Lisa Gold: Ensuring AAPI Faces Are Seen and Voices Are Heard
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on change-making leaders transforming the world into a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Lisa Gold, the executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Lisa! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization?
Lisa: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! The Asian American Arts Alliance (A4) was created to ensure that Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) artists and arts organizations have the same opportunities to practice their craft and enjoy a successful career as everyone else in the arts. AAPI artists are often marginalized or typecast in unflattering roles and not given the same chances as others to demonstrate their talents. A4 seeks to change that by creating a supportive network for artists and arts organizations, and by offering trainings, workshops, fellowships, and more to help them succeed.
Spiffy: Awesome! What motivates you to tackle this challenge?
Lisa: As an Asian American, I never saw anyone who looked like me on TV or in the movies. I never heard songs on the radio performed by AAPIs. I didn't read books written by or featuring characters like me. And I wasn't alone. I feel that everyone has the right to see themselves on stage or read stories that they can relate to, written through a personal and culturally competent lens. I started working at A4 in late 2018 when immigrants and BIPOC communities were under attack—an utter lack of compassion and generosity for others was completely missing in the political discourse. I wanted to stand up for my community and ensure our faces were seen and our voices were heard in powerful and positive ways.
Spiffy: That is wonderful and clearly much-needed! What would you say is the impact of your work?
Lisa: I believe the work of A4 not only helps artists and arts organizations, but it also helps all of society by ensuring that we experience the full depth and beauty of our communities. Seeing AAPI actors in roles beyond the delivery man or the hostess reflects the reality of our world and demonstrates that we share so much, whether it’s the desire for a happy and healthy family, or a good meal, or a successful career.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent initiative by A4. What impact does that make?
Lisa: We are very excited to launch a new online publication in November 2022 focusing on AAPI artists and arts organizations. There is currently no archive or publication that documents the breadth of the AAPI creative community, and I'm thrilled that we are able to create one! I think the magazine will be able to serve as a record of the artists and influencers of our time, as well as to share the creative contributions of our community—not just for our own sense of pride and understanding, but for the general public.
Spiffy: Awesome! Best of luck to you all on that exciting development! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Lisa: When I speak to groups, I usually open by asking them to name their favorite AAPI visual artist, or musician, or dancer, or actor. And if they can't, I ask them to consider why not. It is my hope that AAPI artists become so ubiquitous that I no longer need to ask this question.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Lisa—it’s been an honor!
Lisa Gold currently serves as the executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance. She has over two decades of experience in arts management, having worked at organizations including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington Project for the Arts, the Drawing Center, and Socrates Sculpture Park, among others. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 4, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.