Asian American Cultural Center (AACC) 40th Anniversary Commemorative Mural, “Finding Home”
“Finding Home” evokes the AACC’s rich history of protest, community organizing, social justice, outreach towards the New Haven community and to the global AAPI community beyond, and the long tradition of advocacy (for oneself and for one another) that has made it possible for this space to exist. Two young non-gender-specific Asian characters stride forward, carrying backpacks. One character–whose garb lightly echoes the fashion of the 60s and 70s, during the nascent stages of the AACC– carries a megaphone and a backpack packed with tomes exploring AACC history, feminist theory, Brahmic poetry, and the Black Panther movement, a gesture to the AACC’s history of activist work, and solidarity with other migrant and BIPOC communities. Various “easter eggs” communicate elements of inclusivity and diverse cultural practices. Traditional dandiya sticks from south Asian dance peek out from the backpack. The textiles, jewellery, and style of dress work by the characters evoke a wide array of cultures across Asia, including henna, which is also an activity often offered by the AACC. A tape recorder evokes a rich practice of recording spoken history. From the megaphone spill ginkgo leaves and seeds, which in Asian culture are a symbol of resilience and longevity (the tree can live for thousands of years), implying the ongoing vibrancy of the AACC’s voice. The ginkgo signals a period of balance as we contemplate the nature of our duality and unity through the lens of compassion. Native to New Haven, it evokes the spectacular yellow-and-red colors of fall. A praying mantis represents harmony, focus, and concentration. “Yale was not made for people like us, yet we’ve been here for over 50 years,” said Stella Xu ’21, at the AACC’s reunion–and so this image is designed to capture the power and movement of students striding to take up space for themselves and their fellows; and the active, vibrant and ongoing journey of finding a home, both physically and ideologically. One character looks back, giving honor to the past, while the other looks forward, ever striding into the future.
The hanging shoes call to mind the “shoe story,” an important moment in the AACC’s early history when students strove to create space for themselves on campus. Having been conducting AACC activities in a small space and finding that they could use roomier facilities, the students invited the president of Yale to visit and decided to follow the traditional Asian custom of removing their shoes before entering the space. When the president arrived, there were so many shoes piled in the hallway that it became very obvious that this community was much bigger than the space allowed, and this, in turn, convinced the University to upgrade the AACC’s space allowances. The shoes act as a visual metonymy for the idea of “finding home.”
The artist, Lauren YS has signed the mural with their familial chop, featuring a runic version of the “Yang” character (their surname). The tiger character on the purple shoe is also a signet of the artist’s.
The artist would like to thank Joliana Yee, Sheraz Iqbal, Louis Jensen, Montana Cans USA and all the students, faculty and community members who contributed so richly to the evolution and completion of this mural. The following are news coverage related to the mural:
AACC 40th Anniversary Virtual Celebration Kickoff event recording (Spring 2021)