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AAPAC, Indie Theatre Fund Offers Travel Grants for NYC AAPI Artists

Amid a rise in anti-Asian hate incidents, the new fund will subsidize transportation for Asian American performers who don’t feel safe riding mass transit.

NEW YORK: In response to an unabated surge of violence against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in New York City, the advocacy group Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) has announced a partnership with the Indie Theater Fund/Indie Space to create a fund and distribute grants to AAPI theatre artists who do not feel safe using mass transit to get to and from work. The fund is launching with $35,000 and will offer grants of $250, roughly the cost of 10 car rides, with the opportunity for artists to re-apply based on fund availability.

“We are so grateful that our theatre community is coming together to help its own. We have to acknowledge that this situation has reached crisis levels,” AAPAC member Pun Bandhu said in a statement. “I know several theatre workers who have been harassed or assaulted. Most went unreported. Every institution needs to be thinking about how they can make it safe for their Asian employees to get to and from work.”

A total of 140 applicants will be eligible for $250 grants during the first round of funding. Priority will be given to Off- and Off-Off-Broadway workers who do not have institutional support and who rely on mass transit. The initiative has received support and funding from multiple partners, including the American Theatre Wing, the Actors Fund, and and the Dramatists Guild Foundation. Readers can make donations here or can mail checks to the Indie Theater Fund.

The grants will be administered by the Indie Theater Fund/Indie Space, who established a similar fund a year ago in the wake of the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta. “The recent uptick in violence toward the AAPI community, both on public transportation and in general, has been absolutely devastating,” Indie Theater Fund/Indie Space executive director Randi Berry said in a statement. “We are proud to partner with AAPAC to provide small stipends for safety, allowing artists to move in and out of the theatre without fearing for their lives.”

According to the New York Police Department, as of December 2021 hate crimes against AAPI people had increased 361 percent from 2020. Violent crimes have continued since then, particularly targeting Asian women on the subway, including Michelle Go. Several incidents have also involved theatre workers: A dancer en route to a performance at the Public Theater was attacked last month in Seward Park, near the Chinatown apartment where a man murdered Christina Yuna Lee after following her from the subway. A video taken by theatre director Kat Yen on March 10 went viral, depicting her confronting a man on the subway who says in the video, “All Asians should die. All Asians.”

IndieSpace and the Indie Theater Fund were built to respond to the needs of the indie theatre community and to provide financial support to artists and workers navigating obstacles to creating their art. In 2020, the Indie Theater Fund gave out over $325,000 to nearly 600 artists, small companies, and indie venues. They also operate the Cultural Solidarity Fund, a coalition of cultural institutions that have distributed nearly $1 million in micro grants.

The mission of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition is to expand the perception of Asian American performers in order to increase their access to and representation on New York City’s stages. AAPAC publishes the only publicly available annual statistics report on racial representation in the New York area and has been a leader in discussions and forums on diversity with artistic institutions and the Broadway community. In 2020, AAPAC won an Obie Award for advocacy in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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