Asian American Pacific Islander culture shines at the Planting Fields


The Planting Fields Arboretum held its second annual Asian American Pacific Islander Festival earlier this May, celebrating many diverse and unique aspects of AAPI cultural identity. Previously known as the Asian Cultural Festival, the event is held in every year in May as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. 

The festival, held on May 13, featured four hours of fun-filled and AAPI themed events, from dances and tai chi to live music and bonsai displays. First established in 1977, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month seeks to promote the history, culture and unique contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans have made to the United States.

“We wanted to make sure that marginalized communities know that Planting Fields is a place for them and that we welcome them with wide open arms,” Gina Wouters, the Arboretum’s president and CEO, said. “It’s really about sending a message and celebrating all of the diverse cultures that make up our community.”

A wide variety of cultural events took place at the festival. One of the most visually impressive was the performance of bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance form influenced by Hinduism, particularly the God of destruction and change, Shiva. 

In addition to the bharatanatyam, there were dance performances by the Golden Age Chinese Traditional Dance group, a Chinese zither (a stringed instrument) performance, and Beijing opera by the American Overseas Artist Theatre.

The festival also offered more contemplative options, including an ikebana exhibition arranged by the Ikenobo California Pacific Chapter and a bonsai display by the Long Island Bonsai Society. Ikebana is the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangements, while bonsai is the Japanese art of growing and training miniature trees.

Yoga and tai chi were also offered in the Arboretum’s Cloister Garden, and those wishing to view the historical beauty of Coe Hall had the chance to do so with a guided tour in Mandarin. Roughly 600 people attended the festival, and Wouters added that throughout the day there were as many as 300 people exploring Coe Hall at a time