Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Fourth annual Umbrella Arts Festival celebrates Asian diaspora cultures, art

Jerry Wu/The Daily Northwestern
A variety of Asian cultures were represented in performances and vendors at the Umbrella Arts Festival.

Performers in traditional flowy Chinese regalia swayed tambourines with red and orange strings in the air at the fourth annual Umbrella Arts Festival, held at Fountain Square Saturday.

The Flying Fairies Dance Troupe was one of the myriad of dance, skit and musical groups that performed at the event, hosted by Evanston Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to celebrate the Asian diaspora’s history, culture and art.

“We are defining our own culture and identity here as Asian Americans,” said Mia Park, the event’s emcee. “We just need to celebrate our beautiful vendors here: food, culture, dance, all of it.”

Park, the founder of the nonprofit APIDA Arts, said it is important to celebrate the heritage of Asians in Evanston as a group that has been part of the community for over a century.

The more than 70 participating vendors and nonprofit groups are all Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned, Park said.

One group, the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association, had an origami station for people to make paper cranes. According to an informational flyer at the group’s table, the cranes are a symbol of peace.

A station by Studio 3, a community art gallery and studio, had materials for families to take part in making bamboo peace posts, wrapping colored yarn around a bamboo stick for a community installation.

At another booth, children created their own mandala designs — a circular diagram from Hindu and Buddhist tradition. Children used stencils with intricate designs to spray paint mandalas onto the sidewalk. Others used smaller stencils to decorate small round pieces of wood that could function as coasters.

Small businesses were also in attendance. Angenarts, created by Chicago resident Angelina Nguyen, sold posters, stickers, mini prints and other forms of digital and hand-drawn art.

Nguyen said that as someone who is Filipino and Vietnamese, she attended the festival to bring attention to her art and meet other Asian creators.

“(Art) was just my way of expressing myself and just finding a way to visualize what I really liked doing,” Nguyen said. “I just love the people here. Everyone’s been asking me a lot of questions and just getting to know me as a person as well as my art.”

Other businesses featured items like handmade traditional pottery, jewelry and sachets.

Several nonprofits and city organizations supported the event, including Evanston Public Library. Its booth had tote bags and free books for people of all ages. Chicago Karate Club provided short karate lessons to children that passed by its tent.

Evanston resident Howard Lam, who is Vietnamese, said he was surprised to see how large the Evanston Asian community is, and was glad the event was made to celebrate them.

“I think for any culture, any race, however you want to categorize people, it’s nice to feel — if not for a day or moments — seen, celebrated,” Lam said.

Northwestern community members also participated in the festival. Treblemakers, NU’s East Asian a cappella group, performed, harmonizing with quick-paced pop rock songs like 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Youngblood” and “Teeth.”

Asian Pacific American Coalition members presented about the creation of NU’s Asian American Studies Program, explaining how students from multiple groups at the University rallied and even led a hunger strike in 1995 to pressure the administration to establish the program in 1999.

Weinberg junior and NU APAC member Sanjana Rajesh, a former Daily staffer, said APAC wants attendees to understand that Asians have historically been depoliticized but take action and stand up to injustice.

“This festival is amazing,” Rajesh said. “It’s important to talk about the explicitly political context of Asian Americans in the United States.”

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