SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Jason Bayani remembers discovering how he wasn’t alone as an Asian American poet.
“I got to be in the space with all these different artists from around the country,” he told KPIX 5. “It’s like look at all these people who look like me, share the same stories.”READ MORE: Downsized But Not Out, Dreamforce Conference Set to Boost Business in San Francisco
Now he’s supporting others as artistic director of the Kearny Street Workshop — the nation’s oldest Asian American multi-disciplinary arts organization.’
The nonprofit started at the old International Hotel on Kearny Street in 1972, protesting evictions and fighting for workers rights.
But over the years, KSW has grown into a springboard for thousands of Asian American artists.
“Kearny Street Workshop is known as a pioneer organization,” said former executive director Nancy Hom.
Hom says KSW was among the first to have an art exhibit on the Angel Island detention center, the first to publish Filipino American poetry and the first to present an Asian American jazz festival.
Today, its annual APAture Festival showcases dozens of emerging artists.
“The structure of APAture means that every year there will be a new influx of people coming in and being trained and nurtured,” Hom said.READ MORE: Flames Reach Ancient Sequoias; Crews in Pitched Battle to Save Giant Forest Grove
The nonprofit provides workshops and performances, from photography to podcasts, equipping artists like Kazumi Chin, Michelle Lin and Dara Del Rosario
The trio produces KSW’s first podcast, called “We Won’t Move: A Living Archive,” featuring conversations with inspiring Asian American artists and community activists.
“What I love about KSW and all its programming is the imagination that happens which is really critical to making change,” Lin said.
And now the nonprofit is creating its own living history.
Its collecting artifacts – like part of the International Hotel’s original door – and its conducting interviews for an online archive.
“It’s our way of making sure our history is told by us,” Bayani explained.
The massive project will be a legacy of the creative support the Kearny Street Workshop has provided for almost five decades so that Asian Americans like Jason can be seen and heard.
The Kearny Street Workshop is accepting applications for its fall APAture Festival that showcases emerging Asian American artists. The deadline is in July.MORE NEWS: PG&E Says Light Rain After Long Drought Led to Lights-Out Across Bay Area