DES MOINES, Iowa — As Asian Americans, these four creatives have many things in common.
But each has very different stories as to how they were able to carve their paths in arts and media.
ArtForce Executive Director Christine Her, named in the Business Record’s 40 under 40, uses art to be herself.
“When I started doing creative writing, it just amplified the songwriting and the music piece for me. For me, it’s been such a wonderful way to connect with people,” said Her.
Filmmaker Jeremy Thao from Atlanta turned his craft into an outlet. He felt he wasn’t getting the support he needed from family.
“They wanted desperately for me to get a white-collar job that paid really well. I thought being a college fail out was going to be the best thing I was ever going to be,” said Thao.
Thao kept working in the Georgia film scene for several years now. His work was recognized by the nonprofit Film Impact Georgia.
Last year, he received a grant to bring his short film, "Wokman," to life. He’s now crowdfunding to support the project.
One graphic designer, Adora Vang, is thankful she’s always had support from her parents.
“I realize that growing up, my parents understood the value of creating something and making a profit from it,” said Vang.
Founder of Adora Vang Designs based in St. Paul, Minn., Vang has been able to carve a path in the art world, marrying her identity as a Hmong woman with her passion for creating art.
“You don’t go to Target and see Hmong culture stuff or art that is inspired by who you are, and that’s one of the reasons why I got into art so that people can show something that comes from their culture and they can really reflect it upon who they are in their home,” she said.
Her, Thao and Vang hope to inspire AAPI youth to explore and embrace their strengths, especially as creatives.
According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Asian American art is still sorely underrepresented.
19-year-old Kamaura Kim in Des Moines finds inspiration in her dad and grandpas and hopes to continue representing AAPI artists.
“Even if you have a great support system or not, there will always be people along the road who accept who you are, who your art is and all your differences because differences is what makes art big,” said Kim.
Individually, they are just four AAPI creative minds. But together, they hope to inspire a whole generation.
“Be proud to show up as yourself because a lot of people don’t do that and if you can do that through your art, that’s super powerful because that’ll speak more than anything else,” said Her.
“Let’s be loud. Let’s make sure these kids hear us. Let’s make sure these kids know they’re loved and that they matter,” said Thao.