Cultivating community at the inaugural Asheville Asian Culture Festival

The new festival aims to break barriers within the local Asian community and share the diverse array of cultures proudly.

Shunyu Huang on stage at Story Parlor

Several of the festival’s events will be held on the Story Parlor stage.

Photo via WNC AAPI

The Asheville Asian Culture Festival was born, in part, from stories. Back in July, Shunyu Huang was in the midst of her month-long artist residency at Story Parlor, exploring sensory memories with audiences of all different cultures and backgrounds. “I see the people collected there,” says Huang, “And, you know, it looks like a festival.”

That idea blossomed fairly quickly, and now the inaugural festival will be taking place in venues all over the city from Friday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Jan. 21. Helmed by Huang, Heena Patel, and Mike Talyad and with the support of other community members, the WNC Asian American Pacific Islander (WNC AAPI) has planned 10 days of 15 events — from ceremony to film, cooking to conversations, performances to panels — that celebrate the wide array of cultures under the broad umbrella of “Asian.”

The artist residency was the spark, but the inspiration was much more panoptic. “While it isn’t very visibly obvious,” says Patel, “there is a great diversity within the Asian community here in WNC.”

“That being said, there is a good deal of isolation because we are such a minority within the larger community,” adds Talyad. “The intention of the festival, first and foremost, is to nurture ties within the community. When Shunyu presented the idea to the WNC AAPI community, it was with the intention that the festival be for us, by us and for each of us to be seen by each other.”

The team also hopes that this event will allow the Asian community to represent themselves to and be seen, too, by the larger community of Asheville. “No one of us in the festival represents all of our country or even our region,” says Patel. “The hope is that through each of our personal stories, which are informed by a myriad of factors beyond where our ancestry comes from in Asia, artists and audience alike are able to find points of connection with each other and collectively celebrate the richness of culture that can be found here.”

One of the Asheville Asian Culture Festival artists, Gendun Sakyal, in front of a painting

Gendun Sakyal will share stories at “Homeland” and music at “Mountain Song.”

Photo via WNC AAPI

A look at the lineup

There’s a lot to see and do throughout the festival — and tickets are selling out quickly. Take a look at the full schedule, and grab your spot or join a waitlist.

Here are just a few of the can’t-miss events:

Homeland: An Evening of Storytelling | Saturday, Jan. 13 | 6:30 p.m. | Story Parlor, 227 Haywood Rd., Asheville | $15-$25 suggested donation, pay what you can | Tellers Ben Phan, Rich Enuol, Gendun Sakyal, and Eva Peterson will share their voices and stories.

Bhangra Class | Tuesday, Jan 16 | 7:30 p.m. | Uphora Dance + Fitness, 1501 Patton Ave, Asheville | $5-$15 suggested donation, pay what you can | Tiffany Saini will teach the energetic folk dance that originated in Punjab, India.

Asian Culture Festival Gala | Sunday, Jan. 21 | 4 p.m. | Eulogy, 10 Buxton Ave., Asheville | $27 | The fundraiser for WNC AAPI and BIPOC organizations in the region will close out the festival with a fashion show, artist performances, and live music.