APAture2015: Interview with Jason Bayani

We continue our spotlight on Kearny Street Workshop and its APAture2015: Future Tense, a series of showcases featuring emerging artists from the San Francisco Bay Area. This Saturday, October 10, the Comics & Illustration Showcase will feature a number of comic book artists. Yesterday was my interview with artist Thi Bui. Today, I chat with Jason Bayani, Program Manager of Kearny Street Workshop.

jason01Tell me about the history of APAture and what is unique about this year’s show. 

APAture was founded in 1999 by a younger generation of artists who were working with Kearny Street Workshop. The focus is mainly on emerging or mid-career artists working in the Bay Area and it showcases work in a number of disciplines including Comics & Illustration, Film, Literary Arts, Music, Performing Arts, and Visual Arts. Over the years we’ve featured many different artist who went on to have bigger careers such as Kristina Wong, Gene Luen Yang, Hellen Jo, Michael Arcega, and many others. When it comes to this year’s show we looked at the history of this festival and went with the theme, Future Tense, as this gathering does keep us looking towards the future of APA arts and the artists we feature this year will help shape what our art looks like in years to come.

What is the mission/purpose of this series of events?

APAture exists to put the focus on emerging Asian Pacific American artists. We look at that term, not so much as an identity but where this artist space extends to so we accept applications from artist who have ethnic origins anywhere on the continent of Asia or the Pacific Islands. In this way we hope this space can help all of us continue to claim our own narratives and those of the multitude of cultures that exist under this umbrella.

What are some highlights from the various showcases you are particularly excited about?

We just finished our first weekend with the Visual Arts Opening, Performing Arts Showcase, and Literary Arts Showcase. I’m still buzzing from all of it. In this second weekend, I’m really looking forward to seeing our musicians take the stage and with the Comics & Illustration and Film Showcases happening at the same time the following day it really captures a bit more of the feeling the original APAture festivals had when they were all at the same venue.

With Wahab Algarmi and François Luong as the curators of the Comics and Illustration Showcase, what is their vision for this showcase? How did they select the artists for this showcase?

Wahab worked on the GPC committee last year and was a showcased artist the year before. He had a pretty clear vision and those guys did a lot of outreach this year to provide resources at the event that would appeal to illustrators and comic artists. There are so many talented APA artists who work in this medium and we’re trying to create a space where they can meet each other and connect in the same ways we’ve done with visual artists, musician, and writers throughout the org’s history.

kswWhy is Kearny Street Workshop so important to the Bay Area arts and Asian American communities?

We are the longest running multi-disciplinary arts org serving Asian Pacific American communities in this country. The OG’s talked about creating this space because if they didn’t do it, no one else would. These days we have so many dope artists who are breaking through, but these spaces are still necessary because as an artist of color no matter what kind of success you attain you still work under the confines of a dominant culture that is centered around whiteness. These spaces are a place to return to and work under different terms. Where we can be more visible and work without having to contextualize our histories or justify our existence as artists. When you are an artist of color being inside the greater art world you feel either ignored or tokenized. Sometimes resented because people believe you have an inherent advantage because you’re a POC, and you have to hold this while living all of your disadvantages.

What do you see in the future when it comes to Asian American artists?

Maybe a future where this term “Asian American” or API or APA can’t hold all of us anymore. We outgrow it but stay connected in different ways and not just as a means to share the minimal resources we can attain.

Jason Bayani is a graduate of Saint Mary’s MFA program in Creative Writing. He is a Kundiman fellow and a veteran of the National Poetry Slam scene whose work has been published in Fourteen Hills, Muzzle Magazine, Mascara Review, the National Poetry Slam anthology, Rattapallax, Write Bloody’s classroom anthology — Learn Then Burn, and other publications. As a member of seven National Poetry Slam teams, he’s been a National Poetry Slam finalist and represented Oakland at the International World Poetry Slam. He is also one of the founding members of the Filipino American Spoken Word troupe, Proletariat Bronze, and has been an organizer for the Asian and Pacific Islander Poetry and Spoken Word Summit. His first book, Amulet was published in 2013 through Write Bloody Press and has garnered acclaim in literary magazines such as Zyzzyva and Glint. He is currently the program manager for Kearny Street Workshop (the oldest multi-disciplinary Asian Pacific American multi-disciplinary arts organization in the country). Follow him on Twitter: .