[5/10/22] Stepping through the front door, visitors are immediately greeted by a towering wooden statue of the mythological figure Garuda from Indonesia. Directly on each side of this stand two tall wooden posts carved with animated faces; they are Jangseung, Korean totem poles. Looking around, it would be a challenge to find a bare spot on the walls not already occupied by an eclectic mix of photos, framed prints, posters, masks, and tapestries. Further inside, glass cases and shelves are full to the brim with statues, dolls, pottery, and musical instruments from cultures all over Asia and the South Pacific.
While these may sound like objects found in a museum, make no mistake, the place in which they are housed is so much more than that. The Asia Pacific Cultural Center is a hub of culture and community representing 47 different Asian and Pacific Islander nations. Their mission is “to bridge communities and generations through art, culture, education, and business.”
Located in South Tacoma, the Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) has an open door to all who wish to learn more and thoughtfully engage with Asian and Pacific Islander cultures.
“Bringing people together, learning together, and then teaching together.”
That’s what it’s all about for Executive Director Faaluaina “Lua” Pritchard.
The Asia Pacific Cultural Center was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1996 by Korean immigrant and Washington artist Patsy Surh O'Connell, who now serves as the organization’s president. While some groups existed at the time for members of specific Asian and Pacific Island national heritage, she saw a need to create a space where people of many different cultures could come together and share, learn, and grow.
And grow they did. Since its founding, APCC has come to represent the cultures of 47 different Asian and Pacific Islander nations and offers a wide variety of educational, cultural, and language programs year-round.
According to Pritchard, the days go by fast and there is never a boring moment at the Center. There is simply too much to do.
APCC offers programs in local schools including free after-school cultural learning programs, an After School Tutoring and Youth Leadership Group, cultural presentations for K-12 students, and more.
“You should see the children when we go to the classrooms and we talk about their country. They sit up straight suddenly… with such pride in their eyes. And their teachers just love it because they understand their students more,” says Pritchard about the benefits of these programs for students.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, APCC has also played a critical role in community health. The Pierce County Health Department and Washington State Health Department reached out to APCC for help getting COVID information and health services to Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Washington. Pritchard emphasizes the importance of the Center’s role in this effort, as many of these communities are often underserved when it comes to healthcare and face challenges such as language and cultural barriers to access services.
“We know those cultures. We look like them and we speak their language so we had to get involved. And they come here anyway and they know us and they trust us,” says Pritchard.
APCC has been involved in translation, interpretation, and home visits to help fight COVID among Asian and Pacific Islander communities. They continue to offer weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics every Wednesday and free walk-in COVID testing every Monday.
Throughout the year, APCC offers many cultural programs and events open to the community. These include interactive workshops and presentations, culinary classes, festivals and celebrations, field trip visits, international trips, and an Asia Pacific Art Gallery located in the APCC building.
As May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, APCC has many exciting events to offer the community. These include a Korea Day celebration, free food truck event, Okinawa/Japan Taiko drum performance, a virtual karate session, a virtual exploration of Pacific islands, cultural displays at local events and festivals, and much more. Check out the Center’s APA Heritage Month events calendar on Tacoma Weekly.
Looking to the future, APCC has a goal of completely rebuilding and renovating their campus with a target groundbreaking date in 2023. The new planned facility will be two stories and double the space of the Center. This expansion will allow APCC to offer even more amazing programs and services for the community and will include additions such as a new art gallery, performing arts center, gift shop, garden, library, community courtyard, and conference rooms.
The Asia Pacific Cultural Center has been a member of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber since 2012 and has brought new diversity and vibrancy to the Chamber. Executive Director Lua Pritchard recently joined many other local business leaders on the Chamber’s annual Washington-to-Washington, D.C. advocacy trip.
“It was just wonderful. One of those most valuable trips I ever took,” says Pritchard.
In the work they do, APCC forms many partnerships with businesses throughout the area. Pritchard states a goal of hers in being a Chamber member is to help bring more Asian and Pacific American businesses to the Chamber community so that everyone can benefit. APCC will host the Chamber's next South Sound Business Roundtable in person at their center on May 24th. The Chamber values APCC for all they do in the community and looks forward to their continued partnership in our mission to make the South Sound the most equitable and inclusive place to do business in Washington State.
This Member Feature story is part of a series by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber to promote stronger connections and increased engagement between the Chamber, its members, and the local business community. Member stories are non-promotional opportunities to share members' business stories with the community. If you are a Chamber member interested in being featured for a story, please contact Digital Marketing Outreach Coordinator Audrey Widner at email@example.com
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