Asian man dancing rhythmically with a Black man

(clockwise, from top left) A scene from East West Players' 2018 production of Vietgone. Photo by Michael Lamont; Multidisciplinary artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya working on a mural in Washington, DC. Photo by Will Martinez; Chitresh Das and Jason Samuels Smith performing at the 2009 NEA National Heritage Concert. Photo by Michael G. Stewart

During this month, the NEA celebrates Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AANHPI) and recognizes the many contributions of the AANHPI community to the cultural fabric of our nation.  AANHPI artists, culture bearers and arts workers have carried forward a spirit of innovation inherent within their respective crafts, and set a foundation of leadership to support generations to come. 

The work of NEA National Heritage Fellows Chitresh Das and June Kuramoto transcends the traditional boundaries of their disciplines. Chitresh Das choreographed cross-cultural performances and collaborated with tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith, creating unique experiences for audiences across the globe. June Kuramoto, as part of the Asian-American band, Hiroshima, fused traditional Japanese koto with other musical forms to produce timeless genre-defying music.
AANHPI artists and culture bearers also play vital roles in preserving traditions, safeguarding heritage, and telling diverse stories. Roen Kahalewai Hufford, a Native Hawaiian and NEA National Heritage Fellow, has been a leader in the movement to restore traditional Hawaiian cultural practices. For decades, she has revitalized and reclaimed the practice of ka hana kapa (making barkcloth) and teaches students on her farm every week to ensure that the knowledge of kapa making endures. President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities member, educator, and multidisciplinary artist, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, uses her public art campaigns to make visible the experiences and the stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. East West Players in Los Angeles, California, is a leading Asian-American theater company and one of the longest running theaters of color in the country. It was founded in 1965 to tell stories about Asian American experiences and provide Asian American artists and actors opportunities they were historically excluded from. The theater continues to break new ground in presenting diverse narratives of modern Asian American experiences and has reached national and international audiences through its programming. 

The innovation and leadership of AANHPI artists, arts workers, and culture bearers challenges us to expand our thinking about what is possible. Their artistic innovations push the boundaries of their artforms and build bridges between ideas and cultures. From blending traditional and contemporary music, reclaiming cultural practices, integrating diverse genres of dance, and presenting AANHPI narratives, these artistic expressions cultivate curiosity about ourselves and others. In doing so, these artists help us relate to one another and bolster our civic infrastructure, the systems and mechanisms we rely on to care for each other.  

Our communities are stronger, more resilient, and more whole because of their work.  

This month, the NEA encourages everyone to learn more about the diverse heritages and cultures present within the AANHPI community through the arts.