Local artists who identify as Asian, South Asian and Pacific Islander are featured in Kitchen Table Stories, the first ASAPI exhibition at the Evanston Art Center, running through Aug. 21 at the center, 1717 Central St.

The Evanston Art Center is busy on opening night of Kitchen Table Stories, with sculpture by Indira Freitas Johnson seen in the foreground. Credit: Yancy Hughes

Twenty-eight artists were chosen from 44 submissions, all from the greater Chicago area, with many from Evanston. Artists were asked to “share stories passed down to them from ancestors through family and friends, and to create artwork that reflected their own lived experiences.”

Melissa Raman Molitor, curator Credit: Photo provided

“The result is an exploration of the intersections of immigration, citizenship, race, culture, social identity, multigenerational relationships, and family history,” wrote curator Melissa Raman Molitor. “Viewers are asked to reflect on universal themes such as language, food, home, family, heroes and belonging – through the lens of their ASAPI neighbors.” .

The exhibition curated by Molitor, an artist of Indian and Filipino descent, is a visual attempt to highlight the story-telling and identity-making aspects of ASAPI cultures. Molitor is an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the director of Kids Create Change, and the founder of the Kitchen Table Stories Project. She also serves on the Evanston Arts Council.

Rahul Sharma, sitarist. Credit: Yancy Hughes

Molitor was granted a yearlong curatorial fellowship by the Evanston Art Center. She is only the second artist to receive this new award, given to curators of color who can bring attention to their marginalized communities. The first curator-fellows mounted an exhibition at the center but, due to COVID-19, attendance was limited. To supplement, they offered events online: the exhibition “lookbook,” panel discussions among the artists and installation images.

Opening night attendees (from left) Meena Sharma, Yiming Fu, Sophie Yang and Akari Yamada. Credit: Yancy Hughes

The exhibition’s title, Kitchen Table Stories, refers to the locus of food culture, the kitchen table. We are all familiar with table stories, be they in our kitchen, dining room or holiday gatherings. There, family stories are shared and family rituals and traditions are honored – all of which help to create identity.

Two young attendees participate in a community weaving. Credit: Yancy Hughes

This writer admits to being unexpectedly moved by the exhibit: Some of the artwork and the accompanying writing was not only eye-opening but poignant.

Asian confections at the opening reception. Credit: Melissa Raman Molitor

Over 10% of Evanston residents identify as Asian, says Molitor.

The July 15 opening reception was a crowded and festive event, featuring sitar music by Rahul Sharma of Funkadesi and Asian-inspired food provided mostly by Daniel Aquino of Nayon Asian Bakery on Noyes Street, Chicago-based Tropicake, NaKorn on Orrington Avenue and the Sari Sari Shop on Prairie Avenue.

The Kitchen Table Stories exhibition is hosting accompanying programming in-person at the Evanston Art Center throughout August. All programs and events are free and open to the public unless otherwise specified. Some events have limited capacity. Click here for further event information.

Gay Riseborough is an artist, has served the City of Evanston for 11 years on arts committees, and is now an arts writer at the Evanston RoundTable.