Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich cultural diversity and contributions of the AAPI community. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges and issues that AAPI individuals face throughout the year. By highlighting their accomplishments and shedding light on their experiences, we can foster understanding, inclusivity, and support for the AAPI community.
Hear from Lisa Gold, Executive Director at Asian American Arts Alliance, an organization dedicated to ensuring greater representation, equity, and opportunities for Asian American artists and cultural organizations through resource sharing, promotion, and community building.
With a love for the arts and a deep commitment to nurturing creativity, Lisa has emerged as a trailblazing force in non-profit arts organizations. As an experienced Executive Director, she has dedicated her career to building thriving creative communities, overseeing budgets, spearheading program development, and fostering effective communications. Lisa’s passion, however, extends beyond organizational management; she has a profound desire to empower Asian Americans from all backgrounds to pursue fulfilling careers in the arts.
She recognizes the importance of sharing artistic stories, promoting inclusivity, and amplifying diverse voices. Her dedication to cultivating meaningful connections enables her to establish partnerships and collaborations that drive positive change and create opportunities for Asian American artists.
Asian American white-collar professionals are least likely to be promoted into management. To address this, companies should prioritize management training, create a safe environment, and offer opportunities to engage in AAPI culture year-round.
You have an incredible career and over two decades of experience in art management, development programming, public relations, and community outreach. What piqued your interest in this work? Tell us about your path to leadership and your current role.
I’ve always been creative and interested in the arts. Growing up, I didn’t know about careers in the arts—no one in my family was professionally involved in the arts so I didn’t consider it a career option. I never saw anyone who looked like me on tv or in magazines, never heard Asian American voices on the radio. Later, I started volunteering with nonprofit arts organizations and eventually transitioned into arts administration work. Working in small organizations helps give you insight into multiple roles. Whereas in larger corporations or nonprofits, you may have entire departments for communications or development, in a small organization, those functions may be handled by one person (who is also juggling other roles and responsibilities). I often volunteered to participate in coalitions and events, learning the different roles and aspects of leading an organization. Eventually, I received an opportunity to serve as an Executive Director. I’m now in my second E.D. role where I am responsible for the overall management of the organization from managing fundraising and finances, to programs and partnerships, to communications and coalition building.
Tell us about the Asian American Arts Alliance’s mission and how your programs give voice to AAPI art and culture in New York City and beyond.
A4 aims to ensure greater representation, equity, and opportunities for AAPI artists and arts organizations. We work with artists, arts administrators, and arts organizations across disciplines. We help foster a vibrant and supportive community through events like our monthly Town Hall and What Can We Do? a microgrant program for artists. We ensure greater opportunities for artists through advocacy, connecting them with cultural gatekeepers (like curators, editors, and casting agents), and professional development training. And we promote the work of our community through our monthly online magazine, The Amp, participation in platforms like Google Arts & Culture, and through our bi-weekly newsletter, and our free community calendar.
How have Asian American Arts Alliance’s needs changed over the past few years? How has the organization utilized skills-based volunteering to increase your organization’s capacity and deepen its community impact?
As the organization grows, we must develop better systems and processes. And as our community has been the subject of so much violence, we’ve had to shift our programming to address mental health, discrimination, and care. Fortunately, we are seeing some growth in visibility for the AAPI community thanks to the success of films like Everything, Everywhere All At Once, and solidarity with other BIPOC communities.
We recently added a new staff position to help us manage growth. We had an excellent experience with volunteers from Macquarie who helped us identify and prioritize the skills we were looking for as well as redefine the job description based on a review of the market, plus they offered a road map for onboarding new employees. As a result, we received a record number of highly qualified applicants and hired a fantastic administrator!
What can social and corporate leaders do to foster inclusivity and ensure AAPI voices are consistently heard and amplified in the workplace?
According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, Asian American white-collar professionals are the least likely group in the United States to be promoted into management. It states that because Asian Americans are not considered an underrepresented minority, they are given little priority or attention in diversity programs.
Companies must be aware of this discrepancy and ensure that AAPI employees are offered management training, feedback, and coaching. Look at your data and monitor the retention and promotion rates of your AAPI employees. And ensure they feel safe—offer options for employees who are working late and feel uncomfortable taking the subway. And offer opportunities to engage in AAPI culture all year round, not just during the month of May.
In recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, name an AAPI leader, activist, thinker, or educator who inspires you.
There are so many inspiring leaders it’s hard to pick one! People who immediately come to mind include Yuri Kochiyama, Maulik Pancholy, Mazie Hirono, George Takei, Helen Zia, Min Jin Lee, Indra Nooyi, and of course, Vice President Harris.