San Francisco Public Library and Kearny Street Workshop Honor Asian American Artists and Activists Past And Present


Dreaming People's History - archival image of people painting a mural

On view at the San Francisco Main Library starting April 29, Dreaming People’s History, features contemporary artists and organizers in dialogue with Kearny Street Workshop’s extensive archive of ephemera reflecting 50 years of community arts

SAN FRANCISCO, April 4, 2023 – Founded in 1972, during the height of the Asian American cultural movement, Kearny Street Workshop (KSW) is the oldest Asian Pacific American multidisciplinary arts organization in the country. In honor of Asian American, Pacific Islander & Native Hawaiian Heritage Month, San Francisco Public Library partners with KSW to present Dreaming People’s History, an exhibition of past and present Asian American arts and activism. Through oral histories, posters, murals, literature, research projects, and contemporary art, the exhibition uplifts Asian American history as the creative product of artists, writers and organizers reclaiming the struggles of preceding generations.

“We are thrilled to bring this exhibition to the Main Library,” says exhibition curator Colin Choy Kimzey, “Kearny Street Workshop’s legacy is a powerful resource for Asian Americans. The work of these artists and activists show that the promise of the Asian American Movement is more than a cultural identity. To dream people’s history is to challenge the American Dream with the truth of the past, the creative agency of the present and the radical possibility of the future.”

Dreaming People’s History is organized around Asian American Virtual Histories, an intergenerational oral history project led by Kristian Kabuay in collaboration with ClarizeYale Revadavia and Lian Verdeflor. The collected interviews of this ongoing initiative—conducted with recognized trailblazers, like Jessica Hagedorn and Leland Wong, and emerging artists alike—illuminate Kearny Street Workshop’s 50 years of community arts dating back to the height of the Asian American Movement.

Inspired by this multigenerational history, the exhibition puts the work of contemporary artists and organizers MC Amable, Juke Jose, Tina Kashiwagi, Vida Kuang, Andrew Szeto, Lorenzo Tamayo-Lee and Weston Teruya in conversation with Kearny Street Workshop’s archive. Making its way back home from UC Santa Barbara’s California Ethnic and Multicultural Archive, the KSW archive includes photographs and silkscreen posters that capture a time when young radicals were uncovering and reclaiming the experiences of their ancestors in the immigration stations, internment camps, and agricultural fields of America. This relationship between artists and the generations before them, continued by today’s Asian American artists, demonstrates how people make history and are also made by it.

The exhibition also highlights Kearny Street Workshop Press, which published numerous books of poetry by local authors. Readers can find titles from KSW Press at the Main Library’s San Francisco History Center on the 6th floor of the Main Library. The publications are a window into the literary dimension that was vital to the Asian American Movement.

Dreaming People’s History opens on Saturday, April 29, 2023, coinciding with the beginning of Asian American, Pacific Islander & Native Hawaiian Heritage Month (AAPINH). The exhibition offers a critical historical perspective on this year’s celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. As violence against Asian people heightens mainstream awareness of Asian American issues, Dreaming People’s History complicates the conventional narrative of the Asian American experience with stories of solidarity, resistance, and radical imagination. The public is invited to an opening reception on Thursday, May 4, 6-8pm in the Jewett Gallery located in the lower level of the Main Library.


Dreaming People’s History: The Asian American Radical Imagination
Dates: April 29–August 6, 2023
Location: San Francisco Main Library, Jewett Gallery, Lower Level, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco
Cost: FREE

Public Programs:

  • Opening Reception: Thursday, May 4, 6-8pm – San Francisco Main Library, Jewett Gallery & Koret Auditorium, Lower Level, 100 Larkin Street
  • Poetry Reading & Panel: Saturday, July 15, 12-3pm – San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium, Lower Level, 100 Larkin Street

*All programs are free and open to the public.

Contemporary Artists & Organizers

Archive Artists

  • Laurie J. Chan
  • Curtis Choy
  • Jim Dong
  • Zand Gee
  • Nancy Hom
  • Jack Loo
  • Stephanie Lowe
  • Calvin Roberts
  • Leland Wong
  • Chester Yoshida
  • Wes Senzaki

Asian American Virtual Histories Interviewees

  • MC Amable
  • Rupert Estanislao
  • Jessica Hagedorn
  • Clara Hsu
  • Vida Kuang
  • Kyle Shin AKA Son of Paper
  • Jöel B. Tan
  • Leland Wong

About Kearny Street Workshop

Founded in 1972, during the height of the Asian American cultural movement, Kearny Street Workshop (KSW) is the oldest Asian Pacific American multidisciplinary arts organization in the country. Kearny Street Workshop offers classes and workshops, salons, and student presentations, as well as professionally curated and produced exhibitions, performances, readings, and screenings. KSW makes artists out of community members and community members out of artists. For the past 50 years, KSW has nurtured the creative spirit, offered an important platform for new voices to be heard, and connected artists with community.


April 4, 2023