Hi APC! My name is Taylor Wang and I am a 16 year old Seattle-based artist and activist. As co-founder of Student Art Spaces, I lead a youth initiative to uplift underserved artists through events and education. Beyond that, you can find me working on my latest oil painting at the studio, or sketching up ideas in my notebook. I hope to foster community wherever I go, using values of inclusivity and honesty! Find me on Instagram @_taylorwang or @yingshiart.
In the early days of the railroad, the Chinese were rewarded for their dedication and willingness to work under the white man. Our moores of Confucianism and filial piety have carried on into the modern day, translating into mass political apathy and a deficit of representation in media. Unlike other migrant groups, the Chinese American has never established a distinctive culture in the US. We boast no rich history of reggae and rock, no historical revolution and riot. We have stayed quiet, and focused our energy into working up, eventually working beyond those white superiors, but always staying humble and keeping a low profile. As a result, we lack representation. White girls don slant-eye makeup because it’s “exotic”; they wear our qipaos to prom, unaware of its cultural significance. We are either math-obsessed, or dumb bimbos. Now more than ever, we need to step up and demystify Chinese American culture.
The Asian Stigma Around Creative Careers
By Taylor Wang
It was the second week of kindergarten, and I had the privilege to sit in on my first ever teacher conference. My nervous 5-year-old self quivered as my teacher asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I brightened, replying, “I want to be an artist!”
To my traditional Chinese mother, this response was the equivalent of saying that I wanted to be unemployed. She glanced sharply at me, and turned to the teacher.
“Taylor wants to be doctor, not artist,” she said hastily.
I did not fully understand what this meant until later. As I matured, I realized my mother was not only concerned about employment that day. There is honor in being a doctor, an engineer. It represents the family well, and this representation is what matters. This makes sense considering we come from a collectivist culture, in which the individual’s identity means nothing and their contribution to the whole means everything. Inside this complex machine of Asian American success and achievement, I was a loose bolt.
I quickly recognized that I was not smart, at least not in the traditional sense. I found myself falling behind while daughters of our family friends practiced advanced algebra. Nights spent agonizingly scanning over trigonometry textbooks were no use. Meanwhile, my peers seemed to whiz by, boasting a colorful assortment of completed SAT prep books.
For the Chinese standard of excellence, this was unacceptable.
As I struggled through AP math and science classes (that I felt obligated to take), I also ventured down a path outside of school that was unconventional by Chinese standards. I began volunteering on local youth equity initiatives, getting in contact with organizations, and creating a name for myself in the realm of social justice.
My passion fully surfaced when I co-founded my own organization, Student Art Spaces, to promote accessibility for underprivileged youth artists. With no resources and no adults to assist us, I recruited a friend and we built the initiative from the ground up. This process was hands-on in every aspect. I learned how to apply to grants, raise funds through Kickstarter, create promotional materials, install galleries with pieces, and garner support from major organizations.
Months of planning led up to our first gallery in August, aptly titled The Modern Youth Identity. Suddenly, we went from late nights working endlessly at a Starbucks or McDonald’s, to receiving emails asking for interviews and collaborations.
We bridged generational gaps, introducing older attendees to art created by the youth. We showcased the transformative power of art in creating community regardless of race, gender,
age, or economic status. And if I’m being honest, I think that’s worth so much more than excelling at advanced algebra.