New Narratives Art Exhibit Relaunches to Celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Month

Following a virtual edition curated in April 2020, the New Narratives at Andover art exhibit was relaunched in April 2024 to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) month. The exhibit, which will be featured in the Underwood Room on April 7, strives to bring awareness for the AAPI identity by curating works from Andover students that are “expressive of the complex experiences, identities, issues, and hopes and dreams of Asians and Asian Americans,” according to the AAPI Andover website.

Inspired by the New Narratives Exhibition curated by former Andover staff member Leslie Anne Condon, the second edition of the exhibit, “New Narratives at Andover: Reclaiming Asian Identity through Story,” led by Coreen Martin, Instructor in English, features the creative expression of complex issues navigated by Asians and Asian Americans today.

“A couple of years went by, and then I thought, ‘wait, why don’t we do [the exhibit] again?’ Why just a Covid[-19] project? Digital art exhibits are a fantastic way to showcase art, reach people, and celebrate artists. I thought, why just Covid[-19]? Let’s do it again. So, we’re doing our second edition this year, and it’s perfect timing because the Addison Gallery [of American Art] is involved in this international national program that is examining the question, ‘What is American art?’ That program takes place on April 7, and our project is gonna be a part of that. We are part of that question, ‘What is American art, and where does Asian and Asian American art fit in that story?’ which is a really important chapter [in our story],” said Martin.

Martin highlighted the success of the New Narratives’ first edition in celebrating the diversity of Asian and American identities and experiences in the United States of America and beyond. She also expressed hopes for how this year’s edition would surpass the benchmark set by the first edition.

“A story being told and using art as a way to combat that and disrupt… was incredibly successful because of the range of art that we were able to collect and exhibit is so exciting, [and] especially the student art was just so mind blowing, the level and depth of creativity and expression. [It was] successful on the artistic aesthetic level and also in terms of the stories that were being told. [The second edition] is going to blow the first edition out of the water because of the range of work we’re getting. I already know that we’re getting music. There’s gonna be a video. There’s more multimedia types of works [and] also works that are actually going against the grain and questioning what is Asian American identity anyway and [how] expectations for what is Asian and Asian American is also restraining what the artist is expected to be able to do and express themselves.” said Martin.

Carolyn Barbie ’24 is a contributor to New Narratives this year. Barbie, who did her project as part of an Asian American Literature and Film elective taught by Martin, created a rap song regarding the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Barbie spoke on how she incorporated elements of traditional Korean folk songs with hip-hop music in order to be representative of the unison between various communities during the Riots.

“I wrote a rap about the L.A. riots, which were a series of riots that happened in L.A. in the early 1990s. It was mainly caused by the jury’s acquittal of Rodney King’s officers and that caused a lot of tension between the African American communities and the L.A. Police Department. A lot of people believed that it also caused a lot of tension between African American communities and Korean American communities, which is true, but that’s only one side of the situation. The reason why I did the project was to show that there was also a lot of Afro-Asian solidarity, and I used hip hop music specifically as the lens of the ways that those communities united,” said Barbie.

Another contributor to New Narratives, Arim Lee ’24 did her project on diversity within the Asian/Asian American Pacific Islander communities. Lee, who did her project in 2020, reflected on her work as a way to celebrate Asian identity and heritage through a unique medium.

“I did this thing where it was supposed to be prose, like a written piece, but it was actually formatted as a questionnaire, a Q & A type thing, where it would be ‘Which of these people is Asian?’ and then it would have sort of an A, B, C, D, and it would be all sorts of varying people with varying Asian identities or connections to Asian heritage, but sort of the answer, quote unquote, was that they were all Asian, so it was just a quirky little questionnaire-style prose piece,” said Lee.