The Asia Institute – Crane House (AICH) is an arts and culture non-profit organization located in Louisville, Kentucky. Founded in 1987, the goal of AICH is to use education, outreach, and the arts to promote understanding of Asian cultures and heritage. They are the only Asian cultural center in Kentucky and the five-state region.
There are over 98,000 Asian Americans in Kentucky, making up just over 2% of the population. Therefore, Joel Buno, the executive director of AICH, stated in an interview with East-West Center Young Professional Travis Cole, that the drive behind AICH is to make the Asian community both seen and heard while combating Asian hate, misconceptions, and prejudice. One way in which AICH accomplishes this is through the programs and events they orchestrate.
One of the major programs ran by AICH is the Teach in Asia program. Every year, this program recruits a number of local educators to teach English in Asia. The goal is not only to provide English learning opportunities to those students in Asia, but also to provide a cultural and educational exchange. Teachers are encouraged to share American teaching styles while observing and learning from local teachers as well. In the past, the majority of teachers have been sent to mainland China. However, Mr. Buno stated teachers have also gone to Vietnam and South Korea. He further explained, AICH and the Kentucky Department of Education are now working together to send more teachers to Taiwan as part of the MOU on education signed between Kentucky and Taiwan.
Another program conducted by AICH is the STARTALK Mandarin Chinese Program. This program is a free three-week Chinese language emersion summer camp geared toward students in 6th to 12th grade. Mr. Buno highlighted that many schools in Louisville have cut Asian language programs and for this reason, the STARTALK Program is more important than ever.
The STARTALK Program is not the only way AICH helps Chinese language learners. AICH also hosts a Chinese Corner where those interested in Chinese language and culture can come together to practice and learn. On November 5, 2022, AICH held a Chinese Corner in which Mahjong was taught and played. Just one example of the cultural events hosted by AICH.
AICH hosts other cultural events throughout the year as well. There is an annual Lunar New Year Gala which is both a celebration and a fundraiser. Further, there are cultural events such as the recent, and wildly successful, Asian Night Market event that took place on October 8, 2022. The event brought local Asian restaurants and vendors together along with performances from multiple Asian cultures. These events not only educate people on Asian cultures, but also highlight the importance of the local AAPI community in Louisville, Kentucky, and the region.
In light of AICH’s many accomplishments, South Arts, a non-profit regional arts organization, awarded AICH with the 2022 Southern Cultural Treasures grant for over $185,000. This grant demonstrates the cultural importance of AICH to Kentucky and the region.
Moving ahead, AICH will continue to provide fun and educational events and programs for the community. For example, AICH will soon be hosting Wok Tru Asia: A Delicious Journey by Sebastian Moh, a series of cooking classes that will teach how to make food from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
This is but a brief introduction to AICH, their events, and programs. AICH is an active, important part of the community that works to improve local understanding of Asia and Asian cultures. AICH, like the East-West Center, understands and promotes why Asia matters for America.
Travis Cole is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington DC. Obtaining his BA from Sichuan University, he is now a second-year graduate student at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School, studying International Development and Diplomacy.