The Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC), founded in 1974 as the Asian American Dance Theatre, is one of the oldest community arts organizations in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Partners Robert (Bob) Lee, an art curator and author, and Eleanor Yung, a choreographer and acupuncturist, established AAAC to promote Asian American art and support Asian American artists and their work. One of AAAC’s early initiatives was the creation of the Asian American Artists’ Slide Archive in 1982. The archive was one of the first and few public archives to focus on Asian American artists in the US. Artist vertical files were collected to form a permanent research archive documenting the history of A/PA artists in the US from 1945 to the present. In 2007, 150 of the archive’s more than 1,500 artist files were digitized and made available on AAAC’s website, artasiamerica.org.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, AAAC co-founder and current Executive Director Bob Lee moved to New York City in 1970, where he studied art history at the City College of New York and became involved in Asian American community organizations including Basement Workshop, where he and Eleanor Yung met. Yung moved to New York City in 1969, after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley. She helped incorporate Basement Workshop as a non-profit in 1970, and worked collaboratively to develop its dance programs. Lee and Yung’s Asian American Arts Centre Records is an extensive collection that includes artwork and art publications, research files from a Chinatown study Danny Yung (Eleanor’s brother) conducted in 1969, documentation of the founding of Basement Workshop, and files documenting the founding and early years of AAAC.
To learn more about the contents of the Asian American Arts Centre Records, located at the NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, view the finding aid.