New York City’s Culture Plan

On July 19, 2017, the City of New York released CreateNYC, New York City’s first-ever cultural plan. To shape the plan design, the city worked with dozens of local organizations, which helped gather feedback from nearly 200,000 residents. Among those many partners was the Asian American Arts Alliance (A4), which was committed to ensuring that the voices of NYC artists & residents in the AAPI community were included in the planning process.

In February 2017, I worked with the amazing Andrea Louie, Anjali Goyal, and Ariel Estrada of A4 to create an interactive workshop and online survey infused with a social practice artist’s spirit, to delve into what A4’s community believed was and wasn’t working when it came to arts and culture in New York City. About 50 people attended the workshop at Elmhurst Library in Queens, and 70 additional people participated in the online survey.

Over and over again, we heard that city’s arts & culture needs, challenges, and plans must be intrinsically connected to the other critical challenges facing the city, including affordable housing, arts education, and fostering a more compassionate and equitable culture. As sharers moved fluidly between social issues, economic issues, and recommendations specific to makers and arts & culture institutions, they emphasized that mindset shifts were needed, not just completing a set of tactics.

“Help us control the out-of-control rents in New York City,” shared one survey respondent. “It is choking everyone on all levels. The biggest expense for artists, especially performing artists, is space. When artists cannot afford space, no art will be created. For communities, the struggle to afford rent has a hugely negative impact on our quality of life, our ability to progress in our career endeavors, and how we spend our time and money… The arts are leaving New York City because it is simply impossible to survive here.”

If we want to protect the future vibrancy of the city, then we must see the arts as integral to health and development, supporting STEAM from the beginning of education; if we want arts and culture planning and funding to be equitable and inclusive, then city employees must first deeply understand and acknowledge the manifestations of bias before they can build processes that will be successful.

Many participants in the workshop expressed appreciation for the opportunity to voice their concerns and contribute their creativity. What we recognized in planning for feedback, however, was that there are no common definitions or understanding of what ‘arts’ and ‘culture’ are– let alone what they should be. To understand what’s missing and needed requires ongoing engagement, listening, and time.

A4 ultimately encouraged the Department of Cultural Affairs to integrate ongoing engagement and feedback loops into the ten-year plan itself, particularly if DCA is committed to equity and seeks to build relationships with communities that are currently not included in dialogue.

Click here for the full report I wrote and designed, including background materials for facilitators and participants.



Circlefor is a new home for collaboration between me and the brilliant and wondrous poet, Purvi Shah. Our purpose is to foster space where art emerges through connection, participation, and listening. Our Etsy shop is a home for affordable, community engaged artwork, featuring digital drawings and poetry inspired by vital community stories.

Learn more at our shared project site,

Make Justice Normal

Grateful to be a co-founder of Make Justice Normal, a growing collective fiscally sponsored by Moore Impact. Our mission is to foster just relationships and collective action among people working to make justice normal. We started MJN to open space for people working to move capital— a proxy for structural power—towards justice. 

To foster relationships, we’re building processes of decision-making that reflect our values and a collective approach. To support collective action, MJN shares of our collective time and/or resources to develop or host projects by collective members. These projects may seem unrelated, and may become independent entities.

Ready to Heal / Ready to Grieve

Ready to Heal / Ready to Grieve was an interactive installation, by me and Purvi Shah at Queens Theatre, on October 17, 23, & 24, 2021. Throughout the day, participants collectively mapped and memorialized on the installation how they encounter and have encountered healing and grief, alongside their stories of future healing. In the space, participants could connect with themselves and with one another, after a year of isolations changed the shapes of grief and healing in all our lives.

Pink reflected healing; silver reflected grief. Semi-circles reflected “I”; crescents reflected “we.” The paths of healing and grief were many; one person’s path to healing was another person’s path to grief; family was a source of both healing and grief in one person’s heart. Climate change and cheating lay heavy on many souls.

Purvi and I were among 3,000 New York City-based artists to receive a grant through the City Artist Corps Grants program, presented and launched by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), with support from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and Queens Theatre. Thank you to Dominic, Jay, Gabriel, and Norma of Queens Theatre for arranging multiple days of events in just a few short months! Thank you to Cindy Trinh for taking most of these photos!

Over three award cycles, artists received $5,000 grants to engage New Yorkers in Summer and Fall 2021. The program was funded by the $25 million New York City Artist Corps recovery initiative announced by Mayor de Blasio and DCLA in early 2021. Grants supported NYC artists who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. 


Weave&Woven was a collaboration with the extraordinary Purvi Shah at NurtureArt in 2017. Over a short, two-week residency, we wanted to find a way to test out new ways of collaborating in space and reflect with others on how we inhabit the sacred, in a time of heightened surveillance and criminalization of immigrants and communities of color. The result was a community-engaged activity in partnership with NurtureArt and Sadhana.

2 Minutes to Midnight

In 2018 and 2019, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that the Doomsday Clock had reached “2 minutes to midnight.” For 70 years, the Clock has been a symbol for how close we are to a man-made disaster, where midnight is a point of no return. What is two minutes to midnight for New Yorkers? And what can we do about it? 

With several other artists, we explored 2 minutes to midnight as a free, interactive outdoor co-creation lab under the 7 train. Glass Hours and 2 Minutes to Midnight was supported by Sunnyside Shines and the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Featuring these amazing artists and thinkers:

  • Queens Writers Resist, ft. Pam Reyes and Kay Ottinger

Glass Cards

What does it mean to forget? What makes the future feel urgent, in need of care? These questions were part of Glass Hours, an installation at Bliss Plaza in Sunnyside, Queens, in 2019, thanks to support from Sunnyside Shines and the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. They were also the foundation for a simple card game of memory and color.

When I tried this game at home with my husband, memories silent for decades bubbled up. We also remembered details in them that we hadn’t ever noticed. Our recollection of certain colors was more vivid. There are also many things we don’t want to remember. But that didn’t mean we shouldn’t have.

There are 2 groups of cards in a deck, each broken into 2 subgroups. There were 4 variations on the game, and not all games use the whole deck.


They are justice.

They are the Arisen. In their world, magical powers emerge from tests of wisdom. In their galaxy, abundance is a whispering spirit. In their universe…

Heroes rise in secret and the sacred. Mysteries and origin stories unfold across a vast landscape of time and space. Epic battles, sorrows, and triumphs reshape suns, moons, and stars.

Their stories are real, in a growing universe with Make Justice Normal.

More coming soon.


Before games was an almost-painful love of color and form, sitting 2 inches from a 5-foot canvas and marveling at the weave.

Urbanized Religion

Giving Space / Changing Space

Giving Space / Changing Space was an interactive experience Purvi Shah and I created on September 17, 2022 in Travers Park, Jackson Heights, Queens, a few blocks from my home. We asked two simple questions to our neighbors. How do you give to this space? And how does this space give to you? While some interpreted space as physical and spatial, like the park, others reflected on it more spiritually or conceptually, like space in their life or consciousness. As active participants in the Jackson Heights community, we hoped to create a simple moment where creativity wove into the fabric of a lively public park in one of New York’s most diverse neighborhoods.

In a time of anti-Asian backlash and xenophobia, art continues to serve as a force for healing, community building, and change. Anjali Deshmukh & Purvi Shah were among 30 artists to receive a $500 grant through the Asian American Arts Alliance’s inaugural program “What Can We Do?” — which supported creative projects rooted in care and support for the AAPI community in NYC.