Prose over Politics: In the Nation’s Capital, Asian Artists get a Voice

Image courtesy of Sulu DC.  Nitt Chuenprateep

If you build it, they will come.

At least, this is the hopes and sentiment of Sulu DC, an underground network for Asian American artists in Washington, D.C.

In a city dominated by politics and policy wonks, artists, musicians and individualists have found it difficult to assemble a voice in the district.

Enter Sulu DC, a subculture within perhaps, an ever-emerging art culture in the district that is giving Asian American artists a platform to showcase their talents. On its second year, Sulu DC celebrated its anniversary last weekend at Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia to an eclectic crowd of painters, filmmakers, performance artists, and yes, even a dominatrix.

Hosted by poet, Regie Cabico (who might have missed his calling as a comedian), the event featured the cool stylings of local beat boxer, Chip Han; the performance art of fetish model, Keva I. Lee; and the short film of deaf filmmaker, Sabina England who caught the attention of movie critic, Roger Ebert with her short film, Allah Save the Punk!

“Sulu DC emerged from a need for visibility and support for Asian American artists… Through [Sulu DC], artists are able to connect with one another and keep each other in mind for future collaborations and performance opportunities,” said executive director, Jenny C. Lares. Lares herself, is a spoken word poet who has amassed a loyal following of artists and art enthusiasts who have appreciated her efforts.

“Sulu is a big reason why we are where we are today, producing videos on a weekly basis and giving voice to the community through the stories we tell,” said co-founder, Eddie Lee of the Jubilee Project, an organization dedicated to producing short films spotlighting social issues. Lares and Lee’s collaboration have raised public awareness to issues such as domestic violence, and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Sulu DC runs entirely on the motivation and work of its volunteers who share the spirit and mission statement of the network.

“It’s been an incredible two years—we continue to be inspired by all of the artists we bring to the stage and are humbled by the love and enthusiasm from our audience,” said Lares.

For a city looking to establish its own art culture, Sulu DC is a welcome addition.