USAAF 2024 Press Release

Contact: Joanna Cayanan, Communications Assistant
[email protected]

Where Is Your Body Opening Reception (Photographer: Joyce Xi)


Honoring the rich cultural contributions of the Asian American community while highlighting the city's vibrant creative scenes

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, March 14, 2024 - In honor of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) proudly presents the 27th annual United States of Asian America Festival (USAAF), a two-month showcase highlighting the rich cultural contributions and diversity of San Francisco’s Pacific Islander and Asian American communities. USAAF features artists from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, highlighting the work of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) artists across all artistic disciplines including theater, music, dance, film, literature, visual arts, and beyond.

This year’s theme, Be(long)ing Here, turns to AAPI artists to express what belonging means for themselves and their communities. The festival will honor the diverse histories, present impacts, and future visions of AAPI artists with roots connected to diverse immigrant, refugee, and mixed-race experiences.

“Our festival is coming to us after collectively experiencing major shifts and changes - so many beloved art spaces and local businesses have closed or are struggling and “doom loop” narratives of our city’s decline permeate the media all while a crucial presidential election looms, says Artistic Director Melanie Elvena, “We must continue to provide platforms for arts and culture to meet these pressing challenges, expanding San Francisco AAPI arts across communities creating spaces of belonging that bridge our differences. In our commonalities, we might find that this city and our communities still have so much life and abundance to offer.”

Since 1998, USAAF has garnered the attention of thousands of viewers by featuring groundbreaking artists including celebrated pianist and composer Jon Jang, award-winning San Francisco-based dancer and choreographer Lenora Lee, and SFJAZZ poet laureate, Genny Lim. Rising stars like rapper and music producer Ruby Ibarra and comedian Irene Tu have delivered some of their earliest performances at USAAF before skyrocketing to fame, demonstrating the festival's ongoing commitment to showcasing emerging talents.

Meeting the Moment: Transforming Struggle into Beauty
With inflated costs of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, many people are questioning where and how communities of color, families, and artists can remain living and working in San Francisco. Yet, it’s San Francisco’s artists of color that have always met the region’s challenges with spirited community efforts to organize for a dignified future where everyone can belong.

Featured Artist Ramon Abad’s show Duck Soup is a welcoming haven for families and youth to gather for growth and exploration through dynamic puppetry. This show, alongside many others, breathes life into the intergenerational essence of San Francisco and ensures safe spaces remain for all ages to come together to exchange stories, wisdom, and experiences, enriching the city's cultural diversity.

The rhythm of joy is key in a year that continues to deliver grief and sorrow as the ongoing genocide in Palestine spurs global social unrest. Moreover, the loss of key members in the AAPI arts community, whether due to COVID-19 or other factors, extends beyond individual grief, impacting the community's collective creativity and cohesion. That’s why Megan Lowe’s presentation of Just a Shadow, a dance performance that ritually celebrates the lives of loved ones who have passed on, is right on time. “Our performance aims to recognize and celebrate our individual and collective resilience, acknowledging the inevitable challenges of death while embracing the miracle and beauty of life,” she says, “It welcomes diverse perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds, recognizing that the narratives surrounding death and processing grief are multifaceted and deeply personal.”

AAPI Successes, Triumphs, and Milestones
Already 2024 has seen AAPI representation reach new heights with artists making an indelible impact on the world’s pop cultural landscape. A shining example is the 81st Golden Globe Awards, where Ali Wong (a San Francisco native and past APAture/KSW collaborator) won Best Actress and Steven Yeun won Best Actor for their outstanding performances in the limited series BEEF.

As Asian American representation continues to become a norm on the silver screen, USAAF artists are ushering in generations of nuanced stories that deepen audiences' connection to who Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are today, where they have been, and why future generations’ well being depends on the arts, culture, and community that comes from festivals like this.

Attendees are invited to the premier of the visual art exhibition Where is your Body, curated by Delaney Chieyen Holton, which gathers women/trans/queer artists of the AAPI diaspora who are engaging with practices of the body to explore questions of labor, memory, and desire. This show highlights the body and its needs as the lowest common denominator for solidarity.

“The exhibition I’m organizing at SOMArts, Where is Your Body, invites community members to think about their bodies — what we use them for, and how they mediate relationships or the ways we move through the world,” Delaney Chieyen Holton says, “We are living in historic times, politically, and I want folks in our community to be equipped to engage meaningfully. I curated the show with the hopes that it could give our communities a chance to think about identity beyond representational politics, to see the ways our bodies are all vulnerable to, and thus dependent on, one another.”

Building solidarity across the Bay Area’s diverse communities is central to USAAF, which is why APICC continues to support its artists to produce free, accessible events that encourage connection, conversation, and intercultural dialogue.

The San Francisco Bay Area stands out as a hub for rising talent within the Asian American community, courtesy of ongoing initiatives like APICC's annual United States of Asian America Festival. This festival has played a crucial role in nurturing an environment for both emerging and established AAPI artists to innovate and contribute to their communities. Spanning from intergenerational stories to the creation of supportive and imaginative spaces, the festival's diverse programs unfold throughout San Francisco from May to June. This year’s festival calendar can be found at


Where is Your Body | Curated by Delaney Chieyen Holton (art exhibition)
SOMArts Cultural Center opens on April 25 from 6 PM - 9 PM. On view April 26-May 24. This year's festival features an art exhibition Where is Your Body that explores questions of labor, memory, and desire through practices of the body by women/trans/queer artists of API diasporic experience. Through a range of approaches, from abstract to figurative, and through durational embodied processes, they explore the boundaries of the body and efforts to transcend towards a future, or each other.

Just a Shadow | Curated by Megan Lowe Dances (dance performance series)
The Joe Goode Annex on May 31- June 2 & June 7-9 from 7:30 PM - 9 PM. Join us in celebrating life and honoring our lost loved ones. Just a Shadow brings together 7 powerful artists in a process that nourishes the soul, supports healing, acknowledges resilience, celebrates life, and honors the memories of loved ones. Megan Lowe Dances aims to provide a platform for catharsis, empathy, and collective understanding, fostering connections that transcend individual stories and unite us in a shared journey toward solace and healing.

Duck Soup | Ramon Abad (puppetry)
Bindlestiff Studio on June 8-9 from 1-2 PM and June 15 from 1-2 PM. Embark on an enchanting journey through an immersive theater experience designed for children and families where you will witness short stories come to life through captivating puppet performances. Join us for an unforgettable adventure filled with wonder and imagination.

USAAF: BE(LONG)ING HERE Outdoor Showcase
Co-Presented by Sunday Streets and Livable City
Sunday Streets Tenderloin on June 23 from 1-5 PM. Join us for a day of music, dance, stand-up, poetry, performances, and more! Featured APICC artists include dNaga Dance Co., Sun Park, Johnny Huy Nguyễn w/ Tim Kim, Swetha Prabakaran Productions, and Preeti Vangani w/ Shikha Malaviya and Maw Shein Win. More artists and performers will be announced.

Presented by Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center as part of Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Featuring events in music, dance, puppetry, theater, literature, visual arts, and more showcasing Asian and Pacific Islander artists.

May-June 2024

Various venues throughout San Francisco

See the full calendar and register for events at


Each year, the United States of Asian American Festival (USAAF) presents around 20 different programs reflecting the artistic accomplishments and cultural diversity of San Francisco’s Pacific Islander and Asian American communities. USAAF showcases artists representing a diverse range of ethnic and cultural groups and aims to heighten the visibility of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) artists working in all disciplines - theater, music, dance, film, literature, visual arts, etc. Our goal is to nurture and empower these groups to be self-sufficient while providing the support they need to grow.

This year’s USAAF is funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, California Arts Council, Zellerbach Family Foundation, and startsmall.

Our mission at the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) is to support and produce multidisciplinary art reflective of the unique experiences of Asians and Pacific Islanders living in the United States.

APICC was founded in 1996 by representatives of five nonprofit arts groups: Asian American Dance Performances, First Voice, Asian Improv aRts, the Asian American Theater Company, and Kearny Street Workshop. Since 1998, the center has promoted the artistic and organizational growth of San Francisco’s API arts community by organizing and presenting the annual United States of Asian America Festival as well as commissioning contemporary art for and by the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

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