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PHOTOS: Hirono, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Host Exhibition Honoring AANHPI Icons

~ The exhibit celebrates May as AANHPI Heritage Month and highlights 20 individuals from AANHPI communities ~

WASHINGTON, DC – In celebration of May as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) is partnering with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) to host a two-part photo exhibition highlighting prominent members of the AANHPI community in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. The first week of the exhibit—May 6-10, 2024—will feature ten icons from Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. The second week—May 13-17, 2024—will feature ten icons from Asian American communities.

“I am proud to host this exhibition in collaboration with APAC and help share the stories of so many leaders in our community,” said Senator Hirono. “Throughout May, as we celebrate our communities’ historic contributions, we also reaffirm our commitment to building a more inclusive and equitable future for all. I will continue working to ensure that members of the AANHPI community and all people have the opportunity to live freely, treated with dignity and respect.”

“On behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, we extend our sincere gratitude to Senator Mazie K. Hirono for the opportunity to partner on “Portraits of Our Cultural Icons,” featuring AANHPI sitters drawn from APAC’s publication We Are Here and the National Portrait Gallery,” said Yao-Fen You, PhD, Acting Director, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. “While I often stress the importance of celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) stories daily, the month of May provides a unique platform to collectively honor and amplify them. We hope that visitors to the Russell Rotunda will gain a deeper appreciation of the AANHPI cultural icons featured in this portrait exhibition. All of us at APAC looks forward to future collaborations with Senator Hirono’s Office to continue sharing Smithsonian treasures and resources that preserve and celebrate the rich and diverse history, art, and culture of AANHPI communities.”

The Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander exhibition will display illustrations from APAC’s book, “We are Here: 30 Inspiring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Have Shaped the United States,” and will include:

  1. Taimane Gardner
  2. Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner
  3. Craig Santos Perez
  4. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  5. Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu
  6. Carissa Moore
  7. Mau Piailug
  8. Eddie Aikau 
  9. Keanu Reeves 
  10. Teresia Teaiwa

The Asian American exhibition will display portraits from the National Portrait Gallery Collections and will include:

  1. Soichi Sakamoto
  2. George Takei 
  3. Maxine Hong Kingston
  4. Chien-Shiung Wu
  5. Hyunju "Juju" Chang
  6. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
  7. Yoichi Robert Okamoto 
  8. Sarah Chang
  9. Ruth Asawa
  10. Ravi Shankar 

Senator Hirono has long advocated on behalf of AANHPI communities in Hawaii, the U.S., and the Pacific Island nations and territories. Each May, she leads a resolution marking May as AANHPI Heritage Month. Last year, she also introduced legislation marking May 10, 2023 as AANHPI Mental Health Day, as well as legislation to promote the teaching of AANHPI history in public schools across the country. Senator Hirono has also introduced a resolutions designating Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) Week. In 2022, Senator Hirono also brought legislation to the Senate floor, that was signed into law by President Biden, establishing a commission to study the creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), established in 1997, strives to ensure the comprehensive representation and inclusion of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) in the Smithsonian’s collections, research, exhibitions, and programs. Through education initiatives, publications, and public programs, APAC provides new avenues to document, celebrate, and share the rich and diverse history, art, and culture of AANHPI communities. In September 2024, APAC will present its first museum exhibition in a decade with Sightlines: Chinatown and Beyond at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Sightlines and upcoming exhibitions at other Smithsonian museums will pave the way for a dedicated APAC gallery on the National Mall. Learn more at