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New Sacramento Lunar New Year mural criticized for lack of representation

A new mural in Sacramento’s Little Saigon, created to ring in the Lunar New Year, has prompted criticism over its failure to include Asian artists. 

Wide Open Walls, a community murals organization, organized the 500-foot display along Stockton Blvd. The organization has described itself as one that “promotes diversity through expression.” They have created many murals throughout the city, including the anti-racist mural at Sacramento State. 

On social media, Wide Open Walls touted the reveal of the mural planned for Saturday. However, the comment section was flooded with disappointment over the artist selection process. Commenters pointed out that it appears that none of the artists participating in the project are Asian.

In response, the group said that they “issued a call for participants that included API artists, underscoring our dedication to diversity and inclusivity.” They said the selection process was based on the “project requirements and artist availability”, ABC 10 reported. 

Meanwhile, local Asian American artists denied this claim. Based on the five artists selected, it was clear to them that the organization did not do enough outreach. 

“These artists appear to have no ties culturally, ethnically to the communities that they are depicting in their murals,” Megan Sapigao told ABC 10. “Stories should not be told about us, without us.” 

Sapigao is the program director for The Laban Group, a community group dedicated to spreading awareness about anti-Asian hate.

“Clearly, as we’ve seen in the community responses on their social media, there were a lot of artists, AAPI artists, that were not aware of a call out,” Sapigao added. “If you put a callout and you’re not getting a response or you can’t find culturally-informed artists to do this work, then you try harder,” Sapigao continued. 

She added that not hiring AAPI artists is a disservice to underrepresented communities.

“The community is tired of being extracted from and they’re tired of being exploited. There’s no return or investment,” she said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. “They’re really tired of others telling their stories for them.”

Consequently, the lack of representation has bred inaccuracies throughout the mural. 

Jamie P. Cardnes, a Filipinx artist, said that the Kalinga warrior does not belong in the mural. The Kalinga people are an indigenous group from the northern Philippines. Neither they nor Filipinos celebrate the Lunar New Year, she said. 

“There shouldn’t be a Filipino mural in the middle of Little Saigon,” Cardnes told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s kind of laughable at this point.”

The online controversy prompted Wide Open Walls to address public concerns. 

In a statement posted on their Instagram, they said that they will “open dialogue and collaboration” to ” better partner with our neighborhood and cultural representatives to create meaningful and inclusive experiences for all.”

Local AAPI Sacramento artists have also created their own call to action. They plan to voice their concerns during the public comment portion of an Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy Commission meeting.

Happy Lunar New Year! Time is running out to support our Lunar New Year Fundraising Drive through this link. The campaign ends today. AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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