Asian and AAPI Voices in the Arts: Creating and Defining Identity
May 1, 2023
Join The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation and The Pan-Asian American Community House at The University of Pennsylvania (PAACH) in commemorating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a captivating event in conjunction with the ongoing exhibit Excluded/Inclusion: The Work of Chen Lok Lee.
Featuring Curator Romana Lee-Akiyama, with Joon Thomas, Kaitlyn Francisco Nu ’25, and Jessica Sui E ’24.
The Arts Lounge at the Annenberg Center
3680 Walnut St.
University of Pennsylvania
Experience Lee’s approach to painting across Eastern and Western traditions and styles firsthand through a live painting demonstration led by his longtime apprentice and friend, Joon Thomas. Following the demonstration, Romana Lee-Akiyama, Founding Director of the Chen Lok Lee Legacy Project and exhibition coordinator, will lead a dynamic panel discussion with two University of Penn students, Kaitlyn Francisco, a sophomore in the School of Nursing, and Jessica Sui, a junior studying Mechanical Engineering. They’ll explore the challenges faced by Asian Americans with hyphenated identities and how to define and create a sense of belonging and “home.”
This event is free and open to the public. We hope you can join us to engage in a dialogue about Lee’s work and discover how artists of today can benefit from his approach while we explore the similarities and differences between prints and paintings.
We will also be releasing a limited edition copy of the exhibit publication, which includes documentation of the exhibition and an essay by Lee’s former student, longtime apprentice, and friend, Joon Thomas.
This discussion will be held in person and is being organized in conjunction with the exhibition Excluded/Inclusion: The Work of Chen Lok Lee, currently on view at the Arts Lounge at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Registration is requested prior to arrival but not required.
About the Exhibition
Excluded/Inclusion: The Work of Chen Lok Lee is a collection of 18 prints, watercolors, and lithographs that document the journey of his life and art across three continents. These unique works showcase the remarkable breadth of Lee’s skillset and artistic style, demonstrating the human spirit of determination, personal agency, and the power of choice to survive.
A political refugee who swam to Hong Kong to escape Chinese political persecution, Chen Lok Lee’s story is one of survival and resilience. Lee overcame the struggles of immigration to succeed as a beloved and respected artist, educator, and master printmaker in Philadelphia.
The exhibition will be on view until May 31. For more information about the exhibition, please visit the exhibition website.
About the Speakers
Romana Lee-Akiyama, the daughter of the late Chen Lok Lee, is a passionate advocate for human rights and social justice. As the founding director of the Chen Lok Lee Legacy Project, she continues her father’s legacy by promoting his work and inspiring new generations of artists. Currently, she serves as the Mayor’s Office Director of Public Engagement. Romana holds a BA in International Relations from Tufts University as well as a Master of Social Services and a Master of Law and Social Policy from the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College.
Joon Thomas is a former student, longtime apprentice, and friend of the late Chen Lok Lee and is an artist with over four decades of experience in calligraphy, art, design, printmaking, painting, and translation. He is an expert in world calligraphy, with extensive knowledge of historical and contemporary languages, styles, and writing systems, including Arabic, Persian, Farsi, Sanskrit, Devanagari, Hebrew, and Chinese.
Kaitlin Francisco Nu ’25
Kaitlyn Francisco is a driven and ambitious sophomore from New Jersey who is currently pursuing her passion for nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatric oncology nurse and, eventually, a nurse practitioner. She wants to support Asian Americans in their fight against racism and the model minority myth.
Jessica Sui E ’24
Jessica Sui is a driven and passionate junior studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Originally hailing from Winnipeg, Canada, she brings a unique perspective to her academic pursuits and is constantly seeking new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow. In addition to her studies, Jess is deeply involved in the Spice Collective, where she is able to explore and celebrate her Asian identity in a supportive and welcoming community.
For More Information
For more information on Excluded/Inclusion: The Work of Chen Lok Lee, please visit the exhibition microsite as well as the Chen Lok Lee Legacy Project Page.
Exhibition microsite and graphic design by Elaine Lopez.