Artist Arlan Huang (b. 1948– ) was born in Bangor, Maine, raised in San Francisco, and currently resides in New York City with his partner, Lillian Ling. He was involved with Basement Workshop (1971) and was co-coordinator of Yellow Pearl, a collection of art, music, and writing by young Asian Americans. Yellow Pearl was anchored by the music and lyrics of Nobuko Miyamoto, Chris Iijima, and “Charlie” Chin; and in 1973, Huang provided the drawings and, with Karl Matsuda, designed the album jacket for A Grain of Sand, widely recognized as the first album of Asian American music. Beginning with the Chinatown mural, History of Chinese Immigration to the United States (1972), Huang focused on political activist art until the mid-1980s, when he decided to return to oil painting. His work appeared in Basement Workshop’s Catherine Gallery, and in 1990, Huang was invited to be one of the founding members of Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network. That same year, Huang received a residency at the New York Experimental Glass Workshop (Urban Glass) that changed the course of his art. For the NYC Board of Education he created American Origins (1996), a glass wall installation at PS 152 in Brooklyn that addressed the issues of immigration and migration as reflected in the New York City public school system. He installed 100 Smooth Stones for Grandfather for the Chinatown History Project (now the Museum of Chinese in America) and designed numerous commissioned works locally, nationally, and internationally. Huang’s work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Trestle Gallery, Walter Randel Gallery, Bowery Poetry Club, EXIT Art, Art in General, and Flatfile/Slash (Japan). Huang’s favorite place to show is Pearl River Mart in New York City. Huang received the Joan Mitchell Creating a Living Legacy Award in 2014, and was the first of the CALL artists to be featured in a Creating A Living Legacy / Voices in Contemporary Art Talk in October 2015. He attended San Francisco Art Institute and City College of San Francisco, and received his BFA from Pratt Institute.
In the early 1970s, Lillian Ling (b. 1948– ) became involved with the Asian American movement and Basement Workshop. She met Arlan Huang on Mott Street at the Chinatown Health Fair, and worked closely together on Yellow Pearl. They later married. Ling was the first in her family to graduate from college. While a student at CCNY, she fought for Asian American Studies and worked for Betty Lee Sung. She was a tutor and youth counselor at Chinese-American Planning Council Project Reach; a volunteer at the Chinatown Health Fair and Chinatown Street Fair; a founding member of the United Asian Communities Center; the coordinator for the Committee for a New JHS 65 (IS 131) in Chinatown; and through her work with the Chinatown Voter Education Alliance, organized educational forums and registered thousands of new voters. She was the assistant director at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund where she worked for thirty-eight years helping to shape AALDEF’s vision of community lawyering.
Huang’s materials include sketches, photographs, and slides of his art projects; posters and flyers for community organization campaigns such as Asian Americans for Fair Media; and correspondence and photographs from Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, Basement Workshop, and Yellow Pearl. Ling’s materials include a collection of Huang’s art exhibition opening promotions, clippings, and brochures; materials collected in the early days of the Asian American Movement including buttons, t-shirts, and correspondence; and items from Ling’s parents, who owned a laundry and worked as a garment worker and a waiter, that relate to their experiences as immigrants from Toisan, China. Also included are materials from Ling’s work at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The Arlan Huang & Lillian Ling Papers are in transfer to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections. A finding aid for the collection is in process.