Mission & History


Asian Arts Initiative is a multi-disciplinary and community-based arts center in Philadelphia that advances racial equity and understanding, activating artists, youth, and their communities through creative practice and dialogue grounded in the diverse Asian American experience. The organization was founded in 1993 as a response to community concerns about growing racial tension between African American and Asian American communities and grew out of a program at the Painted Bride Art Center, which was Philadelphia’s first-ever Asian American Arts Festival: Live Traditions/Contemporary Issues. Today, our work remains rooted in this initial concern and programming is centered around building community and gaining greater cross-cultural understanding through the arts.

Located in Philadelphia’s burgeoning Chinatown North neighborhood, Asian Arts Initiative is a multidisciplinary arts center where all people — across experience and skill levels, age, race, and class backgrounds — can view and create art that reflects our lives, as well as think critically and creatively about the future we want to build for our communities.

Through exhibitions, performances, and community projects, we provide an inclusive gathering place for conversation and exchange of ideas. Our community-based arts initiatives seek out and cultivate innovative models for artists to engage with local communities, with a particular emphasis on working in partnership with our immediate neighborhood.

Our multi-tenant arts facility, situated in a former Warner Brothers screening house, serves as a resource for the broader cultural community, with individual artist studios as well as organizational and program space — including room for workshops and meetings; gallery and exhibition areas; and a black-box-style theater.

Click here to visit Asian Arts Initiative’s Living Archives website, launched on the occasion of our 15-year anniversary (in 2008), in celebration of our community building efforts. The Living Archives website features an interactive timeline of activities that mark key moments in our organization’s development—and interviews with artists and activists sharing their stories and thoughts about the power of art and making change in the world.