Background: PLACE began with a 2009 de Young Museum artists’ residency curated by Cynthia Tom (then board president of the Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA)). She posed a simple curatorial question to nine Asian American (AA) artists, “If you had a place of your own, what would it be?” Surprisingly, participants shared stories of deep trauma, incest, and violence. The group sharing and their emotionally moving art inspired PLACE as it stands today.  Since then the program continued to grow as 5-8 day workshops and multiple art exhibitions, most notably at SOMArts Cultural Center in 2011 and 2015.
Then in 2014-15 and 2016, with partial funding from San Francisco Arts Commission, PLACE expanded to its current 6-month workshop format, culminating in an art exhibition and thought stirring events. Alumnae include Asian, Latina, African American and Caucasian women, attracting mainly social service providers in need of healing.

In 2015, PLACE transitioned into a standalone organization, separating from AAWAA in order to serve a broader base of women, WOC in particular. It has evolved into an organization that curates symbiotic arts exhibitions and workshops to inspire healing and transformation for all women and to raise the consciousness and compassion within the communities that surround them. PLACE, first created to address the AA culture of silencing women and remaining a close community partner with AAWAA, is now open to all WOC and fills a much-needed space of a WOC artistic leadership model for healing and growth.
Making The Case: 
While each culture and community has their own unique ways of coping with trauma, it is a fact that Asian American women are especially silent about stigma, sexuality, trauma, and pain, especially their own and those of their families.  These silencing traditions stem from the centuries-old historic position of inferiority of women in Asian societies where a woman’s rights and autonomy were subordinated. On the other hand, this silence also comes from collectivism – concern for family and their reputation within the community and, by extension, how it may reflect poorly on their ethnicity and racial group.  Furthermore, this trait is often misunderstood within an American culture that instead values individualism and speaking out even if it is to the detriment of others.  So when it comes to trauma and abuse, Asian American women are in a constant cultural quandary about what to do, not only about acknowledging their difficult experience but also healing from it.

Fortunately, the PLACE creative workshop process model breaks through this silence and transform its users.  Rather than challenging the “Asian-ness” of Asian American women, in an assimilationist fashion, PLACE works from within the Asian cultural paradigm itself by setting the creative exercises and shared thought processes in a group setting of other Asian American women. Sharing food and culture in the safety of others who understand the language of silence allows a broader range of communication styles. But, most especially, rather than “talk about” their issues in any explicit way, the women can let the art they create speak about and for them, instead. We already know this is possible from the work with 80+ Asian American and other women artists who have been part of A PLACE OF HER OWN™.  
Based on our experience, we have every reason to believe that Asian American women, or any woman who is not a trained artist, can also – with the guidance of PLACE artist facilitators – experience the same self-realization, creativity, and transformation as an experienced artist.
There are already well-established social services organizations in the Asian American community addressing the problems of domestic violence, rape and assault, elder abuse and addiction, but there is no one coming at the problem for the angle that PLACE does. PLACE  trains and implements an organic, self-propelling collaboration with other individuals and organizations to bring healing through art to the Asian American community and to Asian American women in particular.

Goals: A PLACE OF HER OWN™ aims to build individual strength and community leadership through experiential workshops, exhibitions, and other platforms for community dialogue. Participation is designed to help women experience what it feels like to trust their intuition within an atmosphere of acknowledgment from their peers and the larger community.
Whether it is  workshops, artistic endeavors, lectures, panel discussions, or online and one-on-one interactions,  PLACE inspires critical thinking internally and amongst the public. PLACE provides tools for individual internal research to develop intuition, confidence, and leadership while building community in a safe and nurturing environment.